Friday, March 12, 2010

Smart Towns: The Clashing Values of an Exurban Community

This blog has got me thinking a lot lately about the practicality and logic behind decision making of towns. In particular, their last two posts have been very good about the idea of 1) entrenched logic and 2) clashing values. I'll provide an excerpt, here, but the real gem of the post is a youTube video (also below). Though the blog is from three planner-types from MN the topics they discuss have very real implications nationwide. They had an interesting and friendly exchange with Randall O'Toole a couple of weeks ago that is worth checking out.
At one recent meeting, we were proceeding through a group exercise to establish community goals and I brought the group to a point where they were faced with a clash of values. What do we do when a new development costs more to provide service to than it generates in tax revenue? In small towns, as you have seen on this blog, this situation is the default occurrence.

The answer is a slippery slope. If we continue to build such developments, there is an implied tax increase in the future (Core Value #1: Low Taxes) where current residents are essentially subsidizing a developer by committing to shoulder the future, unfunded maintenance burden. If we limit such developments, we are imposing restrictions on what someone can do with their property (Core Value #2: Limited Government Regulation), restrictions that many see as unfair in light of what others have been allowed to do in the past.

It is tough to get past this, and most often people will end up rejecting the premise (that new development in our current model does not pay for itself), even though they deep-down understand it is true.

Clash of values unresolved. Our belief system rejects the challenging premise and we can remain ignorant and happy.

And the YouTube Video:

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