If You Build It, They Will Come

Ah yes, the old adage from the classic baseball film, “Field of Dreams.”  Great movie, but the unforgettable line from that movie can be applied to a lot more than baseball diamonds.  Did you ever think it could be applied to the Lehigh Valley?

According to the latest numbers from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, the Lehigh Valley is expected to grow by another 145,000 by 2030.  The US Census projects an even larger population growth.  This means another 72,000 households will be added to the Valley, not to mention probably the same number of cars added to our roads and more strain on our utilities and resources.  I’m not saying that growth is a bad thing, but it can be disastrous if not planned for correctly.

The Lehigh Valley uses about 26% of its land for residential purposes, while about 56% of our land remains “green space.” But how long will this last with the guaranteed future population growth? Will we continue to sprawl outward and develop this “green space” for more houses?  Some of that open land may be used for housing, but wouldn’t it be better to plan for this growth now and preserve that open space?  Though some may be frightened by the term, higher density housing is not a bad thing. It is not the reincarnation of the city tenements of long ago; rather, high density housing can encourage economic recovery, ease transportation by providing options for walking and biking, and provide alternative housing choices.  It also allows for the preservation of open space, rather than allowing for further sprawling development.

It is imperative that we plan for this inevitable growth now.  Why not build options and provide for these higher densities now, rather than waiting for the population to increase and not knowing what to do? Why not make our communities more sustainable and preserve the valuable open space we have?  I’ve heard farmers mention at our Envision Lehigh Valley meetings that this farmland is some of the most fertile land in Pennsylvania.  Why not keep it that way, rather than outward sprawl that will create more traffic and more strain on utilities?

It is inevitable that they will come; so why not build a community that world-class people will want to join? Why not provide options for a diverse workforce necessary to become the livable, equitable, and economically competitive region we know we can be?

Posted on October 15, 2012, in Neighborhoods, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I agree that we need to plan and that quality, affordable high density housing is something to pursue. I’m not sure, though, that the growth predicted for the Valley is inevitable. Don’t get me wrong: I’d love to see that kind of growth in our urban cores, and I think what’s happening in Allentown could lead to a lot of that. I also tend to think that market attitudes are shifting away from suburban living (as are economic realities). Young people want to live and work in walkable communities. We want better transit options. We want to preserve green space, as you say. Invest in the urban cores.

  2. I went to the discussion in LMT last night. It is very discouraging. I have been a part of these discussions for over 20 years and it just does not seem to matter what the people say about not wanting sprawl development. The developers and the elected and appointed officials make the development happen, irrespective of the impact to our air/water/traffic/quality of life. I know that the Envision notes are supposed to go into the official plans, but without teeth, what good will that really do? Help me to believe.

  3. We know that our population will be increasing, based on the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s estimates and the US Census projections. I agree with you, Christopher, that young people want to live in these walkable, sustainable communities. I think there a many people who would like to have these abilities. This is why we need to plan now for the years to come, so that we have these plans in place to implement at the end of the Envision Lehigh Valley project.

    To your point, “Wondering,” I’m sorry you were discouraged. I thought residents had many great perspectives and ideas, as well as very valid concerns. We hear LMT when they say “we’ve tried this before.” But are we really going to give up? Should residents just throw up their hands and say it’s all a futile effort? No, we need to work together through a bottom-up and top-down approach to create sustainable plans for the Lehigh Valley. Yes, by the end of Envision Lehigh Valley we will have plans. But those plans will feed implementation, if the community wants it to. We cannot force anyone to adopt these plans, but they will be readily available and waiting to be utilized for municipal planning. The Comprehensive Plan…The Lehigh Valley 2030 will be refined to include these sustainable plans. We need to work together to make these plans take hold. We need to have faith that together we CAN influence our local governments to utilize the sustainable plans at hand.

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