Sprawl Together Now

With Northfield in the middle of the long process of revising its municipal development strategy, this article in the American Prospect is especially useful as a critique of "conservative" attacks on smart growth or anti-sprawl ideas. (I use the sneer quotes because the conservatism is spoon-shallow: it's really just market fundamentalism in another guise.)

In the piece, reporter Ben Adler analyzes the arguments of two prominent sprawl advocates, Wendell Cox and Ron Utt, who claim, in brief, that since Americans often (claim to) enjoy living in low-density, oil-dependent 'burbs, we should not block the expansion of those 'burbs - or the entrenchment of the lifestyles (from long-distance single-occupancy commutes to sedentary recreation opportunities) they require and sustain.

In reacting, Adler's writing and thinking are both excellent, and nowhere more so than when he concludes, quoting a smart growth advocate, that it's really in restraining suburban sprawl, and in developing meaningful alternatives (high-density housing, mixed-use cities, transportation options that include walking, biking, and mass transit) that we as a society will really start offering consumer choice (that sine qua non of the market) and allow market forces such as prices and supply/demand to function.

Forecast: Significant blowing and drifting, with the possibility of heavy accumulation in rural areas.