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The Wrong Model

by @ 12:17 am on February 8, 2007. Filed under Virginia, Virginia Politics

As Northern Virginia politicians struggle with how to deal with growth, the Washington Post points out that looking across the Potomac isn’t necessarily a good idea:

To hear some activists and local officials in Virginia tell it, the key to slowing rampant growth is to follow the lead of many Maryland counties: Ban development where roads and schools are crowded.

But here is what that method has accomplished in Anne Arundel County: More than one-third of its school districts are closed to new subdivisions, even in areas intended to absorb construction under the state’s much-touted “slow-growth” laws. As a result, development is being pushed to more rural parts of the state less suited to handle it.

The shortcomings of Maryland’s growth policies are just one sign of what frustrated officials are finding in both states — that controlling development is not as easy as just saying no. Three months after voters in the D.C. suburbs elected candidates who vowed to slow growth, reform proposals are floundering amid political inertia and resistance from developers.

But also undermining speedy action is deep uncertainty about how best to harness development in one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. The hard truth, say skeptical officials and land-use experts, is that today’s crowded roads and schools are the result of years of decisions and cannot be fixed quickly by clamping down on growth.

More important, though, and often overlooked by pundits and politicians on both sides of the issue, is the? fact that population growth is really just a side effect of economic growth. If the Northern Virginia area was not home to one of the fastest growing job markets in the country, people wouldn’t want to move here, housing demand wouldn’t be what it is, and housing prices would be a heck of a lot lower.

We all like the low unemployment and the equity that we’ve built up in our homes thanks to the demand for homes, but we all hate the fact that we sit in traffic every day on the way to work.

But if you want a healthy, booming economy, then you have to recognize the fact that you’re going to have people moving into the area to take advantage of it. The last time I checked, that wasn’t a bad thing.

I hate traffic as much as the next person, but I like the fact that I live in an area where there are a lot of opportunities for employment and a lot of things to do.

It’s called a trade-off people. If you don’t like the traffic, move to Lynchburg.

5 Responses to “The Wrong Model”

  1. Ron says:

    Interestingly, the one place that is NOT growing is the District of Columbia. It’s been losing population since, what, WWII? Let’s face it, if you have children, you do not consider living there.

  2. Their “slow growth” laws have led to sprawl. Since they don’t allow population densities to rise inside the already-populous areas, people move farther away, making traffic even worse.

    If population densities rose, it’s pretty likely that public transportation (even of the privately-funded kind) would make a lot more financial sense, and traffic concerns might actually ease somewhat.

  3. Brad,

    Around here we’ve got a combination of the slow-growth people, and the people who want to cram people into high population density areas serviced by public transportation. Personally, I don’t like either approach.

  4. GATC says:

    Lynchburg? Are your retarded? Rockbridge County would be more like it.

  5. I’ve been to Lynchburg. What they call traffic is nothing compared to an average Saturday on I-95 or I-66

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