Planning for Growth

Growth in the United States is consistently commended as a positive on society, no matter what the outcome. One repercussion of unchecked growth, urban sprawl, is the outward expanse of low density development without regard to surrounding areas. This decentralized form of planning leads to dependence on automobiles, natural terrain destruction and decaying infrastructure/development. People are also more spread out, leading to segregated communities and a lack of connection between citizens.

Dr. Gerard Mildner of Portland State University is the director for the universities center for Real Estate. Dr. Mildner, with years of experience in multiple disciplines, has researched growth management issues and communicated the need for growth to be considered in sustainable initiatives. He expressed the importance of urban growth boundaries established all over the state of Oregon. These regional boundaries discern between urban areas and less developed land. This is all an effort to limit sprawl that would eventually move in to natural areas of the state that citizens decided should be left alone. The guides are used by municipalities, counties and the state to make land use and zoning policy decisions. Cities in Oregon are required to establish urban growth boundaries in their plans and although it is challenging, planners have recognized the benefits of this strategy. Land/buildings will be developed and redeveloped in the urban core, which will help to keep people in the area, spurring business to continue in the long term. More time can be spent on existing infrastructure, rather than planning for future sprawl and the infrastructure it will need. Urban services, such as fire, police, parks and schools could focus on the limited areas needs as well. Setting these boundaries will protect Oregon’s farms and forests for ages as urban development innovates into the sustainable cities of the future.

The Portland Bureau of Planning Sustainability has held growth control as an important issue as well. Sustainability and planning were brought together under one bureau so that long term development initiatives can coincide with sustainable programs to make for purposeful plans that will allow the city to thrive. Those representing the bureau supported a grassroots effort to stop a freeway from being built across the Portland landscape. Sensible Transportation Options for People (STOP), helped to bring down the proposed western bypass freeway in an effort to practice traffic calming. The plan was removed and STOP was successful in most likely curbing future sprawl. The sustainability end of the bureau has quite a few plans for the future of Portland:

  • Climate Action Plan
  • Garbage, Recycling, Composting and Yard Debris Programs
  • Urban Growth Bounty Food Initiative
  • Sustainable City Government Partnerships
  • Solarize Portland
  • Clean Energy Works Oregon
  • Build It Green!
  • The Portland Plan

The Bureau’s sustainability initiatives are spread out all across the region due to the links with planning and the nature of plans covering every sector. Joining public planning and sustainability is essential to limiting growth in other U.S. cities and regions. It might also lead to programs that Portland already strives for and enjoys.

Formerly 1000 Friends of Washington, Futurewise is a Washington public interest group focused on building communities correctly with respect to the region’s forests and farmland. This group works with local Washington governments to ensure smart growth policy and planning for long term success of the state. Futurewise works in organizing efforts, advocacy work, support groups, legal aid and education initiatives to drive the message to citizens across Washington. The Growth Management Act, adopted by the Washington legislature in 1990, was set forth to require smart growth planning by all local and state governments. Unfortunately, the legislation does not come with any true enforcement measures, so Futurwise and other groups have come in to advocate for its importance. Although the group has been very successful in building relationships with governments and citizens, it is a constant challenge convincing policy makers that these policies are beneficial to all people and businesses in Washington.

Limiting growth is picking up support all over the country and as local governments run out of expansion territory they will have to re-prioritize developing out or up. Leaving regions underdeveloped and building around them only hinders business, communities and the environment. There are so many benefits to living in densely developed areas and with every service and development improvement, neighboring areas will benefit as well. There is a reason they call it “smart growth”.

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