Saturday, November 8, 2014

A PLAN REVIEW


What started out as a plan review became a policy question when all the detailed distraction was removed. The plan represented an isolated battle. It was not linked to a municipal strategy of land use allocation, shelter capacity, development intensity, and economic performance. This made it one of a series of endless conflicts representing little progress. The risk was potential decline and sprawl beyond a single lifetime.
POLICY QUESTION
Incorporated land is a city’s capital. This low density residential proposal represents a low yield investment with a high degree of risk-associated with operating, maintenance, and improvement expense over time; even though it appears to be new revenue without expense at the moment. The question is relatively simple:
Does the city wish to invest its capital in a low-yield return that will reduce its average yield per acre when its average expense per acre will inevitably increase over time?
The question becomes more significant when future annexation to correct a revenue deficit is recognized as a withdrawal from the only bank that matters. It is a limited source of life I’ve chosen to call the Natural Domain, and it is being consumed by a Built Domain that has evolved to become a second world on a single planet.
The answer will remain a matter of emotion and opinion until architectural algorithms, geographic modeling, and relational databases are correlated to address the physical, social, psychological, environmental, and economic issues that affect our quality of life.
The goal is to shelter growing populations within geographic limits that are economically sustainable without excessive intensity; and to protect their source of life from excessive consumption beyond these limits.
Implications
This development proposal represents increased institutional cost for the services that will be needed. These costs increase as a project ages and inflation reduces the value of money. What appears to be new revenue at little cost must represent adequate revenue over time. If it doesn’t, offsetting revenue will be needed to prevent potential decline and blight. When new revenue does not cover its expense over time, a Ponzi scheme of annexation ensues to provide new money with no better idea of future expense. The result is urban form we call sprawl. This mistake has been repeated in countless cities across the nation and continues because our methods of evaluation are still inadequate. The problem of deficient revenue becomes more acute for surrounded cities with inadequate land use allocation that have no room to grow.
There is no institutional obligation to assume the costs of a proposal and no freedom to impose these costs.  It is an institutional decision that must be carefully considered, but is hampered by the lack of tools, knowledge, evaluation, and correlation available.
Unfortunately, emotion and opinion fill every void in knowledge. The result has been sprawl with a leading edge of active consumption and a heart of decline. It feeds on the Natural Domain without symbiotic guidance.
The long range answer involves design categories, architectural algorithms, and relational databases that can model city planning options and implications within geographic limits. Land use allocation, development capacity, and intensity decisions will be hampered by the default to opinion until cities decide to build these models. The issue is simply too important to remain in the hands of emotion and opinion. It is a matter of shelter and survival.