Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sustaining Sustainability

Oh so true.

Sustaining Sustainability: It Ain’t Always Easy


A little more than a dozen years ago, a collection of three adjacent suburban towns in the sprawling Sun Belt region of Charlotte did something extraordinary. After months of public workshops, lectures and community discussions, months of looking at slide shows to choose what kinds of streets, stores, houses and apartments they wanted for their towns, they revamped their town codes. They aimed to discourage conventional suburbia and encourage traditional neighborhood development, transit-oriented projects and farmland preservation.

It warmed the hearts of planners. It drew national attention and awards and, after a couple of New Urbanist neighborhoods were built, busloads of visiting Smart Growth disciples. Writers, including yours truly, ladled on praise. In 1996 I wrote an editorial calling the new ordinances in Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson, N.C., “a remarkable exercise in local and regional planning” and “a remarkable vision.”

But as Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys sang decades before, “Time changes everything.”

In addition to the turnover and the influx of newcomers unaware of the past work, I suspect a piece of what has happened relates to starker political partisanship and more liberal-versus-conservative tensions in the past decade. Much about traditional neighborhood design might be considered conservative–such as its aim to hold down municipal services costs and its association with small-town values. But once “smart growth” came to be associated with environmentalism, it became a target for many conservatives suspicious of anything favored by liberals.

Read the rest of the post here.

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