Smart Growth: On the Cusp of the ‘Next Big Thing’


By Ann Dillemuth, AICP
APA Research Associate

How did the smart growth and sustainability movement get where it is, and where is it headed?

Timothy Chapin of Florida State University guest-edited a special issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association on the history of growth management, sprawl, and smart growth. On Sunday at the 2012 National Planning Conference he continued exploring the issues.

Chapin divides the history of growth management into three eras. The first, the Era of Growth Control, began around 1950 and held prominence until around 1975. The defining issues that brought growth management into being were environmental degradation, growing rates of exurban development, and the loss of pristine open space and productive agricultural lands—the beginnings of sprawl.



This era was succeeded in the mid-1970s by the Era of Comprehensive Planning, an era that is still prevalent in many places today. Environmental degradation was still a defining issue, but was joined by a new concern for the adequacy of infrastructure and public facilities. The approach of choice became the local comprehensive plan, used to establish a vision for the desired community state, and goals, objectives, and policies to achieve that desired state.

Today, Chapin says, we have entered the third era, the Era of Smart Growth.

Around 1999, additional concerns of urban economic development and placemaking joined environmental degradation and infrastructure provision with the growing attention paid to the revitalization of urban downtowns and suburbs and the importance of placemaking. The new approaches taken in this era focused on incentives and wise public investment to promote the redevelopment of urban centers; tools included tax incentives, infrastructure investments, and land acquisition.

The Priority Funding Area approach of Maryland is emblematic of this era, representing the involvement of state-level policy activity and funding. Now, growth is viewed as an opportunity for achieving desired development and strengthening urban cores.

What, then, does the future hold?


Chapin believes we are on the cusp of the next “big thing,” which for lack of a better term he called “sustainable growth.” This coming shift will be driven by factors such as the Great Recession and vital importance of job generation; climate change and sea level rise; energy systems and supplies; and the “silver tsunami” of baby boomers aging into retirement.

These new concerns will add additional layers of focus to the growth management models already described. A mix of regulations and incentives will be called for; important tools will be visioning and scenario planning, regional compacts, and expedited review for desirable projects. Sector planning as practiced in Florida is emblematic of this era: these documents provide a long-term vision for a large area, while also providing specific implementation tools for buildout of smaller areas over that time frame. Growth will still be seen as an opportunity and essential part of economic strength, though it must be balanced against a sustainable long-term future.

Chapin is optimistic about the future of growth management and sustainability for a number of reasons. He sees a growing percentage of the private sector that is starting to “get it,” coming up with projects based on sustainable principles.

Regional planning is also on the rise (though more work is needed in this area), and demographics is destiny: the needs of the baby boomers will increasingly drive development towards land use patterns, transportation, and housing options that embody sustainability principles of compact mixed use urban fabrics, transit accessibility, and housing affordability.

Commentary from the Panel


Following Chapin’s presentation, two panelists and the moderator provided commentary.

Rebecca Lewis of the National Center for Smart Growth at the University of Maryland agreed with Chapin that change in the growth management arena was coming and would build on what had gone before. Trends she sees as important are increasing flexibility in land use regulatory systems, with more optional processes allowing counties and municipalities to take their own approaches to the issue; incentive programs moving towards regulatory incentives and away from financial incentives in light of the current economic climate; and finding the political will and leadership to push for big innovations.

She sees the continued development of regional governance and use of scenario planning as key, as well as more attention to both horizontal and vertical coordination of planning efforts, and finally a reconciliation of urban and suburban planning issues.

Gerrit Knaap, also of the National Center for Smart Growth, praised the past efforts of planning directors and leaders and noted the increase in communicative capacity that has occurred with the recent explosion in media use. He also sees an evolution of the smart growth paradigm into a new era of “sustainable communities.”

Knaap posits a corresponding shift from the three Es of environment (now replaced by energy), economy, and equity to the three Is of inclusiveness, exemplified by the multistakeholder requirements for HUD sustainability grants; institutional change, exemplified by the HUD-EPA-DOT partnership and other breaking down of silos at the federal level; and information technology, which is making the current regional planning efforts possible.

He cautioned, though, that there are still many out there who don’t “get it,” and that success can breed reaction, as seen by the recent attacks on planning by the Tea Party and Agenda 21 agitators, and he called for the need to support both advocacy and critical research, to both encourage sustainable practices and to acknowledge and understand our past failures.

Finally, moderator Shelley Poticha, director for the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, posed questions she sees as increasingly important as we move forward.

How do we create resilient economies, using place-based economic development strategies to create diversified, multilayered systems? How do we continue to improve the vitality of mixed use, downtown areas by supporting those mid-sized and small businesses that are often overlooked in grand economic development schemes but that are so important to those downtown spaces?

And with the new federal paradigm of connectedness, how do we align and coordinate investment across scales to maximize the impact of those investments?

Noting the success of and high demand for HUD sustainability grants across 48 states, she believes that these conversations around smart, sustainable places will continue to become more mainstream.




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Sumber: http://blogs.planning.org/conference/2012/04/15/whats-the-future-of-smart-growth/#more-621, diakses tanggal 19 Maret 2013.
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