Growing Smart Unwise
The American Planning Association's (APA) Growing Smart
Legislative Guidebook is chock full of egregious assaults on
property rights. Those flaws also expose some major
Highlighting reasons for a new vision
of planning, the APA observes, "A marked shift in society's view of
land. People no longer believe, as they did in the nineteenth
century, that land is something merely to be bought and sold."
The APA cites the more progressive view that land is a "resource."
In their considerations of land use, they mention swamps
("wetlands"), "scenic beauty," affordable housing, agriculture,
density, and air pollution. As in most of the reports'
recommendations, heavy emphasis is placed on environmental concerns
while economic consequences and property rights are virtually
- The APA planning document contradicts its own account of local
and regional diversity.
On one hand, the APA demands rigid
compliance to a uniform standard: "Vertical consistency is the
concept that regional and local plans be consistent with state
plans and vice-versa" (preface xliv).
But through a system that stifles innovation, planners suggest that
local adaptation can occur, "Governments are empowered with a range
of planning tools to manage growth and change locally to create
quality communities. (preface xlv)"
The report cannot decide rather it favors or opposes adjustments
by communities to solve local problems.
- Growing Smart conflates state, regional, and local government.
By viewing development as the static activity of planning, the
document cannot account for differences due to markets, businesses,
"The problem statement must be tailored to the individual state,
reflecting its unique range of issues. Sustained growth has been a
reform stimulus in many regions of the nation, particularly in
coastal states; other areas are excluded from the boom. For
example, in West Virginia, the eastern panhandle, which is under
the influence of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, is
growing rapidly, but the remainder of the state is not, thereby
creating differences in perception of the need for statutory
The example of regional diversity in West Virginia reveals the
inefficiency of "vertical consistency." While admitting the
presence of varying local needs, the APA requires planning
decisions at the state level. The report satisfies this logical
inconsistency by omitting influences other than planners'
- The APA endorses draconian measures to enact their idealized
Lauding the American law Institute's Model Land Development Code,
planners unabashedly support enforcement through the use of
"enforcement orders" (11-4).
The sample statute reads,
"If the persons subject to the enforcement order have not complied
by the date set in the order, the local government may enter upon
the land in question and act to put it in compliance. The
government also has a right to be compensated by the persons
subject to the order for the expenses related to such an action and
can place a lien on the property to enforce that right. Fines
collectable in civil proceedings may also penalize noncompliance by
the set date of the order. This fine is initially $500 and $200 per
day of continuing violation. If the person is found to be a
"persistent offender," the fine may be increased up to twice the
gain the offender has made from his or her violation" (11-5).
They praise as "innovative" a 1997 Maryland law which "authorizes
municipalities, in cases of zoning violations, to 'provide for
punishment by fine or imprisonment or both' and 'to provide civil
penalties for such violation'" (11-5).
The APA's use of police power to
force compliance with zoning laws dramatically undermines property