Smart Growth for Conservatives

A good blogpost by William Fulton entitled “Shouldn’t Smart Growth appeal to Conservatives?” can be found on the California Planning and Development Report website.  Fulton discusses a session held at the recent New Partners for Smart Growth conference in Kansas City, at which conservative commentators called out several instances where Smart Growth practices embody more conservative principles than the traditional rules of development.  Conservatives should embrace practices that create more flexibility in the marketplace.  Overemphasis on suburban low-density development, rigid use separation (“why not allow granny flats?”), onerous minimum parking requirements, and a lack of enabling legislation in many states (including Iowa)  that would force growth to pay its own way were some of the traditional practices that conservatives agreed need to be abandoned.

The conservative commentators referenced in Fulton’s post certainly do not agree with all Smart Growth practices, but this is the turf on which Smart Growth should be debated.  As one of our bright graduate students in the ISU planning program and I point out in our Des Moines Register op-ed, discussions of the merits of good planning practice are increasingly being hijacked by Agenda 21 conspiracy theorists.  The time and oxygen at public forums is better spent by citizens discussing the pros and cons of transit-oriented nodes, mixed use development, or green infrastructure, rather than the U.N.’s secret efforts to move us all into communes.

Leinberger calls out standard development models

Considering that Christopher Leinberger was the keynote speaker at our Upper Midwest APA conference last week, I thought  the readers of this blog that attended the conference (both of you!?) would find interesting this recent article from The Atlantic Cities.

Leinberger has identified the 19 building types that he contends caused the real estate market swoon we are now in.  In the article he calls out the “Grocery Anchored Neighborhood Center”:

This creation is generally about 12 to 15 acres in size on a plot of land that’s 80 percent covered in asphalt. It’s located on the going-home side of a major four-to-eight lane arterial road, where it catches people when they’re most likely to be thinking about what to buy for dinner. It has a major, 50,000 to 70,000 square-foot supermarket on one end and a drug store with drive-through on the other, with national and regional chain stores, maybe a Hallmark and a Starbucks in between. The parking lot contains four or five spaces per thousand square-feet of retail. There is, in theory, a sidewalk, although no one is expected to use it. Every shop is designed to be seen by potential customers passing by at 45 mph. And – with the exception of a few last-minute regionally specific touches for art-deco paint schemes or Mediterranean roof tiles – this L-shaped shopping center looks the same whether you’re pulling into it from Denver or Orlando.

His message is the same as it was during his talk; that we have overbuilt several standard development types that the real estate market is now burdened with.  The message of hope is that the recession now (hopefully) gives us a chance to reconsider our development practices and return to less auto-dependent models.





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