From nearby Chesterfield Co. to the Pacific Northwest, Americans signaled their dissatisfaction with poorly planned, automobile-dependent, farmland-destroying sprawl. At least, that’s what I choose to believe! Here’s the evidence:
Chesterfield Co. voters replaced 4 of its 5 Supervisors, which, according to the TD, is a backlash against their recent rapid growth:
The dramatic changes on the board can be attributed partly to a growing sense of dissatisfaction with some of the suburban sprawl-like growth that has occurred in Chesterfield in recent years.
And with most of the board changing as a result of the election, some of that growth will be slowed at least temporarily. County policy prohibits action on rezonings by a lame-duck board with a majority of its members not returning.
At least one candidate, Marleen K. Durfee, campaigned on a smart growth platform. Let’s hope they can usher in a new era in Chesterfield Co. with a focus on transportation options- transit, biking, & walking, in addition to the private automobile which currently reigns supreme. That would be real progress.
On the West Coast, Oregon voters partially reversed a “property rights” initiative they’d passed 3 years ago because of the sprawl that resulted.
The story here is a bit complex- Oregon has urban growth boundaries which limit where growth can occur. In 2004, voters passed Measure 37, which required localities to either 1) allow development on land outside the growth boundaries, or 2) compensate the owner of the property for “lost” value of the land due to its location outside the boundary.
Of course, most local governments couldn’t pay the claims submitted, so rural lands and forests were developed with massive subdivisions and commercial sites.
Under Measure 49, landowners can build as many as 10 houses — or up to three houses on prime or irrigated farmland — but cannot pursue large-scale subdivisions and commercial developments.
They passed this measure by a wider margin than the “property rights” Measure 37 was passed.
In neighboring Washington St. voters rejected a massive transportation plan, Proposition 1.
The ballot initiative was a complicated mix of road and transit funding, requiring an increase in taxes. Politicians hoped that by proposing one initiative with funds for both roads and transit they would create enough alliances to pass the bill. They were wrong.
This was not clearly an anti-sprawl vote- analysts say it was likely a mix of anti-tax, anti-road-building and anti-transit sentiments.
But the Sierra Club and some other environmental groups celebrated the defeat of the proposition because it would not, in their estimation, do enough to break Washington’s reliance on private automobiles and roads for transportation.
So a good election day for anti-sprawl advocates. Let’s hope these votes signal a commitment by Americans to stop our sprawling ways and break our dependence on cars!