Monday, October 16, 2006
Rapid Growth Is Inevitable Only If It's Encouraged
Several weeks ago I decided to write a series of columns expressing my opinion that growth in Washington County is close to being out of control, and if it continues unabated, it will soon turn this red rock haven into an unsightly and unaccommodating corridor of strip malls, fast food joints and rooftops.
This project has given me the opportunity to ask many of my friends and neighbors what they think about growth. The most often expressed opinion can best be summarized as follows:
“I don’t like it, but growth is inevitable. It’s a function of supply and demand. As long as land is available and newcomers are willing to pay the asking price, there is nothing we can do about it but manage it wisely.”
It’s probably true that some reasonable level of growth is inevitable and even desirable. But I respectfully disagree with the assertion that the kind of growth we are experiencing is inevitable and is strictly a function of supply and demand. Growth is actually a function of three variables: supply, demand and the attitude of local government. There are many communities around the country that have managed to restrict growth despite tremendous demand for development. To think otherwise seems either uninformed or disingenuous to me. Developers, builders and residents who have experienced this elsewhere know that certain communities are unfriendly to development and others roll out the red carpet and encourage it.
I’ve also learned there are residents who not only think rapid growth is inevitable, they think it’s wonderful. It shouldn’t be surprising that developers, builders and real estate agents dominate this group. I’m not cynical about their motives. I don’t think it’s only about earning a living to them. I think they are good men and women who believe that rapid growth is a good thing for all of us. We just have an honest difference of opinion on this issue.
Of course, I hope you are in my camp and agree that rapid growth is inevitable only if it is tolerated or encouraged by elected officials. And with elections just around the corner, we have the opportunity to put this claim to the test. We can either elect candidates who are willing to apply the brakes or we can elect candidates who are certain to push the accelerator.
Unfortunately, I’ve found it nearly impossible to determine where local candidates stand on growth. I need more information to make truly informed choices. For example, I would like every candidate for local office to answer the following four questions:
Do you think rapid growth is inevitable or do you think it can and ought to be reigned in by elected officials?
Are you or members of your family involved in development? If not, do you or members of your family own land that might be sold to developers?
Are you or members of your family involved in construction or property sales?
I don’t know if The Spectrum or other local publications have the time and resources to put these questions and others of importance to each candidate and then publish the responses. I hope they do. If not, perhaps you will have an opportunity to personally question candidates as they participate in public forums in the next few weeks.
It could very well be that my own desire to significantly slow the rate of growth is a minority opinion. I can live with that. That’s how democracy works. But I do hope that you have access to information that will allow you to select candidates who represent your views. And remember. If you vote for candidates who think that growth is inevitable, it will be.