Monday, November 28, 2011

Planners Must Speak for the Disadvantaged

Quotation from Dwight H. Merriam, FAICP - former president of APA.

The planner's clients, Merriam said, "are the poor, they are the disenfranchised, they are people who live far away but wish to be our neighbors, they are the old, they are the young, they are the people working two and three jobs who have no time to go to public hearings or run a blog, they are the people who need our help in processing and applying complex information, they are the generations not yet born, they are the people who will live on this earth 50 years and 100 years and 200 years and 500 years from now."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Just Give It a Rest

A city I used to work for announced this week that they need an overhaul of their tree preservation ordinance after studying the issue for over eighteen months. I think that's great. The previous three that I had worked on there had been diluted and not implemented to such a degree that they weren't going to get the goals of the program accomplished.

The goals were simple: Save big, healthy trees. Preserve wetland areas. Focus on original Cross Timbers Old Growth Forests. Design new development in such a way so as to save trees rather than plant new ones.

But, you could pay your way out of doing this. Paying a fee cost less than paying for a designer, an arborist and an engineer to look at best way to design around trees.

So the committee has new goals - which sound similar to the old goals, but with a new mission to implement them with a new ordinance.

The problem comes from the "don't touch my property" nutjobs out there.


For once and for all give it a rest. The invisible hand of economics saying that if you let the market dictate - then the altruism of the market will save us from ourselves has been thoroughly slapping us in the face for the past three years and was digging out our wallets prior to that.

Regulations on design and preservation must be part of the development process. Otherwise we will grade our land to look like the endless wastes of the inner city interstate system. There will be no places. Only commerce. There will be no shade or habitat. Only vast stretches of turf and concrete. One generating more heat, the other sucking down water we can't afford to raise a crop we harvest once a week and throw away.

Arguments against regulations are like asking for the government to leave only you alone and bother everyone else. You are not special. Your property - for how much it is worth - is not unique and special. We all have to live with rules. You live with the regulations of a City and pay the City taxes because you enjoy the amenities that a City brings. Paved roads. Sidewalks. Street lights governing traffic. Police protection. Fire protection. Ordered and managed water and wastewater systems so we don't drown in a cesspool of our own making. Your trash is taken away somewhere you don't have to look at it. You play on the recreation fields and shop in the stores that are close by because the City worked hard to make sure they are there instead of going down the road by thirty miles.

We live in a managed and ordered society by our own tacit agreement. Your freedoms are not being taken away. Your freedom is to leave at anytime. Our freedom is to make sure that there are such things as Cross Timbers Old Growth Forest to be preserved for the future. That is what marks a great society instead of a selfish one.