smart growth

The Cassandra Problem

There's a local prophet(ess)—that's a portrait of her tearing her hair out over there on the right—who wrote the following regarding zoning in Dryden in 2010.  It was based on the (then) Amended Zoning Law, revised draft, of September, 2009:

The scope and control the Town would assume over private property owners goes far beyond health and safety and well into social engineering...
 

...Part of the "character of Dryden" has been that its town government was "minimalist," and apart from providing basic town services, left its residents alone. That is part of the "character" that has made Dryden attractive.  That part of character would be lost as the Town moves into comprehensive socially driven zoning, recreation, and other activities that enlarge Town government...

...this level of planning is unnecessary, adds to New York's passion to overregulate, and will be costly to administer, hence demanding even higher taxes...

...It appears government would like to shape and control how Dryden develops to make its tasks easier and to fit the social mode some residents prefer.  But government is supposed to serve public needs, not direct them...

So, while a lot of time in the last year has been spent arguing back and forth over nitty-gritty details of the new zoning law, the real problem was that the Town's entire approach was—dare we say it so baldly?—just plain wrong.

And, as it's turned out, none of the recent suggested changes that might have made the new law at least somewhat less of an overreach were adopted in the final version that was passed by the town board last week.

Not really surprising.  At this point, we'll don our preferred chapeau

and remind you of where the kind of thinking demonstrated by the Town originates. Watch the PowerPoint presentation—it's still news to many people in Central New York, but will sound distressingly familiar to many others.

Beware, other towns and municipalities...don't say Cassandra didn't warn you:

Unsustainable sustainability

We've been beating this drum here for some time.  "Sustainability" and "smart growth" have become such integral parts of the fabric in this county that they seem almost normal.  Well, they're not. And they're inimical to local economies, which is, after all, the point—in typically Owellian doublespeak, "sustainability" is unsustainable and "smart growth" is neither smart nor growth-enhancing. Quite the opposite.  

In a column at Heritage:

Radical environmentalists, local business groups, and the ever-present Not in My Backyard crowd have been trying for decades to reshape American communities to conform to their preferred “smart growth” policies. These advocates work to impose land use regulations that would force Americans into denser living arrangements, curtail freedom of choice in housing, discriminate against lower-income Americans, and compel people to pay more for their houses and give up their cars in favor of subways, trolleys, buses, and bicycles.
 

These efforts—often described as “New Urbanism,” “sustainable development,” or “open land preservation”—have long been resisted by some members of the community due to their negative impact on economic growth, competitiveness, and the nation’s standard of living...
 
...In recent years, however, many smart-growth opponents working at the local level have shifted their focus toward opposing the 1992 United Nations voluntary initiative called Agenda 21, which advocates many policies that reflect smart-growth principles. They should recognize that Agenda 21 is simply another facet of smart growth and not allow it to divert them from opposing the more ubiquitous, overarching agenda of homegrown environmental extremists...
This next bit should sound really familiar (emphasis mine):
...America’s smart-growth movement emerged in force in the early 1970s when communities in California and Oregon began to replicate Britain’s anti-sprawl policies through restrictive zoning practices to discourage suburbanization. Bit by bit, it spread around the country as more and more communities adopted polices to deter suburban growth for all but the well-to-do. Growth control efforts underway in these communities were driven not only by a distorted view of the environment, but also by the desire of those already in place to prevent newcomers from arriving and spoiling the rural ambience of their suburban communities...
Furthermore,
...As they [smart-growth policies] became more prevalent and restrictive, their impact on housing prices and construction likewise expanded. An explosion of exclusionary zoning throughout the U.S. encouraged many communities to adopt zoning policies to ensure that they maintained a certain demographic “profile.” Such zoning limited real estate development to higher-cost homes in order to “price out” moderate-income households, which included a disproportionate share of minorities.
 
In the wake of the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne wryly noted that Britain escaped the sort of housing bubble and crash that staggered America because, whereas America recklessly expanded its housing stock, “We were saved by the fact that you can’t build anything in this country.”
Sounds like the companions to NIMBYs are BANANAs (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything).
 
Currently,
...the Obama Administration has warmly embraced smart-growth policies and, more broadly, increased environmental regulation and restriction of use of natural resources. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is the Administration’s point man in selling smart-growth policies to the American people. He and other key Administration officials are abetted by state and local elected officials and numerous interest groups, including the Urban Land Institute, local Metropolitan Planning Organizations, Smart Growth America, the American Public Transportation Association, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, and shortsighted local business associations.
No doubt our Mr. Magoo-like local politicians recognize themselves.
 
It is possible to push back successfully, however:
Opponents of these policies have been very effective in their work. A good example is the state of Florida, where Governor Rick Scott (R) and the state legislature repealed a 25-year-old smart-growth law a few months ago.
 
...preventing American implementation of Agenda 21 at the national level and membership by U.S. counties, cities, and municipalities in the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), now called Local Governments for Sustainability, is worthwhile. But this effort should be viewed as only one part of a broader effort to convince U.S. government officials to repeal destructive smart-growth programs and prevent the enactment of new ones.
How exactly do we go about that?  No answer in this piece, although there are places to look for guidance.
 
Half the battle, though, is getting the information out there in front of people. Pass this on and do read the whole Heritage article.
 
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