Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 2:48 PM ET, 03/ 7/2011
LOCAL BLOG NETWORK

The Tea Party vs. smart growth

By Peter Galuszka

The Tea Party movement in Virginia has a new whipping boy: smart growth.

One focus is Chesterfield County, the largest suburban area in the Richmond region, which has been beset with the woes of overbuilding and lax oversight for decades.

That doesn't faze a Tea Party offspring that calls itself the Virginia Campaign for Liberty. Chesterfield County is going through the process of reconsidering its comprehensive plan, perhaps to avoid past mistakes.

In response, a woman named Donna Holt, who lives in the county and is executive director of the "liberty" group, says the plan could be an avenue to massive government intrusion in the form of "some very nefarious ordinances and regulations."

Never mind that the county, which hasn't reviewed its plan in some years, is nowhere close to passing any regulations and that its plan is more of a roadmap, the point is clear. Some Tea Party types, that eclectic bunch of gun fanatics, Patrick Henry impersonators, anti-tax mavens and Obama birthers, are piling on to make sure their individual and property rights are not violated.

Holt's attacks show a basic lack of understanding of what's been happening in Chesterfield, as well as other suburban and exurban counties such as Loudoun, Prince William and Stafford. The problem is not too many regulations but too few.

For years, laissez-faire mentalities took hold among planning commissions and boards of supervisors. Developers of gigantic, car-centric subdivisions got whatever they wanted. Strip-mall builders likewise built at will.

As a result, needed infrastructure and services were put into perpetual catch-up mode. The explosive suburban growth from the 1970s until the 2007-08 financial crisis severely tested schools, health, police and fire services. Fueled by cheap money and gravity-defying real estate assessments, huge suburban clusters sprang out of cow pastures with little rhyme or reason, other than a developer wanted something and supervisors had "growth" on their brains.

That's what happened in Chesterfield. A Republican-controlled board almost never met a subdivision plan or mall they didn't like. Never mind that Chesterfield is seriously imbalanced in that it doesn't have a healthy mix of industries or commercial office space to help pay the tax bills, as Henrico County, a sister area, does.

It all came to a screeching halt with the subprime crisis. Since then, Chesterfield has been laying off teachers and other workers as it struggles to deal with real estate assessments that have been dropping for three years.

Holt, apparently, doesn't get it. She was quoted as saying that the comprehensive plan could be some kind of pro-government-regulation Trojan horse. After all, as she points out, somewhere in Alabama, some homeowner was told he or she couldn't grow a tomato garden because of government land-use rules.

The relevancy and veracity of that statement are hard to check. But you can check the "Virginia Campaign for Liberty" Web site to get a sense where the group is coming from. It is filled with pieces with such titles as "Global Totalitarian Dictatorship Invading a Town near You -- with Your Permission." I had a little trouble connecting the dots.

The financial crisis has done us at least one favor in giving us time to rethink our sprawl-inducing policies. Bashing serious land-use planning to develop land in better and more efficient ways in the name of individual "freedom" is not constructive.

Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon's Rebellion. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Peter Galuszka  | March 7, 2011; 2:48 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Local blog network, Prince William County, Va. Politics, Virginia, development, economy, education, energy, environment, guns, housing, police, real estate, schools, transportation  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Dotted lines on Metro's changing map
Next: Maryland's clash of the bag-tax proposals

Comments

I don't trust anyone or group that use names like Patriot, Lberty and Freedom. They invaribly want to tell you how to live your life.

Posted by: jckdoors | March 7, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse

A little biased in your reporting, aren't you Peter? Many consider "smart growth" to be like "pro choice", a buzzword designed to put a nice face on a controversial activity, and using that term is picking a side.

Posted by: Nemo24601 | March 7, 2011 6:38 PM | Report abuse

From what I have seen, the boogie man in newish suburban areas is the homeowners association, not the government.

Posted by: KS100H | March 7, 2011 10:00 PM | Report abuse

You write: "For years, laissez-faire mentalities took hold among planning commissions and boards of supervisors. Developers of gigantic, car-centric subdivisions got whatever they wanted. Strip-mall builders likewise built at will."

I disagree. There were detailed laws that made it impossible to build anything but car-centric subdivisions and strip-malls in most places.

Posted by: AlaiSeven | March 10, 2011 1:29 AM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company