Monday, November 30, 2009

My Grandfather on why Northern Virginia is a mess

When I complain about the gridlocked, illogical mess that is suburban sprawl, which I do quite often here, it should be explained that the ideal is not no-growth, but instead logical, human-scale, development with an eye towards the good of the community instead of simply how much money can be made. There is, however, damage caused by simply opposing all development out of hand; it convinces government officials that you're not serious and they then ignore you.

Recently, we were talking about the mess that is Northern Virginia and how it got to be that way. Interestingly, my grandfather (since deceased) sat on a number of planning commissions back in the 70s before the development boom. As he described one citizen's organization, when he was interviewed in 1986: "We wanted logical, orderly development; we stayed out of the kick-the-builder groups." He said they came up with several plans for reasonable growth in Centreville, most of which were ignored by the anti-growth organizations during the town's "no-growth" phase, and then really couldn't be implemented on the fly during the gung-ho building boom of the 1980s.

My grandfather explained the mess well in 1986: "If they had adopted some of the plans formulated at that time and implemented them, we wouldn't have a lot of the problems we have now. They witheld sewers, water, road construction. You can't hold back the Atlantic Ocean; you know it's coming in. Instead of getting prepared for it, they just let it wash in around them. Now we're sitting in an island with new terms like 'gridlock'. You'd think twenty years ago was before the age of the automobile."

No comments: