Monday, November 02, 2009

Failing Grade for Smart Growth

Smart growth, the innovative government policy to arrest suburban sprawl, “has not made a dent on Maryland’s war on sprawl.”

According to this story by Lisa Rein in The Washington Post today, “three-quarters of the lots consumed by single-family homes in the past decade rose on pastures and woods outside smart-growth areas designated by local governments, about the same number as before the law passed.”

"There is no evidence after ten years that [smart-growth laws] have had any effect on development patterns," concludes the study, which appears in the current issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association.”

While this is yet another argument in favor of supporting General Growths plans for the redevelopment of Columbia Town Center it makes a tougher sell for the development plans at Doughoregan Manor.


Anonymous said...

How are you gonna fight a culture that insists people live a certain way? So many people around here are of the mind to buy bigger and bigger, more and more than they can afford in order to present an image of extravagance. It's a nasty culture, produces nasty drivers who are in a rush to work nasty numbers of hours for nasty bosses becasue they can scarcely afford their ridiculous standard of living.

Most of these folks should settle for a Dundalk townhouse but instead insist on purchasing a Howard County McMansion. What's to be done? Not much. Wait and maybe next time someone won't bail them out.

So many people just need to live in a condo but become unhappy suburban homeowners in order to impress others.

Smart growth might have worked if stupid culture hadn't eclipsed it.

My modest house will be paid off by Friday this week. I can't tell you how happy and free that makes me.

PZGURU said...

Who wants to guess what development is the worst example of UN-smart-growth in Maryland?

How about - COLUMBIA!!! Jim Rouse took thousands of acres of pristine farm land and forests and make the biggest sprawl development in MD history.

So, for all the smart growth followers, if you live in Columbia, please sell your house immediately and move to inner city Baltimore or DC and stop contributing to sprawl.

Bob O said...

Wow. So much to say here that there just isn't time. This is the stuff that doctoral theses are made of.

One point: people make choices as individuals. Sometimes they make bad choices. Often, others take advantage of this tendancy. We need to put high-powered computer chips in their brains to control this tendancy amongst most people.
I'm joking.
Freemarket, please take over now.

Sarah said...


I agree with you-- Columbia shouldn't exist.

But now that it's here, it's a better choice than some of these exurbs. I'm not buying a new house, why not live here? I'm not contributing to sprawl. Additionally, now, most targeted growth areas are in and around 95, where Columbia falls.

Besides, if I work in Baltimore, and my fiance works in College Park, where, pray tell, should we live? At least in Columbia, I can take the commuter bus to work, a piece of the public transit puzzle that is sorely underrated.

We also chose our house to be within walking distance of the library and village center to cut down on driving. Living in cities seems nice and all, but when I have to drive out of the city to get to a grocery store, what's the point?

Bob O said...

Sarah, geat post. I salute you.

I do have to say:

I don't do public transportation.

I do want a lot of space between me and my neighbors.

I don't want my neighbors dictating any part of my life.

And I'll pay for any energy I use, thank you (my family has two cars that get 35 mpg and one seven-passenger vehicle that gets 24 mpg, so we didn't qualify for cash for clunkers. My bad, I did the logical thing so I didn't get any extra gubmint money).

And why do you think people PAY to live a certain way? Because crammiing themselves into an urban/semi-surban hive is what they want to do? I've heard so many people say, "Wow, I'd really love to live in a duplex in Columbia, but I feel forced by my culture to spend five times more to buy a couple of acres and have my own single family home." I think not.

Paris Glendenning got it absolutlely wrong back in 97 with his "smart growth" plan for Maryland advocating high density development. First, people don't want to be told where to live. Second, people want a little privacy and dignity, both of which can be had by being a little bit further away from your neighbor than a lot of planners think (and look at their houses...).

Anyway, buy a Honda Civic and make the drive. Live where you want. And consider alternative energy sources, like hybrid technology and grid-tight solar/electric systems. Make some smart choices.

Okay, rant ended. I'm moving to Monatana. Gonna grow me some dental floss.

PZGURU said...

@ Sarah - I was being a little tongue in cheek with my comment. I wanted to emphasize that for all the bowing at the feet of Jim Rouse as a local deity, Jim Rouse was a sprawler.

At least when Greenbelt was developed it was well within the "developed" area outside of DC so I don't consider that to be a sprawl development. Columbia on the other hand was pure sprawl.

You're correct - Columbia in the present IS a good example of "semi" smart growth. It's not a true urban center but it's not exactly sprawl either. It;s medium density which I sort of applaud because it gives people a little more space than a city environment, but is not as spread out as "country development".

Sarah said...

PZGURU: But but but Columbia is the best thing ever and always has been! :) Greenbelt may have started off nice but it's kind of crappy now.

Bob O.: Why thank you!

I disagree with most of what you say, mostly because I don't think any of us are really paying for what we consume, whether it's land or gas. Sure, we're paying what the market says it's worth, but not what it's actually worth as a limited resource. If that makes sense.

Also, I have no problem with the state trying to steer development in ways that make sense, if only from a fiscally-responsible point of view that building houses out in the middle of nowhere costs the county and state more money, both in building roads and increased traffic. For example, the much-discussed expansion of I-270 between Frederick and I-495. Why should my taxes subsidize the widening of I-270 for folks who live out there because they want space? Sure, some might be in the same type situation my family is, where one income-earner works in Hagerstown and the other in DC, but most exurb residents aren't in that boat.

And I don't really equate having a big yard with either privacy or dignity, but that's just me. I buy curtains for privacy and my dignity isn't attached to my dwelling. That statement is actually a little insulting to someone who has spent most of their adult life until now in apartment complexes. Just sayin' :)

Anonymous said...

Sarah, I couldn't agree more on the cost related to consumption. We're definitely not paying enough for gas.

But the apartment/yard/dignity thing, well, looks like you don't have teenagers.

Sarah said...


No, I don't, but now, you have to explain that! :)

Bob O said...

Wow, I go up to my office to do some work, and I always get sucked into fascinating conversations like this one.

Sarah, thanks for your comments.

You make several good points, particularly about Columbia: it's already in place, it is a fairly nice place to live, and so we should continue to use it to do so.

I also take your point about paying for what we use. We pay much less for things like petroleum products, water, and electricity than just about anywhere else in the world. I know this for a fact, because I've lived in several other countries during the past 20 years (and several other of these United States, too).

Most of the difference in these costs, however, is due to two factors. The first is taxation, and the second is economies of scale. A third, unmitigated factor can be geographical location.

I could cite some specific examples, studies and data, but I've got to get back to work! Thanks for sharing your point of view with me!

And remember, good fences make good neighbors. But a couple of hundred meters of tree-filled woods is even better, and provides an environment for wildlife.

robrob said...

bob o I agree with you, second I love the country the more the better, but economic forces that literally force me to live closer to town keeps me here, otherwise I would be out in the middle of no where, and they don't need to pave me a road that far out thank you very much I can get a jeep.

if there were no forces sabatoging free energy systems or at least self sufficieny energy systems then it would be feasible for people to spread out but many crisis are engineered so the socilists can get their agenda 21 thing through as if that is the only solution available. which is not about saving the enviroment at all since many of them are the ones destroying it in order to get support for their agendas

always beware of people offering only one option. as for people wanting mcmansions and haveing high expectations as if that is bad, must remember first not all people have these, second the statements about that are ambiguous and based on presumptions and third that is what they are building in more rural areas.

not everyone wants to live in stack and pack um housing, I hate the city and so do alot of people I know. taxes, regulations etc keep me here, so in my case there is no consences I am being forced.

by the way I live in a 120 year old house, which we have put alot of money and time into to upgrade it make it nicer especially for the neighbors. I love all the crittors around me and I can't have that in the city.

there is nothing wrong with making water cleaner, and improveing the air all without stealing property rights or tyranny it can be done if socialists would stay out of inventors and smart people's way.