last modified: Monday, December 12, 2005 12:11 PM
Smart Growth &
Smart Growth has emerged as a dominant solution to combat urban sprawl,
the expansive and reckless growth of an urban area. It is a comprehensive
development strategy that focuses on the environment, health, transportation,
and housing in order to maximize a community’s quality of life.
Overview of Smart Growth
“Smart Growth” is a clever phrase because not only does it immediately
garner attention, it also implies that the opposition must be favoring “Dumb
Growth” by default. In 1997, Maryland Governor Parris Glendening
introduced the "Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation Initiative," to
increase the involvement of the state government in local land use decisions. Instead
of relying on regulations to control development patterns, Glendening focused
his attention on using financial incentives to shape the decisions of
The Smart Growth plan is designed to save taxpayers millions of dollars by devoting state funds to areas with established infrastructure systems. Supporters argue that financial investments devoted to curtailing urban sprawl will have a higher return if they are used to revitalize existing communities instead of undeveloped areas. By focusing on the restoration of communities, government officials could avoid consuming additional farmland or open space to cope with population growth. Moreover, building a compact community with walkable neighborhoods and multiple transportation options will have positive environmental impacts by reducing residents’ dependence on cars.
In 1993, an extensive development project was launched to give a suburban commuter town a vibrant cultural identity. Bethesda, located just six miles from Washington DC, has transformed itself into a popular destination by offering numerous shops and diverse restaurant choices in a charming downtown area. It has successfully attracted young people as well as families by boasting modern entertainment within a residential environment. As a result, housing demand has skyrocketed with the current median housing price at $400,000.
Accessed at http://www.cnu.org/aboutcnu/index.cfm, 2005
Accessed at http://www.schuminweb.com/schumin-web/photography/2003/urban-dc-area.asp, 2005
Metropolitan DC and its Relationship to Smart Growth
The Smart Growth Network was formed in 1996 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency along with several non-profit and government organizations (see www.smartgrowth.org for more information). They have defined the following principles as being essential to Smart Growth Development:
● Fostering Distinctive, Attractive Communities
In the past ten years, developers in metropolitan
● Direct Development to Existing Communities
Smart Growth also advocates diversifying transportation
options which decreases congestion and the reliance on automobiles. Both
Pentagon City and
The Environmental Protection Agency states that
the environmental benefits of Smart Growth are improved air and
water quality, greater preservation of critical habitat and open space,
and more clean up and re-use of brownfield sites. Bethesda and
Pentagon City are dense development projects which decrease the need for
automobiles and thus decrease auto-emissions and greenhouse gases. A
Smart Growth promoters believe there should be a range of housing options that are affordable and accessible. Residents of Bethesda or Pentagon City include college students, young professionals, families, and retirees, and the housing developments in both areas reflect this diversity. Currently, new high-rise apartment complexes are being constructed to provide accessibility to the amenities offered by the downtown areas. However, with increasing demand to live in these communities, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission admits that the lack of affordable housing is becoming a problem.
Popular Criticisms of Smart Growth
● By focusing on the escalating growth of urban areas, urban planners have further increased the cost of urban living. According to the 2000 census, 25% of renters and 17% of homeowners in the DC metro area spend more than 35% of their income on rent and mortgage payments, respectively.
● Offering alternative modes of transportation such as biking and walking is not enough to counter the increase in traffic congestion caused by a rising population density. According to the Texas Transportation Institute, in 2003 the commute into DC is the third worst in the country.
● Property rights activists contend that the government should not intrude on consumer’s preferences since it is unrealistic to assume that consumers strictly prefer urban environments.
Supporters of Smart Growth encourage financial investment into an area which
has the potential to offer a strong community environment. This is
measured by accessible facilities and services, an array of amenities, and
multiple housing and transportation options. References
 Frece, John W, "Twenty Lessons from Maryland's Smart Growth  State of Maryland, Department of Planning, accessed at  Smart Growth Online, A Service of the Smart Growth Network,  Congress for the New Urbanism, accessed at www.cnu.org, 2005  U.S. Bureau of Census, accessed at www.census.gov, 2005  County of Arlington, Business Districts, accessed at  Federal Realty Investment Trust, accessed at www.pentagonrow.com, 2005  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, accessed at  Smart Growth American, accessed at www.smartgrowthamerica.com, 2005  Northern Virginia Regional Coalition, accessed at  Freeman, Brandee, Shigley, Paul & William Fulton, "The Pros
and  Cox, Anna Marie, "Sprawl By Any Other Name," August 20,
2003,  Harris, Jack & Evans, Jennifer, "Sprawl Braw", Tierra
Initiative, Vermont Journal of Environmental Law, Vol 6, 2004-2005.
accessed at www.smartgrowth.org, 2005
Cons of Smart Growth," written for Facsnet, accessed at
Vol. 7, No.2, 2000
 Frece, John W, "Twenty Lessons from Maryland's Smart Growth
 State of Maryland, Department of Planning, accessed at
 Smart Growth Online, A Service of the Smart Growth Network,
 Congress for the New Urbanism, accessed at www.cnu.org, 2005
 U.S. Bureau of Census, accessed at www.census.gov, 2005
 County of Arlington, Business Districts, accessed at
 Federal Realty Investment Trust, accessed at www.pentagonrow.com, 2005
 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, accessed at
 Smart Growth American, accessed at www.smartgrowthamerica.com, 2005
 Northern Virginia Regional Coalition, accessed at
 Freeman, Brandee, Shigley, Paul & William Fulton, "The Pros
 Cox, Anna Marie, "Sprawl By Any Other Name," August 20,
 Harris, Jack & Evans, Jennifer, "Sprawl Braw", Tierra