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Land for me, but not for thee

If you've ever harbored the dark and nasty suspicion that a no-growth agenda lies semi-concealed behind the decisions of planning and zoning folks, you'll want to read Robert Bruegmann's book "Sprawl". No need to start at page 1-go directly to the pages starting at page 162.

In a succinctly designed description and label, suburbanization analyst and author Bruegmann describes "...Families who have recently moved to the suburban periphery are often the most vociferous opponents of exactly the same kind that created their own house..." and how "...Stopping or slowing the growth of new development and sprawl often provides great material advantage to existing residents [for example] the preservation of open space bear them without requiring its public purchase and possible higher taxes." He calls them the Incumbents' Club.

In a clumsier description, we used to call them lifeboaters, thinking of RMS Titanic survivors, once safely aboard their escape craft, whacking others, who threatened to swamp the boats, back into the freezing water.

This isn't to denigrate lifeboaters; I've been reading some histories of the downward urbanization spirals of the New York City regions of northern Manhattan and the Bronx-from rural farm country to exurban estates to row housing to apartments to slums-and it's hard to deny that a little development prevention (which would have meant decentralization of development and sprawl to someplace else) would have been a good idea.

Lifeboaters aren't entirely no-growthers either, as the Pittsford Community Corporation illustrates with its proposal to convert the 14 surviving acres of the Forrest farm, a stone's throw from Route 7, into the village common Pittsford never had.

A good many towns directly on the Route 7 corridor, such as Ferrisburgh, are similarly lacking that historically important design feature and are trying belatedly to fix it; while towns such as Orwell, Shoreham and Bridport, adjacent to the Route 22-A corridor, are better situated in the 21st century because of some bypass planning-the Military Road of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. These towns are beneficially endowed with more in-village green space and less in-village through traffic.

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