Monthly Archives: January 2012

Smart Growth is Good Sense, Not Partisan Politics

Smart growth has gotten a bad rap as a “liberal” plan that inhibits development and economic growth, while it forces people to live in overly densely populated areas through restrictive policies.  Some opponents have cited the intrusive policies proposed in the United Nations Agenda 21, which was presented at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and subsequently adopted by all attending nations.  Agenda 21 is a lengthy document that presents many goals and strategies but was meant as a “comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally, and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts the environment.”  (A comprehensive look at Agenda 21 can be found at: http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/agenda21/.) Those who oppose these strategies believe the adoption of such policies would overly expand the role of government and interfere with personal choice, local flexibility, and community and economic development.

Well, Renew Lehigh Valley is here to say that this simply is not true.  Smart growth is not and should not become a partisan issue.  Policies utilizing smart growth planning are meant to reinvigorate a community and provide for wise and effective economic development.  Rather than letting a piece of land be developed in any way, why wouldn’t a community want certain boundaries to ensure that the development enhances the economy, benefits the community, and brings jobs to the area for the long term?  “Planning” shouldn’t be considered a bad word; it’s smart.  And it has the community’s best interest at heart.

Smart growth does not force people to live on top of each other either.  We all like a little personal space, but that doesn’t mean that we need to spread out and misuse open land for housing or development.  This type of development only increases sprawl, which puts a strain on natural resources, infrastructure, local governments, and the community.  Density, in itself, is not a bad thing.  It’s overcrowding that should be avoided.  Smart development of apartments and other dense living spaces can be functional and quite comfortable.  Open space is then preserved in order to keep our natural resources pristine and to maintain the aesthetic beauty we all appreciate.  Smart growth communities offer comfortable, walkable neighborhoods with plenty of green space.  Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

If policy aligns with smart growth planning and development, it will only enhance the community.  The government will not overstep its boundaries infringing upon personal liberties.  Zoning laws aligned with smart growth policy and smart growth development are intended to preserve a community’s character while encouraging its strengths and improving its weaknesses.  Communities that align their policies in such a way have proven to be revitalized and reinvigorated.  Who wouldn’t want to live in a community with a thriving economy and a downtown that attracts visitors (which in turn attracts business and money!)?

Smart growth is not a nasty phrase or a terrible policy choice.  It is a smart decision for our communities.  This isn’t about politics; it’s about making the Lehigh Valley a successful, desirable community together.

Interested in learning more?  Register for the second annual State of the Lehigh Valley event through our website: www.renewlv.org.  Join in the discussion!

New Year, New Plans

RenewLV experienced a year full of events and changes in 2011.  We held our first State of the Lehigh Valley report release luncheon in January 2011 to highlight the findings of our friends at the Lehigh Valley Research Consortium (LVRC).  We held community forums about regional rail, sustained discussions about water and wastewater infrastructure, and kept alive the proposal for the state’s first bi-county health bureau with an excellent presentation by our partners in October.  We were pleased to be awarded a 3-year, $3.4 million HUD grant as a partner in the Lehigh Valley Sustainability Consortium in November.

RenewLV has also experienced some major changes over the past year.  A new executive director, Pam Colton, and a new campaign coordinator and community fellow, Rachel Bradshaw, joined the team in the latter half of 2011 after previous staff members left to pursue other opportunities.  It has been a tumultuous year, but we are ready for the opportunities and challenges 2012 has for us.

Both Pam and Rachel have hit the ground running pursuing smart growth and smart development initiatives across the Lehigh Valley.  The bi-county health bureau initiative was tabled in October, but with the newly elected Northampton County council members and Lehigh County commissioners sworn in, we look forward to greater success as the issue is revisited at the annual Health Commission meeting on Monday, January 9.  We continue to push for regional governance and shared services, particularly in the Slate Belt region of the Lehigh Valley.  With so much redundancy of governance and in light of ever-shrinking budgets, it is a good time for municipalities to explore opportunities to work together in some areas.  RenewLV will be moving forward with its plans for community forums and public participation with the HUD grant awarded in November in partnership with the other members of the Lehigh Valley Sustainability Consortium.  The progress of our community will be highlighted at the second-annual State of the Lehigh Valley report release event to be held February 15, 2012, which we hope will be even more successful than last year’s event.

Yes, 2012 holds a great deal of promise for RenewLV and the whole Lehigh Valley.  There are many on-going iniatives being executed throughout our community this year.  Get involved and have your voice heard.  For more information on any of our upcoming events or for how you can get involved in any of our initiatives, visit our website or call us!  Here’s to a better and brighter Lehigh Valley in 2012!  Cheers!

You’re Invited!

RenewLV and the Lehigh Valley Research Consortium announce the second-annual State of the Lehigh Valley community indicators report release event!  Join us on Wednesday, February 15 from 11:30am to 1:30pm in Iacocca Hall at Lehigh University for a luncheon and report on the findings of the State of the Lehigh Valley 2011 study.

This year’s report focuses on the economy and employment, housing affordability, median household income, quality of life, and transportation.  A special section has been added to highlight community health and health indicators.  This year’s report also compares the Lehigh Valley to similarly sized metropolitan areas to get a sense of how our community measures up to others in the Northeast.

The event will feature a review of the report’s findings, a luncheon buffet, and discussion among community members and experts in the particular focus areas to encourage dialogue toward developing community solutions.   Join us to work as a community toward a healthier, more successful, and more vibrant Lehigh Valley!

Last year’s event sold out and we have a 250-seat capacity, so register quickly!  The registration fee of $25 includes your luncheon buffet.  Details for registration and sponsorship opportunities can be found by clicking this link to our registration page.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Presenting sponsors:
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