Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sustaining Our World

Here is a concept for individuals as well as government leaders on all levels. Sustainability means planning and creating homes and cities and infrastucture to last, and securing resources to keep up on maintenance and repairs. It also means having an impact on the environment that will support future use and life, with minimal damage or impact on our fragile ecology.

The opposite of sustainability is what unfortunately is familiar to much of America. A recent story in the Detroit Free Press tells of a brand new "mega-church" being planned in northwest Oakland County. It is part of more urban sprawl that necessitates building more roads, more water lines and sewers, more schools, and of course, more strip malls and big box stores. As these new subdivisions and buildings chew up ever more farmland further and further from the core cities and suburbs, they require more and more time and gasoline to get to and fro.

Atlanta is suffering the consequences of poor planning, waste, and urban sprawl. As they overbuilt and spread out over vast areas of the region, they are now running out of water.
Larger lawns, bigger houses, miles of water lines, and wastefulness are obvious signs of the mistakes being made. Those homes thirty miles from work or downtown may not seem so pleasant when gasoline costs $3.30 a gallon.

While urban sprawl wastes land and resources, and costs us all in higher gasoline costs and taxes, there are empty houses and vacant land in the core cities and suburbs. Empty stores, empty schools, and abandoned homes sit wasting away. Yet those roads, sewers, water lines, and libraries still need to be maintained. Thus, our taxes go higher.

Driving a Hummer is not sustainable. Building a McMansion in the woods an hour from the city is not sustainable. Adding yet another lane to I75 to rush people further north is not sustainable. Driving an hour each way to work is not sustainable. Refusing to build mass public transit is not sustainable. We can learn this now, or we can wait until disaster hits.


At 5:07 AM, Blogger Thomas Gagne said...

In the absence of policies that guard against sprawl what other disincentives are there to discourage it?

Apparently, $3.00+/gallon gas isn't expensive-enough to keep people from driving 30+ miles to work and back, alone in their cars, too often in less-than-economical vehicles. Maybe $5/gallon? Nor have gas prices been enough to organize citizens behind mass transit.

Apparently, the current sub-prime mortgage market collapse hasn't discouraged people from over-extending their household budgets, or banks from making loans to borrowers with less-than-optimal debit-to-income ratios.

Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Livingston counties need help drafting policies that discourage sprawl without so enraging voters that county executives and commissioners aren't expelled wholesale for doing the right thing.

So what might those policies be?

At 2:26 PM, Blogger Craig Covey said...

Mr. Gagne asks all the right questions. Certainly we can educate folks on these issues.
Let me see the results of their choices. And we can offer an alternative to living in Clarkston or Chesterfield Township. Mr. Gagne and his family have discovered it, as have I.
Ferndale....the heart of Metro Detroit.

At 6:25 AM, Blogger Terry said...

Hi Craig! Ferndale and Metro Detroit is so lucky to have someone like you in local government! I met you once over 10 years ago... so you won't remember me at all... But I have to say I have been impressed with the changes I have seen in Ferndale over the past 15 years. Back then, I was in college and then left Detroit to live in London (UK). But whenever I get back home, I see improvements that are refreshing and very much like some of the better parts of europe and in some of the smart east-coast states.

These include:
• pedestrian friendly centers/communities
• lively/diverse entertainment centers

What should be next for Ferndale? Well I am sure you have tons of plans... but can I suggest a few ideas that came to me when I was planning my last trip home?

Ferndale needs a little hotel that's in downtown or at least a short walk to it.

The shops, entertainment and dining venues would benefit from all the visitors who currently look for a similar pedestrian friendly hotel and have to either stay at the Townsend in B'ham or somewhere in Detroit's center. For us visitors renting a car is essential in Detroit, but most would prefer the option to have a great night out and walk back to their hotel... and I think a groovy little affordable boutique hotel would really help make Ferndale the place to stay when you are in Detroit.

Just some ideas. Keep up the good work!


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