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What Is Smart Growth?

In the1990s and continuing into the 21st Century, some people are driving 50 miles or more to their jobs and sitting in traffic for hours each day. Like generals before battle, they plan their activities strategically before leaving home. When they do pull out of their driveways, many people see a transformed driveway, one that does not look like the place where they settled just a few years ago. Farms are becoming housing-subdivisions or shopping centers, small towns are becoming suburbs, suburbs are becoming satellite cities, two-lane roads are becoming four-lane highways. The phenomenon has become known by a single word: sprawl.

Smart growth is about finding ways to manage sprawl and improve our total quality of life. But smart growth is not just about sprawl.

It is also about:

  • Finding new sources of economic vitality for rural towns and counties that are spiraling downward with a loss of jobs, tax revenue, social services and people.
  • Finding ways to preserve the scenic beauty and other environmental assets of places that have began to attract tourism, second-home, and retirement development.
  • Rejuvenating decaying cities and inner suburbs.

Smart growth, then, is not about curtailing all growth. Instead, it is about each community planning wisely for the future.

Source: Smart Growth for Tennessee Towns and Counties: A Process Guide by Mary English, Jean Peretz, and Melissa Manderschied; University of Tennessee, Knoxville; February 1999.

Sprawl: Some Reasons To Be Concerned

  • Sprawl sucks the life out of older downtowns and neighborhoods . . .
  • Sprawl destroys community character and countryside . . .
  • Sprawl reduces opportunities for face-to-face interaction among people, thereby making it more difficult to createk or retain, a sense of community . . .
  • Sprawl forecloses alternatives to the automobile as a means of transportation . . .
  • Sprawl leaves older cities and towns with excessively high concentrations of poor people social problems . . .

Source: Constance E. Beaumont. 1996. Smart States, Better Communities. Washington, DC: National Trust for Historic Preservation, p. 264.