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!