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The Daily Tar Heel

Hackney, Lee Suggest 'Smart Growth' for N.C.

The Smart Growth report -- proposed by Rep. Joe Hackney, D-Orange and Sen. Howard Lee, D-Orange -- would make communities more accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists, alleviating automotive traffic congestion and pollution.

The program also involves protecting open spaces such as forests and promoting urban revitalization like Charlotte's recent improvement of its uptown.

Hackney said there are "hundreds of recommendations" for Smart Growth concerning issues such as revitalizing inner-cities and improving transportation. He also said the recommendations are aimed at both state and local leaders.

Meg Ryan O'Donnell, a senior consultant for the recommendation, said the plan is a blueprint for the state government to provide help with Smart Growth in N.C. communities.

She said the proposal outlines a three-tiered plan for smaller localities that might not need smart growth plans as complex as larger cities such as Charlotte, Raleigh or Durham.

Although Smart Growth programs are largely dependent on the actions of local governments, experts say strong state government help is necessary.

"(Smart Growth) is a daunting task without the state stepping in, setting some ground rules and leveling the playing field," said Deron Lovaas, policy analyst for the Natural Resource Defense Counsel. The organization keeps account of Smart Growth projects and information nationwide.

John Hood, president of the John Locke foundation, a conservative political think tank, said Smart Growth is not as effective as some believe. He said North Carolinians are dependent on automobiles.

"The idea of tens of thousands of people riding around the Triangle on trains is ludicrous," Hood said. "Most people don't want to take trains or buses. Most people don't want to walk or carpool."

Hood said when people vote in favor of train and park and ride systems "they hope that someone else will ride the bus or the train."

He said flexible and less permanent alternatives will be more beneficial for North Carolinians. He also said the solution to congestion is to build more roads.

But Hackney said while he believes the state can benefit from Smart Growth, the effects won't necessarily be immediate. He said certain parts of the program will be harder to implement than others. He added that cost is also a factor in Smart Growth programs.

"Preserving open space is difficult because often times it involves money that is not ingrained in our (Department of Transportation)," Hackney said. "The reason for this report is to find ways where the state government can help."

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