Friday, September 17, 2010

Fundamental Misfacts

I heard a Smart Growth champion speak at a conference recently and though I nearly bit my lip right off, I did manage to bite my tongue and keep quiet.
Now I'll write about it. Call it therapy.

There really is a battle underway among policy thinkers about where growth "should" occur. A number want that to happen only in the big cities. Some simply have an urban bias and favor denser schools, denser highways, and denser living.

I think there are three fundamental issues that are always going to be at the heart of this issue that are also fundamental misfacts from the denser movement.

Smart growth and density advocates believe that dense living is more environmentally friendly. Further, they believe that future generations are more environmentally conscious than their forefathers and, in part for that reason, Millennials are going to want to live in dense cities.

These premises are fundamentally false.

There's plenty of evidence to dispute the concept that a one million square foot high rise building, for example, is more environmentally friendly than its suburban one-to-three-story equivalent.

I firmly believe that one generation's environmentalist is the past generation's normal. My family is proof of that. I dispute that my daughter's generation is more environmentally conscious than mine. How can a generation with multiple-electronic devices running constantly, water-filled plastic bottles, and which doesn't know what a returnable bottle is nor seemingly know how to turn out a light be considered more environmentally-friendly than mine?

Plus, there are numerous demographic studies that show that first Gen X'ers and now Millennials are favoring in higher percentages than the Baby Boomers life in single-family, suburban homes as opposed to denser places to live.

Joel Kotkin's The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050 and are two great sources that mirror my view

I did agree with one thing the speaker said. He admitted that people are more likely to want to work where you live than live where you work.

That's the point.

Future generations of the middle class are going to want single-family homes AND workplaces nearby. In a tight labor market, companies are going to go where the people are located too.

That's Licking County's unique advantage in a nutshell.  It is possible to work, live, and find safe, enjoyable family time in Licking County.

And that's the combination that is generational-realistic while also most environmentally-conscious.

Let's keep building in the 'burbs.

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