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Thread: The nature of growth

  1. #1
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    The nature of growth

    What is the nature of growth? Is it bad/good? Is it inevitable? What steps should a community take in promoting/impairing growth? Does growth add to or detract from quality of life? Are "good growth paradigms" obligated to play out everywhere? Are the ideas people have about these topics completely up to personal preference or are there objective standards to them? What is the planning profession's obligations when it comes to growth?

    Generally speaking, I think growth is a good thing and contributes positively to the quality of life in any given area. I believe communities should promote growth that fits within their vision or plan for the future, but at the same time not outright refuse growth that does not. Planning should help communities do this and, rather than prevent or impair it, try to organize growth, both desired and undesired, to make it as functional and livable as possible.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Growth is something that is desired in places that are not growing, and something to be fought in those places that are growing. There any number of objective criteria to measure what is "good" or "bad" growth, all of which are entirely baed on subjective criteria. While communities may take steps to promote or curtail growth, anything they do is bound to be the wrong decision. I hope this clarifies the issue.
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    "Growth" and "development" are two different concepts. "Growth" is more of the same jobs, industries, etc. "Development" is the diversification of an economy, the addition of new industries, and the inclusion of more of the cities' residents in the economy.

    While they sound the same, they are different. Most people see growth as a good thing and development as a lucky thing. Here is an example you can relate to: What would be better for Pittsburgh PA - 6 more steel factories or 2 new steel companies, 2 new computer companies, and 2 new bank headquarters? One is growth and one is development.

    Most cities only try for growth, often forgetting than at any time a single industry can come crashing down. I would advise your area to try and recruit new jobs and new companies!

    If it is "good" will depend on who you ask. A small Midwestern town that is now receiving racial minorities due to a specific industry may think it is a bad thing whereas a more diverse base may see that as great. Some people don't want to lose a small town feel and some only want to get bigger and bigger. Don't be fooled - growing a tax base is not reason enough to make bad decisions regarding growth and development.

  4. #4
    Dan Staley's avatar
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    What is 'growth'

    Growth in population is inevitable as long as humans continue to reproduce. Growth in the economy is not inevitable, as we can see today with the coming of the end of cheap energy (which fueled this growth). Growth in the area of cities relative to human population growth is not inevitable, as consumption decreases with the economy (and cheap energy going away). Growth in the stress of ecosystems originating from human impacts is inevitable as long as we continue what we are doing today. I = PxAxT.

    Growth has costs, as Vail, CO published yesterday and we know from the Costs of Community Services (COCS) literature.

    Growth can detract from QOL if the growth stresses natural systems, as we see in California and their proposed remedy in anti-sprawl bills. IOW: if growth does not consider the natural environment (and focuses only on, say, the economy or simply getting more houses built or more Automalls), then growth is inevitably detrimental IMHO (says the urban ecology guy). I moved away from Sacto because the growth was impacting my QOL - degrading air quality esp. The Sacto region took good steps to get planning back on track, after it was derailed by the Greek Club of developers.

    Communities wanting to address growth must first feel there is a threat, as we see right now in Ravalli Co in Montana. Impairing "growth" has consequences, as we see in Marin Co in California, and playing out now in WA State, where rural interests are getting restrictions on their land loosened so they can make money on it outside the UGB.

    It is unclear to me why the planning profession should help communities ...try to organize growth, [even if it is] undesired. Rather than shoulder the burden of undesired growth (say, in too many houses or sprawl and not enough commercial or open space), planners should instead seek to direct growth into desired forms. That is: why on earth would our profession counsel for undesired growth forms? Wouldn't we be failing our publics if we did so? Wouldn't this fail our grandchildren as well?

    In my view, if a community wants to stop growth that is their decision. Our job is to counsel the publics on the possible outcomes and let them decide. If a community wants a high-growth paradigm, that is their decision. Our job is to counsel the publics on the possible outcomes and let them decide. We can't make the "right" decision for them, but we can try our best to give the best possible information for decision-making. Most of us don't have that much power to make decisions for them.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Generally speaking, I think growth is a good thing and contributes positively to the quality of life in any given area. I believe communities should promote growth that fits within their vision or plan for the future, but at the same time not outright refuse growth that does not. Planning should help communities do this and, rather than prevent or impair it, try to organize growth, both desired and undesired, to make it as functional and livable as possible.
    TexanOkie, I think you’ve given a pretty good description of planning’s role as it relates to growth. Growth is inevitable for many areas for demographic reasons, and due to people’s preference to develop/live in suburban style communities (this may or may not change over the long term due to energy and transportation costs, but it’s a little early to tell). I think there is a pretty strong argument that our style of land use planning has worked so well because we let local communities decide what types of growth to allow in their communities; for better or worse, we’ve got exactly the kinds of communities we planned for.

    I agree, growth is generally a good thing. I grew up in a community with a very pro-growth, pro-development attitude where planning was used to promote growth, and (to use TexanOkie’s term) “to make it as functional and livable as possible,” in the context of traditional suburban/Euclidian zoning. Judging by a variety of standards (some objective, some not) it was very successful in creating a high quality of life for its residents. Again, I think growth is generally positive. However, I don’t think all styles are equal, or sustainable over the long run. I believe in the free market, think as planners we need to address some of the negative externalities that come with it.

    I am beginning to wonder how well this model of almost exclusive local control over development and growth will serve in the future. Here’s the reason: I spend a great deal of time filling out requests for information (RFI) from the state economic development agency. These requests are generally from foreign (read global) companies looking for space to locate a manufacturing and/or research facility. These RFI’s always contain a laundry list of requirements (parcel must be this size, and have these types of utilities, etc), and invariably ask for information about the surrounding region. They want information about regional transportation networks (rail, major roads/expressways, ports, airports, public transportation networks); telecommunications infrastructure, primarily making sure they can obtain appropriate high speed internet; characteristics of the region’s workforce (unionization, education, median wages); and information about area colleges and universities.

    The point I’m trying to make here is that some employers, some who will employ significant amounts of people, look at much more than individual communities when they locate a business. I realize that a large percentage of Americans are employed by small and medium sized businesses; so I can not draw too many conclusions about what they need from my work on these projects. I will argue that in order to participate in a global economy (let’s face it, that is what we have), these small and medium sized businesses will have to look for similar amenities. I do not know what that means for the role of planning in growth in development. It could mean more regional collaboration, or regional government; it could mean allowing local governments continue to operate in the same manner they have, and let the market sort things out; it could mean something completely different.

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