Smart Growth Plan's Perils: Bill would federalize no-growth regulations nationwide

by Patricia Callahan, President of the
American Association of Small Property Owners:
April 10, 2002

Scant attention has been paid to legislation currently working its way
through Congress that would institute a $250 million grant program to
federalize no-growth (euphemistically called "smart growth") regulations
nationwide. The result would be devastating for small property investors,
both urban and rural.

S. 975 would require local governments to implement land management plans
using model "smart growth" statutes provided in a 2,000-page "Legislative
Guidebook" developed during the Clinton Administration by the American
Planning Association, a no-growth trade organization, with almost $2
million in HUD grant money.

Despite giving lip service to the idea that land use planning is rightfully
a state and local government function, S. 975 undeniably represents a
top-down approach to land use management. The legislation will use our tax
dollars to create a multitude of jobs for APA members, who will be free to
promote their no-growth agenda nationwide.

Those who have the most at risk were completely shut out of the development
process in writing the Legislative Guidebook.  Career environmental groups
were consulted, but property rights associations didn't even know about the
guidebook until a few months ago. No black or other minority associations
were consulted, according to Harry Alford, president and CEO of the
National Black Chamber of Commerce.

David Sampson is the Commerce Department's assistant secretary of economic
Development, the very agency that would administer the "smart growth"
grants under the Senate bill.  Mr. Sampson said the Bush administration
does not support the legislation, calling it "a centralized approach to land use

All in all, the Senate hearing on S. 975 was like watching a horror movie.
Seeing the issues threaded throughout, such as "pedestrian-oriented,"
creating statutes to preserve "vistas and views," "affordable housing" and
"social equity" makes it quite clear that this is just the tip of the
iceberg. This type of regulation invariably makes life so miserable for
small property owners that they eventually give up. The result is abandoned
buildings that give the city justification to come in and bulldoze the
area, clearing the way for big developers to come in and put up high-density
high-rises. Some would call this the "unintended consequence" of "smart
growth." Others believe this is exactly the intent.

Land use involves tough issues, fought out on the local level. It is an
exercise in democracy which can at times become very contentious. The
intervention of the federal government in land use matters, whether
directly or through a funding mechanism, will allow ideologues to exercise undue
influence in the process, and thereby disenfranchise local private property
owners.  S. 975, the "Community Character Act" must be defeated in order to
save the individual characters of our communities.

(Note: The United States Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will  VOTE
tomorrow, Thursday April 12 on  S. 975.  This bill uses the lure of federal
government grant money to require counties and municipalities across the
United States to adopt a Federal Zoning Code which will take away local
zoning powers. - from American Land Rights Association)


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