There’s no conspiracy here

Once there was an architect, who “wanted to build structures that would decay gloriously, impressively, like roman ruins. No rusty hulks or gnarled steel slums. It was an attempt to organize the longings of future generations.” Called the Law of Ruins, it didn’t last, but the idea of building, planning for the future is something that should be recognized as one of our more important societal efforts. While some architects work to overwhelm with scale, planners set out to inform through the vision of the populace.

Chesterfield is in the throes of a massive overhaul of its comprehensive plan. This effort makes some people excited to see a new opportunity; see their area of the county transformed for the better over the next 20 years. But others see a conspiracy; a conspiracy so wide it actually encompasses the entire globe and includes people who are bound and determined to see us become an insignificant piece of some wider plan to turn us into characters out of some apocalyptic society like that of Animal Farm or 1984.

This conspiracy seems to include so many that even at the local level it has seeped and sneaked its way into a vision of this gray equalitarian society. But as most conspiracy theories go, this one called Agenda 21, they are an attempt by political manipulators to instill fear, anxiety and suspicion into citizens so they can take their own agenda to the next level.

If one looks at this United Nations Agenda 21initiative, it becomes apparent that their mission is not to put us all in high-rises and regulate our thermostats, as some pundits have indicated. If you read Agenda 21 (Google it and read the UN’s website) for yourself, and not allow someone with their own agenda to interpret it for you, it becomes evident that, as sustainable development is discussed, it refers to sustainable economies and the money markets and trade. It focuses on how these trade issues run deep, even to the local level. When the initiative started in 1992, there was a concern about sustaining forests and open land. That’s about as far as the agenda goes into addressing our land use. It doesn’t reach out and dictate how we should plan our communities.

To start with, no part of Agenda 21 mentions smart growth or any of smart growth’s buzzwords, such as compact cities, traffic calming, transit-oriented development, pedestrian-friendly design, auto dependency, or sprawl.

Those who espouse some insidious plan to subjugate us and turn us all into Europeans should realize that, before there was any mention of Agenda 21, people were thinking about how to address suburban sprawl:

  • Planners promoted the idea of compact cities in the early 1970s.
  • Architect Peter Calthorpe, in 1983, began promoting the idea of urban villages that relied on transit and walking instead of driving.
  • Architect Andres Duany promoted the idea of design codes to promote a sense of community and somehow discourage driving. Chester Village Green is a sort of micro Duany type experiment.
  • The rail construction lobby has promoted light rail and other rail transit since the steam locomotive.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency has promoted the idea of reducing air pollution by discouraging driving through any means possible, for over 30 years.
  • Environmentalists seeking the protection of rural open space, promoted urban-growth boundaries.
  • Big-city mayors and downtown business interests promoted federal subsidies and anything else that would favor the central cities over the suburbs. It was called urban renewal.

These ideas and formulas were considered long before any mention by the UN of how to encourage trade and boost the economies of countries around the world.

While comprehensive planning should be aimed at letting individual freedom and the market work, a community without a plan will end up a mishmash of nonsensical industry, next to residential neighborhoods, on top commercial uses with highways bisecting neighborhoods at the whim of an engineer. And, forget parks, green space or countryside because it would all be covered with asphalt and suburban rooftops.

Smart growth is not a UN conspiracy. It comes from our own urban planning schools and local planning departments.

Over the last few months, I have heard and seen activists from across the county and some coming from outside our community, who have some intent to derail our county’s vision and plan for organizing our future. While our Board of Supervisors did invite an outside the county group to consult on our new plan, that is all they did. Inside the county, we had a group of 32 concerned citizens, called the steering committee, that adjusted the ideas brought by the consultants. And that was only the beginning. Planners are still getting feedback and adjusting the plan draft to fit what is the vision of Chesterfield’s citizens.

OK, let’s back up, and for the sake of argument, I’ll give you the conspiracy. Let’s say the Agenda 21 initiative is being promoted in our plan. It doesn’t matter because of the open manner in which the county plan is being vetted by the people.

Remember, this is still America and a free country, last time I checked. The county’s comprehensive plan is still an open document in its infancy. Planners are not adverse to change, all you have to do is participate. You can help mold this plan in a way that suits you. It’s really up to you not the UN.

Comments

Future planning of communities

It is imperative that North Americans take their head off their little screens for a few days, and big screens as well. Our Earth cannot sustain this greedy load.

The combustion engine is way past its prime, and the idiocy of extracting 55 gallons of crude oil to create 45 gallons of gas must stop. It will stop. Dirty energy is done. We must have a new economy, and there are very greedy industry who will annihilate Earth, before they will quietly take their trillions in profit, and leave.

We must have more than sustainable, we must go further. Not merely hanging on, but repairing, restoring and giving back to a Planet ravaged.

Thank you.

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