By Dom Nozzi
Stopping growth and development, despite the conventional wisdom, is mostly what planners and elected officials try to do in high-growth areas.
They try to find as many fees and regulations as possible to punish developers and stop them. But we do the opposite of what we should be doing, because the typical “punishment” is that we force them to build huge parking lots, huge landscape setbacks, and a strict separation of residential and non-residential land uses, while the government spends billions to widen roads. All this does is ensure that everyone is forced to drive a car for everything and guarantees that the development will be loved by cars and despised by people.
No wonder we have a nationwide NIMBY epidemic where neighborhoods fear all new developments. No wonder we have intolerable traffic congestion that gets worse and worse every year. No wonder our governments are bankrupt. No wonder our public planners have no credibility and our developers are the most hated people on earth.
What we need are developers, planners, and government officials who return to the timeless, traditional ways of building communities that are designed to make people, instead of cars, happy.
Sure, things are more difficult when your rate of growth is higher, but a high rate of growth can be wonderful for our quality of life if our design is for people instead of cars. I am strongly pro-growth if it is designed to make people happy by using timeless principles. So no, I do not believe that my position is that we just “stop sprawl,” although that certainly needs to be part of it, since sprawl is part of the make-cars-happy paradigm.
We have workable solutions.
They mostly focus on having growth pay its own way, that it be sustainable, and that it contribute to the overall quality of life. Currently, car-happy dispersed suburban development promotes lifestyles that externalize and export their costly, negatively-impacting behaviors on all of the rest of us with their cocooned “McMansions” on isolated cul-de-sacs (which belch a relatively high number of car trips on the rest of us, and make it more costly to serve).
I am not saying that certain lifestyles should be prohibited. I just want to see that those that enjoy those lifestyles are paying the full cost for them, instead of having me pay some of the cost through higher taxes or a lower quality of life. We also need more choices in housing and transportation, since increasingly, our only choice is the isolating, community- and environment-destroying auto-dependent suburbs, where everyone enjoys subsidies not in the public interest, and everyone is forced to drive a car for every trip.
Let’s return to the days of striving for choices and quality of life for people.