The El Paso City Council just approved a comprehensive plan and the EPA gave it a Smart Growth award. The El Paso Times article says the plan promises to cure urban ills like some kind of magic planning pill.
Explanations about the costs of growth in El Paso will sound remarkably familiar to proponents of Albuquerque's long ago and far away Planned Growth Strategy. That effort was shit-canned derailed while in process by developers and their friends on the city council and county commission who got a whiff of where it was going and insisted that "benefits of growth" be examined as well as the costs. It was subsequently (and gleefully) picked apart as planners attempted to quantify soft social benefits of things like "having a lawn."
It's critics turned PGS into something they could kill. And they nearly did. Today the impact fee system intended to implement Albuquerque's PGS by varying fees to reflect costs of public services by area - and providing an incentive of cheaper fees where public service capacity exists - is getting tossed out and lambasted as "too complex" by the developer dominated city council. Pffft.
El Paso has put on their big boy planning pants.
The overview of sprawl in the Times is refreshing.
Migration to the fringes has created expensive "urban sprawl." ... As people left Downtown, buildings began to fall into disrepair, and more tax dollars were needed to pay to extend city services to sprawling development. Many of those services -- including fire and police protection, sewer and water utilities, parks, libraries, roads and other amenities -- also carry long-term maintenance and operation costs requiring tax increases.
The city's new plan is intended to provide an alternative to sprawl. It pushes growth into undeveloped or underdeveloped areas inside the city where services are available. The higher population density of most types of Smart Growth also improve the tax base because more people are paying for the services, proponents say.
But those Smart Growth homes will probably cost more, developers warn, potentially excluding the city's low-income residents.
Since when do they care?
Most developers are part of a "sprawl industry," [plan consultant] Dover [Dover, Kohl & Partners] said, that makes significant profit by mass production of "cookie-cutter" homes lacking character and providing poor resale value. Dover said the plan, "restores the balancing element of long-term planning with a specific vision, which takes into account the larger public good."
Plans don't "promise" anything. Plans don't cross their heart and hope to die - as much as developers may wish them to. Planning enables citizens to see alternatives in decision making - decision making that is otherwise dominated by those who profit from the decisions. Albuquerque's best efforts have been beaten down by the "sprawl industry." And it shows.