Many small cities are growing in response to the movement from larger urban areas due to people seeking a less congested life style or perhaps remote workers seeking more affordable housing. Current residents often view this as problematic. Blaming and complaining about growth without accepting the responsibility of providing a solution is not acceptable. Saying you object to growth while claiming new people in public office with no new ideas will fix it also is not a solution. We need people who understand the extent of the problem and the possible options to address it. Housing costs are sky high but we need to find a way to reduce prices, there must be solutions. No one should sit back and declare affordable housing is obsolete. Social media is inundated with claims, often by more recent transplants, that this is the demise of their imagined “small town” lifestyle. Growth definitely brings change but we must try to address it and deal with it. Ignoring it will result in failure. Listening to our educated planning professionals and trusting our leaders to make smart choices is the better option.
Often we relocate to a new place believing it to be perfect. We left a crowded city perhaps and now life will be good. As others arrive after us we believe these newcomers are changing our world, not making it better. Did we ever think that when we relocated others already living here thought we were changing their town or small city and making it worse? We were coming to a better place, to them it was a better place without us. Now we are repeating their story. We don’t believe we made it worse. We acquired this better lifestyle . Can we not find the means to maintain that lifestyle and share it?
More people means more density. A balance between urban sprawl, acres of homes covering the vacant open areas, and higher density, multi-family housing, nearer the city is the direction we should pursue. Typical single family subdivisions have a low density of approximately 3.5 units per acre. Lower density can also mean acre size lots or perhaps one house on five acres. Fewer homes on larger lots will continue the sprawl but also create much higher prices for new and existing housing. If you think housing is expensive now just imagine if the only housing being built is on an acre lot or larger. The option to covering open areas with homes is infill, allowing higher density closer the the cities to minimize the impacts. Townhouses, often two stories, usually result in a density of 8 units per acre. Apartment houses often 3 and 4 stories may have a density of 15-20 units per acre. Townhouses and apartments require less land and result in lower cost units. All types of housing generate traffic, impact utilities, schools, parks, services etc. What are our options? Single family homes will always be in demand. Infill which is higher density, townhomes and apartments and mixed use development, a combination of stores, offices and residential units are viable options. The combination reduces urban sprawl and can accommodate a reasonable level of growth. Housing near the urban development is an area where services, roads, utilities are existing. These may require modifications to accommodate some added growth but not new road and sidewalk extensions as well as new water and sewer lines, etc. Areas of sprawl can be divided by greenbelts, parks, trails and open space areas. A regional perspective provides a more logical approach.
My preference is a community with a quality of life and a place where working people can afford a home. The continued urban sprawl without offsetting smart growth efforts would be horrendous. Houses may be affordable to the upper middle class and retirees who moved from a place where the inflated prices provided a nice profit allowing them to move. No community should merely be a haven for retirees or a tourist destination. For many of us it is home and we expect our children to have jobs and be able to purchase a home and live here.
This should not be wishful thinking but rather a thought out achievable reality. The problems caused by growth can‘t be wished away or changed by electing people with slogans but no solutions. We can keep our quality of life even as the community grows provided we use our heads and not let our emotions lead.