Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Whither Smart Growth?

This morning's Deseret News has a story about smart growth in Farmington. Nicole Warburton, who wrote the story, is one of the few local reporters I think does a good job, but this story is a little weak on what about the growth in Farmington makes it "smart."

Anyway, the story prompted me to think again about what "smart growth" is and if it is having any impact on the way we grow in Utah and around the country.

Randy Simmons, a good friend, USU professor and former city council member of Providence, Cache Valley, sent along a link to an interesting story in the PERC Reports magazine on what has happened with smart growth in some locations around the country. Randy is a PERC Board member.

PERC stands for Property and Environment Research Center, and bills itself as an organization dedicated to "free market environmentalism." While that seems to put them on the conservative side of land use planning issues, the PERC Report does a pretty good job in writing about some things that you may not hear much about anywhere else.

The story on smart growth recounts several things from around the country that I have heard about in traditional news media or planning publications, so it seems pretty credible.

The PERC story notes that smart growth has resulted in little change in the way property development takes place in Maryland, home of the smart growth movement; that Louden County, Virginia residents and elected officials are not supporting smart growth measures undertaken by previous elected officials; that micropolitan areas and exurbs are the fastest growing locations in the nation; and, of course, the Oregon land use debacle with the passage of Measure 37. It's an interesting and informative read. While it seems rather one-sided, it is factual and points out that smart growth is not that easy to get going or get accepted.

I personally think there are a lot of good ideas in the smart growth movement. But I have had heartburn with a couple of things about it, namely, that some proponents of smart growth seem to think that this "new" way of doing things will solve all our planning and land use woes (I tell you, at one conference Gary Uresk and I attended a couple of years ago, it was almost like a tent revival meeting -- everyone almost stood up and shouted "Hallelujah" as speakers talked of smart growth principles!), and that all new development should be done this way to save us from ourselves, and that people will like it better, trust us.

Well, as can be seen from the PERC story, it is not so easy to implement, is not universally loved by everyone, and likely will not solve all our problems as advertised.

Don't get me wrong, I think there are good ideas there, but it ain't the only way to do things, nor will it be accepted by everyone as the way to do things. Just keep it in perspective.


Post a Comment

<< Home