Many towns are engaging in some type of redevelopment or another. And many are touting that it’s being based on Smart Growth Development. While this type of development is being implemented, no one is questioning its validity.
So, what is Smart Growth? And is it really all that smart?
Smart Growth development is a centralized land-use policy whose mission is to curb “suburban sprawl.” In order to do that, the Smart Growth model of development is multi-use properties. That is, retail on the bottom and apartments on top. Some refer to this type of development as “stack ‘em and pack ‘em” housing. These developments are built along transit lines, since that meets the other criteria of Smart Growth, to create pedestrian villages which extremely limit car use.
In the early days of our country, transportation was very limited. This is why cities were the place to be. It’s where commerce took place.
As our choices in transportation became better, people realized they would like to live outside the city limits and actually own a piece of property. In the suburbs, they could have a one family home with a private outdoor space and some distance between their neighbors.
Companies then began moving their locations to the suburbs where more people were living.
But to some, the idea of moving to the suburbs and having more than an acre of land is unconscionable and unnecessary. But according to whose value system? And the implication of calling it “smart” implies that government bureaucrats are the all-knowing experts about how the rest of us should live.
But are Americans really ready to embrace high-density living?
The goals of Smart Growth are to control urban boundaries, reduce pollution and promote mass transit - all of which go against our American values of the right to own property, to live in the house and location of our choice and the ability to move about freely – not according to a transit schedule.
National Geographic recently did a cover story on “The City’s Solutions to Earth’s Problems.” Do you really solve environmental issues by forcing millions of people to live in densely populated urban areas? Here’s their claim: “City dwellers tread lightly: their roads, sewers and power lines are shorter. Their apartments take less energy to heat and cool. Most important, they drive less.”
While Smart Growth advocates are completely concerned about congestion on the streets, they don’t seem to care about the people who are living in congested apartment buildings and all that brings with it. More people in a congested, dense area mean more noise, more garbage, more pollution and more crime. They have also left out the impact it places on local services –police, fire and the school system. How do you properly educate the increased amounts of students in the public school system?
Washington Township in Warren County had to address this exact problem. While town officials embraced the idea of Smart Growth, they never took into consideration the unintended consequences, which are overflowing schools, skyrocketing property taxes and main streets that are congested. They’ve had to turn trailers into school rooms, build a high school and expand two of its three other schools. Not only that, most of the town does not get the benefits of a pedestrian friendly concept since the majority of residents live outside the developed area. In 2007, they were looking at eminent domain to seize property to prevent developers from buying it and building more apartment buildings.
As this agenda has been forced upon us, none of their goals have been achieved. What they set out to solve has been made worse.
First, if you limit people’s choices of where they can live, Smart Growth will actually end up driving up the cost of housing. There will be less affordable one family homes. Less housing logically leads to expensive housing.
Secondly, this development has also failed to reduce pollution. As more people are living in densely populated cities, it only follows logic that pollution would be worse in these over-crowded urban areas. One needs only to think of Los Angeles and its major traffic and smog issue. The reality is, while some people may drive less, there’s plenty who are still driving. On top of that, add the increased amounts of garbage and noise pollution. Has anyone walked on a NYC street the night before a garbage pickup? Smells wonderful, looks wonderful and it brings out the best in urban wildlife.
We Americans are not giving up our cars. We like the freedom of car ownership and the ability to go where we want, when we want.
More importantly, we are not giving up our right to own property – the cornerstone of freedom – to live in an apartment building that houses hundreds of other people.
To all those Smart Growth advocates who think city living with no personal outdoor space, crowded subways, crowded streets, garbage, noise pollution and crime is the way to live, I challenge you to sell your home in the suburbs and join the masses in the city.
For those of you who enjoy home ownership, a backyard and a car - stand your ground!