Citizen groups have best plan for sensible growth in area
Creating a vision for growth is not a divided or polarized debate like County Supervisor Mike Boyd or Gov. Jane Hull may have you believe. Nor is this an issue that requires commission study upon commission study.
Protecting our resources and managing growth via urban growth boundaries and true comprehensive land-use plans, such as the Sonoran Desert Protection Plan, are actions created by and for the citizens of Arizona.
Unfortunately, Arizona is a state with insatiable growth. Our planning commissions reward developers with variances and each one of us subsidizes developers’ infrastructure costs, associated with new road construction and sewer fees, with each new development.
We reward growth with subsidized development costs, tax credits, rob the biological heritage of our precious Colorado River ecosystem for subsidized CAP water, and hold nine cactus ferruginous pygmy owls hostage by a corrupt Amphi school board.
While decision-makers have enjoyed an opiumlike induced slumber on growth policies – a habit paid for by developers such as Don Diamond, David Mehl, Estes Homes, New World Homes, US Homes, Fairfield, Arizona Homebuilders Association, and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District – citizen groups have been initiating some of Arizona’s most innovative land-use policies of the decade.
With 17,000 people moving into Pima County each year and 6,000 new homes blading over virgin desert, the time is ripe for urban growth boundaries, the Sonoran Desert Protection Act, and political activism.
In 1952 the late Lewis Mumford told us, ”We are now at a critical moment of history, a moment of great danger, but also of splendid promise. The burden of renewal lies heavily upon us; for there is no going on with rigidities and compliance that have so far disintegrated our culture, without finally undermining the basis of life itself . . . the burden of renewal lies upon us.”
Mumford reminded us that, ”It is time for us to awaken to our actual state, in full possession of our senses, instead of remaining drugged, sleepy, cravenly passive, as we now are, and reshape our life to a new pattern, aided by all the resources that art and technology now place in our hands.”
There is, indeed, a special kind of revitalization of wisdom in our community born of our time and environmental necessity. Each age brings with it a new set of priorities to which the city responds by constantly modifying and adjusting its form and character.
For the environmentalist the city is a mixed metaphor: on the one hand symbolizing the congestion, pollution, and waste the modern culture has created, and on the other, a compact alternative to the constant invasion of open space (wilderness) represented by modern urban sprawl.
The old pattern of the city, with its mixed uses, active pedestrian and bicycle streets, public transit, and public spaces had a human dimension born of technical and environmental necessity.
Our cities have grown far beyond their carrying capacities while maintaining an insatiable thirst to grow. Pima County’s environment is facing unprecedented stress.
As decision-makers, land-use planners, and urban designers we should welcome the public’s cry for landuse reform, as our palette and design toolbox will only be expanded through local and state initiatives such as the Sonoran Desert Protection Act and the Growth Management Act, an initiative to limit sprawl, set urban growth boundaries and require developers to pay for infrastructure costs such as roads, sewers and schools to serve their new subdivisions.
Adoption of these citizen-driven policies will create comprehensive standards for the way we impact, preserve and develop our desert landscape.
Stephanie Buffum is the director of development for the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity.