Sustainable planning expert Eben Fodor, author of the book “Better Not Bigger” and numerous studies documenting the costs of growth, has produced a new commentary about “Smart Growth.” It’s chock full of great insights and can be viewed on his website: http://www.fodorandassociates.com/Reports/Myth_of_Smart_Growth.pdf
It’s worth noting that the formal policy of Chelmsford’s Community Planning Office, under the direction of Town Manager Paul Cohen, is to encourage “Smart Growth.” As the Fodor paper points out, “Smart growth is cast as a comprehensive solution, when it is actually just a means of postponing the inevitable consequences of too much growth...Smart growth does not see an end to growth or a need to end growth.”
Fodor points out that “smart growth does not include any strategies for slowing or limiting growth and does not envision or contemplate an end to growth.” In that sense, it is very stupid indeed.
The fundamental concept is that as long as new growth is compact and efficiently planned, it is acceptable for development to continue consuming rural land and for the urban footprint to keep expanding.
Urban planners like Paul Cohen and Evan Belansky understand that smart growth is just a euphemism for still yet more growth. Smart growth simply attempts to substitute density for sprawl, introducing nearby amenities (“mixed-use” developments) to make up for the undesirable aspects of crowded living. This is not what Chelmsford wants, but that’s what we’re going to get if we don’t push back on the self-interested real estate lawyers, realtors, and developers who have controlled public policy in Chelmsford for decades.
There are only two things the public agrees on: they don’t like sprawl, and they don’t like density. The only way to satisfy those two limitations is to stop the growth. This simple fact is swept off the table by the fundamental premise of “smart growth” that stopping growth isn’t feasible or isn’t desirable – complete balderdash, but the discussion then centers on how to accommodate the growth using “smart growth” techniques.
Read the Fodor paper and you’ll understand the importance of “The Dismal Theorem,” how smart growth leads to “The Utterly Dismal Theorem,” and how intelligent public policy can transition us to “The moderately cheerful form of the Dismal Theorem.”
As Fodor points out, “There will always be those who remain in denial about the impacts of human expansion. No amount of evidence will convince them. There are those who think that perpetual growth is desirable. Even if it can be shown that this growth is not beneficial or is harmful, it does not matter because growth is inevitable. So they believe that not only is growth desirable, it’s unavoidable.”
My point is that we don’t have to keep reelecting such people to public office.
Roland Van Liew