Growth / Development

When Saying No Is the Way to Go

Golden arch_300x201.jpgI nominate Golden, Colorado “Poster Child of the Month” for Heart & Soul Community Planning—and for every stripe of values-first visioning and planning across the country.

Congratulations Golden! You know what you’ve got and you want to keep it. And that makes you confident enough to keep saying NO to the Denver Beltway, 201-mile darling of the transportation/development establishment, and underway in fits and starts since the late 50s.


Making Do

iceharvest2_300x168.jpgOn the last weekend in January, a small crowd of onlookers gathers at the edge of Brookfield Pond in central Vermont for what is – these days – a most unusual spectacle. An odd contraption of wooden beams and iron hardware stands on a patch of ice surrounded by rusted old saws and oversized tongs. A local historian narrates as two men move to the center of the ice and begin sawing. After a few minutes they use a strange fork to pry loose a block more than a foot thick. An ingenious lever system easily lifts this 300-pound block of ice off the water and lands it safely on the surface, frozen before it hits the ground.


Detatching From the Single-Family Home

drawing_loganpost_300x190.jpgI taught a class on the American Dream while student teaching last year. I gave students markers and giant pieces of paper and asked them to draw whatever popped into their minds when they thought of the “American Dream”.

Nearly every student’s paper included a simple drawing of a house—a square with a triangle roof attached, four little windows and a front door. This should not have surprised me; my drawing also had a house. But this caused me to wonder: is single-family home ownership the ultimate expression of the American Dream?


All Stocked Up On Crazy

climate-change_350x350.jpgYes, Thomas Friedman has done it again. He’s made me say “YES!” and “THANK YOU!” aloud to myself in my office.

Why? Because he’s “all stocked up on crazy,” and so am I. Friedman's New York Times Op-Ed column “Is It Weird Enough Yet?”, published on September 13, cuts to the quick of the absurdity and ignorance of recent (and past) claims that climate change is “some fraud perpetrated by scientists trying to gin up money for research.”

I happened to be reading this column while listening to The Climate Reality Project, a 24-hour, live, worldwide stream (currently in its 21st hour) featuring experts and scientists from 24 time zones. One of these scientists was explaining that with each degree of warming, the atmosphere can hold more water—an unsettling percentage more that I have since forgotten, or blocked out.


Death Cab for Cutie and a One-Armed Bear

Photo: Michael Dorausch
wooden_bear_183x275.jpgI recently tuned in to our local KBCO (World Class Rock) radio station and heard Death Cab for Cutie’s new song “You Are a Tourist”. These lyrics grabbed my ear:

And if you feel just like a tourist
In the city you were born
Then it’s time to go
And define your destination
There’s so many different places to call home

Music has the power to touch people, wherever they are in their lives. Given the right moment with the right mix of experiences, lyrics can be powerful “shifts in the context of community.”

In Community – The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block writes about shifting the context of community and creating an alternative future through transformation. He claims that all “transformation is linguistic, meaning we can think of community as a conversation” (p 31).


A Tale of Two Visions: Growth, Sustainability and ‘Living Cities’

Image: A boundary of the Living Bend site, transformed into a “linear greenstreet” with urban agriculture, native landscapes and an “integrated greenshade” featuring water catchment, solar PV and UV protection.

BendLCD_GreenwoodAve_Before-After_500x333.jpgFifteen years ago, Flagstaff, AZ, a small city perched on the edge of the Colorado Plateau, launched a community visioning project: Flagstaff 2020. It was the largest public dialogue ever conducted in Flagstaff, and the hot topics at the time were rapid growth and urban sprawl.

The result was a sweeping 25-year vision for the city, leading the way to some notable accomplishments:
completion of an Open Space and Greenways plan; institution of new logging practices in surrounding national forests; and a new downtown public square.


Passive House Annapolis: On the Architectural Frontier

gus_pha_sitevisit_300x400.jpgYou hear a lot of talk about sustainability and the Green Revolution, about shrinking carbon footprints and maximizing solar gain, about new, innovative methods for building energy efficient homes using local or renewable or recycled materials.

You also hear a lot about how these methods can be prohibitively expensive, sensible only for those with large expendable incomes that afford them the luxury to consider their impact on the environment—unlike most other, average, working Americans.

Well, here’s a story about a young couple of Annapolis, Maryland, who have neither expendable incomes nor much “luxury” in the way of resources, time or connections, let alone cash. They have three children, ages 11, 6 and 1. One, Carri Beer, is an architect at Brennan + Company Architects, the other, Michael Hindle, a Passive House consultant who works out of their small home in Catonsville while also caring for their youngest. Read their bios here at INDRAlogic, a passive house and holistic sustainability architecture firm they co-founded.


Count the Ways Your Town Can Say No to the Strip

stripdevelopment_jbpost_350x178.jpgHave you had it with trying to fend off yet another strip development proposal in your town? Are you tired of your reasons for opposing big box being discredited by those who say aesthetics are subjective and have no place in economic development or planning? That it’s a free country and you just can’t go against the market?

I’ve seen this debate played out many times, having served on the Planning Commission of my town for a dozen years.