The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday December 8th

Commission to Present Report on Smart Growth

The growth report, initially scheduled to be released in February, was delayed because of fiscal problems.

The report, originally scheduled to be released in February, calls for giving local governments more power to control growth, guidelines for using the environment and fiscal resources more efficiently and a statewide vision for managing future development.

But critics said the report's recommendations infringe on basic property rights, limiting what people can do with their own property.

The Smart Growth Commission is made up of legislators, local politicians and representatives of trade groups.

The report was delayed because of the state's financial difficulties and problems working out a balanced state budget.

Commission member David Godschalk, professor of city and regional planning at UNC-Chapel Hill, said he hopes the report will make the state legislators consider controlling growth as a much larger issue -- worthy of funding and action. "The budget could definitely affect us," Godschalk said. "There doesn't seem to be much funding for new initiatives."

He said the biggest issues surrounding smart growth are connected to the way development is proceeding, sprawling into rural areas instead of staying within existing towns.

Commission members also wrestled with how to plan across city limits.

The report recommends that already existing regional councils of government take on added responsibilities in planning regionally instead of individual cities.

Another commission member, Orange County Commissioner Barry Jacobs, said now is the time to stress the need of smart growth to the state legislature.

"The way the budget was this year, it seemed like there was no good time to discuss smart growth," Jacobs said. "But it is very important to get our report out to articulate the need to the legislature."

He said the issue also requires more research but added that any future smart growth commissions should represent communities directly involved -- not just state legislators. "It would be nice to have a state smart growth standing commission, but I don't think having it consist solely of legislators is the best way of doing it," Jacobs said.

Don Carrington, vice president of the libertarian John Locke Foundation, said he opposes the general idea of smart growth because it conflicts with two important rights.

"Property rights, being the freedom to develop your land as you see fit, and people's rights to live where they want, in more sparsely populated areas, are our two main concerns," he said.

Carrington also said he understands that some zoning is desirable, but controlling what people do with their land and not allowing free markets to prosper in is not desirable.

But Jacobs emphasized that the idea of smart growth is conservative too.

"Conservatives realize that smart growth is conservative," he said. "We don't want to squander public resources, and we support quality sustainable growth, not just responding to market demands."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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