Governors can help foster sensible and sustainable community planning in their states by pursuing designs that don't unduly burden water supplies or force residents to drive everywhere they want to go, says a coalition pushing for new approaches to development.
WASHINGTON Governors can help foster sensible and sustainable community planning in their states by pursuing designs that don't unduly burden water supplies or force residents to drive everywhere they want to go, says a coalition pushing for new approaches to development.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency and a nonprofit group called Smart Growth America on Tuesday helped launch a National Endowment for the Arts program that will work with governors to build communities that use natural resources efficiently and encourage healthy habits.
Christie Whitman, former EPA administrator and governor of New Jersey, said the program addresses a key question for sustainability: "How do we continue to grow in a way that will allow us to continue to grow?"
If a governor can get an idea of how to redevelop existing residential areas, that can take pressure off farmland, said Whitman, who co-chairs a Smart Growth council with former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening.
Farmland in cities' outer suburbs can be tempting for developers because it is relatively cheap, but such areas can lack the resources and infrastructure to sustain residential projects. Many planners aim to reverse the tendency of urban areas to sprawl.
The NEA modeled the governors program on its 1986 initiative to get mayors talking with designers about city planning. About 700 mayors and more than 400 urban designers have participated in workshops since the cities program began.
"Mayors' hands are often tied. Their reach only extends so far," said Jeff Speck, the NEA's design director. "We're living life at the regional scale, but we're not planning at the regional scale."
The relatively inexpensive governors project -- budgeted for about $500,000 a year -- will include one-day meetings where a governor and cabinet members can discuss their state's specific issues with community-planning experts.
"What we're trying to do is create a conversation that couldn't happen otherwise," NEA Chairman Dana Gioia said.
However, there are obstacles to innovative community planning, organizers say.
"There are vested interests in the status quo," said Harriet Tregoning, executive director of Smart Growth's Leadership Institute. "There are constituencies that have a vested interest in growing exactly as we've done it for the last 50 years."
Source: Associated Press