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.