Smart growth advocated as way to maintain community character despite changes
Whitehaven High School, Memphis, Tenn.
As Columbia’s population grows, residents who monitor the city’s progress say changes are needed to keep up with the expansion.
Think of a small child whose feet have grown, and the old shoes no longer fit, so parents need to get new shoes.
Columbia is that small child, some city observers say, and the government needs sharper development tools to keep up with changes.
However, some residents think certain types of development are better for the environment and for residents who live there. They refer to these types of development as planned development or smart growth.
These phrases mean that instead of expanding into or past the outskirts of the city, the growth is planned to contribute to the environment: Developers think of what can happen in the future if they develop at a certain location.
Dick Parker, a member of the city’s Water and Light Advisory Board and the Environmental Energy Commission, said, “City government and businesses think they are dead if they aren’t growing. That is unrealistic. You cannot grow forever.”
Businesses that are expanding outward cause subsequent businesses to move outward as well. Many people who have been placed out of work will try to follow the jobs that offer them support and stability. This can also cause them to move closer to their job, causing residential development to move further out.
Jerry Wade, a retired associate professor for MU’s sociology department, worked on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission for 12 years and served as the commission’s chairman for six years. Wade ran for City Council and won in 2007 and unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2010.
Wade remains active in the community through organizations such as the Audubon Society and the International Community Development Society.
Wade points out that the city’s development system is outdated and needs to be modernized. He feels city leaders should implement a growth plan and include codes that update the development systems so problems that occur because of development can be diminished.
Wade also said it was a challenge for a community to retain its values over time once it increases in size.
“With a new mix of people, you get varying perspectives and cultures, and that alters the character of a city,” Wade said.
Wade believes the pattern of growth is not planned but rather a reaction to the increasing numbers in Columbia.
He also said the increasing population also could bring a lot more competition to the city of Columbia. Jobs for low-knowledge people could dwindle because of that, Wade said. He believes the city should provide more jobs for those workers as the population rises.
Wade said citizens don’t have to be mayor to get involved. Anyone concerned about unplanned development can be active in promoting smart growth.
Dee Dokken says she thinks of herself as a good citizen by staying informed and active in the decision-making process for the city. She explained that smart growth is not people against growth; it is just an efficient use of resources where developers create an environment that is healthy to live in.
“Other cities with higher populations have had regulations concerning growth for a long time, but in Missouri it’s coming more slowly,” Dokken said.