2011 is over, but not forgotten. Indeed, in the planning world, it will be remembered as the year when many planners across the country began fielding smart growth policy objections from Tea Party supporters and those concerned about the U.N’s Agenda 21. No shortage of articles and blog posts, written in tones that drip with frustration yet offer few solutions, have documented the trend.
These concerns are no small issue. Rather, they’re a formidable distraction capable of sinking years of work and wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars. In an era of diminishing resources, they’re something most communities simply can’t afford.
Want to get some sleep tonight? How about snuggling up with your local Development Code? Read any section, such as Sign Violations and Enforcement Procedures, and I’m willing to bet you’ll be out before you get past the Statement of Purpose.
That’s a problem, because such volumes don’t exist to cure insomnia. They exist to engage us in the collaborative project of creating our shared surroundings. That means something and, while I understand that Comprehensive Plans, Zoning, and Subdivision Ordinances, by virtue of their lofty stature, might make for poor everyday reading, we all suffer when they end up so… tedious.
“Our life is frittered away by detail … simplify, simplify.” – Thoreau
Federal government to sustainability efforts: You’re terminated.
In a blockbuster-style showdown, the House Appropriations Committee started a furor this month as they proposed the elimination of HUD, USDOT and EPA sustainability programs in 2011-12, as well as suggesting the rescinding of dollars already awarded by the Sustainability and TIGER grant programs. As municipalities, counties and regional COGs scramble to find ways to focus the weak development market forces into more sustainable patterns of walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods, the possible removal of the federal support is discouraging.
Looks like we’re gonna have to go indie.
The obesity epidemic isn’t really “news” anymore (thank you, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution) yet when I question my friends who work outside the fields of design and planning on why Americans are so fat, they tie everything back to poor food choices. But what about exercise? They reply that if you want to exercise, just find yourself a park or a gym. No worries.
So, although we know that there is an obesity “problem,” one with significant national impacts, the average American still is not aware that it is, in many ways, a design problem. A result of a built environment that has been constructed over the past 50 years with one singular purpose – move more cars faster. Continue reading
Western Canada’s form-based codes are missing.
This is no small problem. Those of us working in the region are continuously grilled by municipalities with the same question, often delivered with a suspicious, cocked eyebrow: “Where are they? Where in Canada have they, or any other alternative zoning regulation, been enacted?”
The answer we’re obliged to offer is unfortunately neither reassuring nor helpful: “We’ve turned up little evidence,” we mutter quietly. Little enough, in fact, that a comparable municipal mentor is typically unable to be found.
A mystery is at hand. Continue reading
What does America’s oldest city have in common with one of its youngest? They’re both concerned with branding.
St. Augustine, Florida, kicked off their branding initiative in 1715 by petitioning the King of Spain for a coat of arms. Upon his receipt, the King assumedly delegated the request to his creative services department who, in turn, set out to define the message and visually articulate the city’s identity. Continue reading
Get right with God. Fix your zoning.
That’s not something you hear regularly from the pulpit, maybe. But it’s gospel nonetheless. Here’s why:
If there’s one common thread woven through the world’s most enduring religions, it’s the call to connectivity: Self to others to everything. Continue reading