The question is whose vision would that be? Ms. Krueger says she doesn't like "sprawl." I happen to live in a development that some would consider "sprawl," but we call it "affordable family housing." That's the problem with trying to conform community growth to a plan versus letting it develop along the lines free market forces take it.
Charles Tomlinson, a writer for the Objectivist Center, summed up the issue of "urban sprawl" quite eloquently:
Urban Sprawl is just another name for growth and prosperityPublic meetings sound democratic, but they are poor indicators of public will. The types of people who attend them tend to be activists. You need look no further than the city council meeting back in March with all the duct-taped mouths and signs or the recent Moscow Planning & Zoning Commission knock-down drag-outs to see what I mean. Activists, by nature, don't generally share the majority's opinion. Normal people are too busy with their lives to attend meetings or even take much notice. Pundits may decry this lack of involvement, but that doesn't change anything. In politics, as in mechanics, the squeaky wheel gets the oil. That is exactly why the activists of the Pullman Alliance for Responsible Development wanted a public meeting on Wal-Mart so badly.
The media makes urban sprawl sound like some kind of terrible virus that will infect the forests and other green areas of the world and cause them to disappear forever. Urban sprawl refers to replacing forests and farms (which are pretty, and desirable to those who do not have to pay the taxes on them) by other things that are not so pretty like factories, homes, highways, shopping malls, and people.
But factories provide jobs for people to improve their standard of living. Home ownership has defined the American dream. New and better highways make it easier for people to be able to get around. Shopping malls are constructed to fill people's need to buy food, clothing, and other items. And just what is wrong with people moving to areas that were once farms and forests? People have been doing this in this country for over three hundred years. Why should they stop now?
If fields and forests are changed into factories, homes, and other uses that people want, it is because the people who own the fields and forest decide to sell them to the people who want to make factories, homes, etc. The factory and home folks either are successful in making the changes they desire in land use and succeed in their efforts, or they guess wrong and they fail. In either case, they are the ones who profit or lose. You and I, unless we choose to, do not have a dog in the race. The process is market driven, noncoercive (which means that you and I do not have to participate if we choose not to) and reality based.
If we embrace the Trojan horse of urban sprawl what are the results?
Somebody out there (usually a bureaucrat with the word "planner" in his title) decides that the people in his jurisdiction would be better off if the forest was preserved in a green belt and the factory placed over here, the houses over there, and the highways replaced by some urban transit scheme. His wishes are imposed by regulations, laws, codes, and eminent domain on those who live within his zone of control.
This land use is not market driven, but bureaucratically imposed. You, as a taxpayer, do have a dog in this race because you are paying for it. Your input into the process will be accepted with open arms if you suggest new ways to acquire additional funds, regulations, or power but will be ignored, vilified, and punished if you dare to question the process itself.
So it boils down to this: The issue with urban sprawl is not the change in land use, but whether market forces or bureaucrats will control it. If the bureaucrats do, it is called planned growth; if the market does, it is labeled urban sprawl. The urban sprawl denounced by the media is simply the idea that you get to do what you want to do with the property that you own. Planned growth means that the planners get to do what they want to do with the property that you own.
The ultimate result of planned growth is available for all to see the old Soviet Union. The grim, depressing sight of apartments holding 5,000 people each, spaced like huge concrete chicken houses marching off into the gray distance; the wide avenues built for parades but deserted because they do not go where people want to go; and the forest parks made to look like government's idea of what a forest should be; give visual evidence of the final result of the planner's world.
Unless you really like the way Moscow looks and works, you should celebrate urban sprawl and the continuing changes that free men can make in the uses of land when they are stimulated by free markets and a desire to make things better.
Pullman is a very diverse community (students, faculty, business owners, full-time residents, etc.). How would it be possible to ever reach a consensus that everyone in the community could live with? For example, PARD has announced they plan to appeal the city's Wal-Mart decision all the way to the courts. Does anyone really believe that things would be different if there had been a public meeting and the majority of attendees wanted Wal-Mart? PARD doesn't want Wal-Mart under any circumstances and all their talk about "public involvement" is simply a diversionary tactic.
Our current de-politicized process for development may not be perfect and it may not reflect the wishes of every resident, but Pullman is growing and prospering. I'll take that over ideological litmus tests, limited growth, and recession any day.