Smart Growth News – August 31, 2012

Top stories

Tennessee DOT Moves Past Road-Widening as a Congestion Reduction Strategy
Streetsblog DC – August 30, 2012
This way of thinking led Schroer, Comer, and the department into a conversation with Smart Growth America. They teamed up to examine the state of Tennessee’s transportation system and devise a path forward, bringing together an impressively coalition, from the Tennessee Disability Coalition to the Sierra Club, the public transit association to the road builders association.

Associated Press – August 30, 2012
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is all smiles, happy that so far his city has avoided widespread confrontations and arrests that have marred other conventions. But that doesn’t mean he’s pleased with everything. Buckhorn, a Democrat, used his daily press briefing to argue Tampa needs more mass transit options to build from the “worldwide” exposure it got during the convention.

Vote: What Should Happen to the Gas Tax?
Wall Street Journal – August 30, 2012
The gasoline tax is running out of gas. The tax, which paid to build most of America’s roads, no longer generates enough revenue to keep up with our transportation needs. As construction and maintenance costs have risen over the past two decades, the tax rate hasn’t changed.


Spotlight on Sustainability: Planning for a self-sufficient Grand Traverse County, Michigan

Located in northwest Michigan and with a population of about 90,000 people, Grand Traverse County boasts a host of natural amenities and idyllic Great Lakes beauty. But like most places across the country, it has faced an economic slowdown in recent years.

Unlike most other places, though, the communities and local governments in the area decided to take advantage of the recession, using it as a chance to pause and assess what residents wanted for the future. That unique, forward-thinking perspective has helped Grand Traverse County create a vision for the region as a whole moving forward.

Coming out of an extended phase in which its local governments and planning commissions simply tried to manage growth, Grand Traverse County sought to create a system that would better account for expected development and direct it toward shared County goals. With the input of tens of thousands of the public gathered through surveys, public meetings, and discussions, the Grand Vision was born. Encompassing six priorities –transportation, growth and investment, housing, food and farming, sustainable energy, and natural resources – the Grand Vision is a commitment from local organizations and people to move towards a shared plan for the region.


Upcoming Webinars: September 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2:00-3:00pm ET. Join EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities to discuss the Agency’s voluntary school siting guidelines, which can help local school districts and community members evaluate environmental factors to make the best possible school siting decisions.

Thursday, September 6, 1:00-2:30pm ET. Building Sustainable Communities through Environmental Justice Strategies Register here.


Smart Growth America and TDOT: Mapping out Tennessee's transportation future

Photo courtesy of Flickr user jimmywayne.

On August 21, Smart Growth America and the Tennessee Department of Transportation released Removing Barriers to Smarter Transportation Investments, a detailed policy analysis of Tennessee’s transportation infrastructure and projects.

Tennessee’s leaders are already looking to the document for guidance. “We now have a road map to a better transportation program that will promote job growth, stronger communities and a cleaner environment while using tax dollars more wisely,” Trip Pollard and Anne Davis, both of the Southern Environmental Law Center, wrote in an op-ed in The Tennesseean.

Technical assistance

Smart Growth News – August 30, 2012

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TN has road map for better transportation
The Tennessean – August 27, 2012
TDOT has just released a promising road map that would put it on a path to making smarter investments. This road map is contained in a new report, “Removing Barriers to Smarter Transportation Investments.” TDOT developed the report with the assistance of Smart Growth America and a range of stakeholders, including state and local officials, road builders, conservationists and members of the business community.

Hard-Hit Cities Show a Housing Rebound
New York Times – August 28, 2012
Even some of the cities that suffered the most in the housing bust are showing signs of improvement, with prices beginning to recover in places like Miami, Atlanta and Detroit, according to the latest housing data.

Republican Platform Opposes Agenda 21
New York Times – August 29, 2012
Most of those pushing the Agenda 21 theory have been largely on the margins of their own party. But the inclusion of language for Agenda 21 in the Republican Party platform could mark a turning point, said Tom Madrecki, a spokesman for Smart Growth America, an advocacy group that works to limit sprawl.


Opposition to old United Nations resolution moves from the fringe to the GOP platform

“UN Flag.” Photo by Philippe Teuwen, via Flickr.

All eyes are on the Republican Party’s national convention in Tampa this week, with voters and pundits gauging presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s performance. But amid the bright spotlight of the stage and the specter of Tropical Storm Isaac, the GOP also released its platform for the coming years.

The platform’s language includes reference to the “U.N. Agenda 21,” a non-binding resolution signed by the in 1992 that has become a catch-all boogeyman for conservative fears about changing development and new currents in American society. In a post published today, the New York Times’ Leslie Kaufman explains what this has to do with local planning efforts:

Although it is nonbinding and has no force of law in the United States, it has increasingly become a point of passionate concern to a circle of Republican activists who argue that the resolution is part of a United Nations plot to deny Americans their property rights…Most of those pushing the Agenda 21 theory have been largely on the margins of their own party. But the inclusion of language for Agenda 21 in the Republican Party platform could mark a turning point, said Tom Madrecki, a spokesman for Smart Growth America, an advocacy group that works to limit sprawl.


Smart Growth News – August 29, 2012

Top stories:

The Next Generation of DIY Urbanism Projects: So Much Cooler Than Parklets
The Atlantic Cities – August 27, 2012
The evolution of the parklet suggests that fly-by-night urban interventions can lead to something much more permanent. And this is the idea behind a series of “urban prototyping” festivals created by the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts in San Francisco. “We’re working with lessons learned form the parklet and Rebar and others to inform how projects that start at the small experimental prototyping scale can grow and expand across neighborhoods and cities,” says Jake Levitas, research director at GAFFTA.

Washington DC area housing market recovery moves to the suburbs
Washington Post – August 28, 2012
The recovery of the Washington area housing market has been well documented — sales are up, prices are rising and inventories are low. Home prices in the Washington region have been up 29 out of the last 33 months. But when it comes to the real estate market, location matters — even in our robust market. Close-in neighborhoods led the recovery but buyers are increasingly heading to the outer suburbs.

Can D.C. Lead the Way to a 21st Century Waterfront?
The Atlantic Cities – August 28, 2012
When developers Hoffman-Madison Marquette break ground on a roughly 52-acre development early next year, they’ll be working in a proud neighborhood tradition. EE&K, a Perkins Eastman Company, the firm behind the master plan for The Wharf, says it is designing a waterfront for the 21st century. And in the case of waterfronts, that means looking backward as well as forward.


Where does Mitt Romney stand on smart growth?

To date, Romney the Republican presidential candidate hasn’t commented much on his history using smart growth strategies, or whether he would encourage their use if voted into office.

During his tenure as the governor of Massachusetts, however, he passed several policies that encouraged strategic development and supported the creation of great neighborhoods. For instance, Romney signed legislation known as Chapter 40R, a policy that encouraged multi-family housing and transit-oriented development.

“We are working harder, but more importantly, we are working smarter to achieve a better quality of life in Massachusetts for all of our citizens,” Romney said at a smart growth innovation awards announcement in 2005. “I am delighted to recognize cities and towns that are leading the way in spurring important smart growth projects throughout the state.”


Partnership in the News: Las Cruces, NM city and county officials host Regional Sustainability Summit

On Saturday, August 18, city officials from Las Cruces and county officials from Doña Ana County met together to inform the public and gather feedback on the region’s plans for the future. The meeting was meant to give “people in the community a chance to learn what this very big planning effort is all about,” County Commissioner Billy Garrett explained. “It gave people the opportunity to talk to the planners, make suggestions and, overall, to get the public involved. I think the turnout was great.”