May 6, 2004 - From the February, 2002 issue

Republicans Urge Smart Growth? U.S. EPA Administrator Whitman Opines

When Pres. George W. Bush was elected to the White House, many believed that the era of environmentally minded administrators was about to come to an abrupt end. And while there is yet to be any conclusive evidence to prove those people wrong, there has been a glimmer of assurance from the Bush Administration that they are aware of the ideas of sustainability and livability and are willing to incorporate those ideas into a future platform which enhances quality of life. One of those glimmers came at a recent Smart Growth symposium held in San Diego. At that event, EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman talked about the importance of Smart Growth and eluded to how it would be incorporated into the Administration's priorities. MIR is pleased to excerpt a portion of the Administrator's speech.


Christine Todd Whitman

Everyone here recognizes that Smart Growth makes sense for our environment, our communities and everyone who lives in them. It is my pleasure this evening to emphasize that the Bush Administration-and the EPA especially-understands the importance of Smart Growth as well and we are looking forward to working with each of you to achieve our common goals for smarter growth throughout the Nation.

The environmental challenges we face in the 21st Century-in many ways-are entirely different than those we have dealt with in the past. While we used to spend so much time focusing on immediate problems, we now have the opportunity to plan for the future. Addressing new environmental challenges requires us to manage all of our resources better-economic, social and environmental-and manage them for the long term.

That is why Smart Growth is so important-it is critical to economic growth, the development of healthy communities and the protection of our environment all at the same time. Smart Growth-the ability to create a sustainable society where we can reach all of these goals simultaneously-really comes down to one thing: quality of life.

We can grow our economy without sacrificing quality of life. We can preserve the environment for future generations without sacrificing our quality of life. And, we can live and work in healthy and convenient neighborhoods without sacrificing our quality of life. We can achieve all of these things by applying the principles of Smart Growth.

Given what is at stake-our quality of life and that of our children-it should come as no surprise that the public is hungry for Smart Growth initiatives. Since 1998 voters across America have passed 529 referenda supporting more than $19 billion in open space funding. Last year alone, voters approved $1.7 billion for parks and open space conservation on local and state ballots across the country. They are telling us: the time for action is now.

I am so pleased that President Bush and the Congress understood this urgency and decided to take action on a vital Smart Growth strategy-brownfields redevelopment. Two weeks ago, the President signed the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act. Luckily, the principles of this bill are simpler than the name-turn abandoned properties into productive properties.

This new legislation will enable EPA to help states and local communities turn environmental eyesores into economic assets. Perhaps more important, the bill has removed the minefields that re-developers face when looking to reclaim and improve brownfields. By promoting more effective and efficient brownfields cleanup, we will relieve the pressure to develop open space and make our urban communities attractive places to live and work.

Our work to restore the hundreds of thousands of brownfields that dot America's cities and towns is indicative of EPA's overall strategy for Smart Growth-partnerships. Whether cleaning up brownfields or developing a local smart growth plan, government does not have all of the answers. We must rely on partnerships with everyone who has a stake in smarter growth in order to achieve our common goals.

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In the past, the federal government has worked with a command and control style of mandate, regulate and litigate. I believe that we can build a new approach-one that emphasizes a constructive relationship, a cooperative spirit and a commitment to solutions that work. Just as we will look to state governments, local communities and developers as partners in our fight to cleanup brownfields, EPA will look to partnerships with governments and tribes, corporations and small businesses, planners and preservationists to achieve smarter growth across the Nation.

Beneath this principle of partnership, of course, is the basic understanding that land use decisions are a local matter. EPA's Smart Growth program can assist with these important decisions by providing the tools necessary for success-regulatory flexibility, technical support, and solid information-but ultimately only those closest to a problem can find the best solution.

The cornerstone of this approach is the Smart Growth Network. There are more than 30 partners in the EPA's Smart Growth Network, including a wide variety of interests from the Local Government Commission to the National Association of Realtors, and from the Institute for Transportation Engineers to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Through this network, EPA provides targeted resources for smart growth

An excellent example of what good partnerships can produce is a new report titled "Getting to Smart Growth: 100 Policies for Implementation." This is a publication that can serve as a road map for states or localities that recognize the need for Smart Growth, but are not yet sure how to achieve it. Providing ten policy options for each of ten Smart Growth principles, it is especially valuable because it will help communities turn Smart Growth ideas into action-actions that will get us closer to our goals for a sustainable society.

This is just one way EPA is committed to helping local communities achieve smarter growth. EPA's Smart Growth program also works with communities to help them evaluate the environmental impact of future growth, assists metropolitan planning organizations to examine smart growth transportation options, and provides local governments with best practices and innovations for Smart Growth policy making.

In addition to these ongoing projects, I am very pleased to be able to announce two new initiatives as part of EPA's Smart Growth program.

The first includes key strategies for open space preservation to help us build Smart Growth principles into the already successful brownfields program. In the coming year, EPA will provide additional grants and technical assistance to pilot communities that are redeveloping brownfields in a manner that is consistent with their own goals for Smart Growth. With hundreds of thousands of brownfields needing attention across the country, it is clear that we will need to prioritize. This is one way of doing that, and it will help communities achieve the goals they have set f

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or Smart Growth in their area.

The second initiative will help us ensure that Smart Growth success stories are shared with everyone. The best way to encourage more sensible development is to show people that Smart Growth is already working to improve the quality of life in the town or state next door. It relies on one of the most powerful tools we have for smart growth-"keeping up with the Jones'."

That is why the EPA will establish a National Award for Smart Growth Achievement. This annual award will recognize communities and individual leaders who have demonstrated innovation and success in applying smart growth principles

As you all know, Smart Growth is at a critical point. People all over the country care about how and where their communities grow. This effort is gathering momentum and we have to be prepared to use that momentum to push further toward our goals. Despite significant progress, it is clear that we still have a long way to go. There is still too much growth that many would not call smart. Our future efforts must build upon the success of previous accomplishments and strive to answer challenges that still remain.

These challenges-like Smart Growth itself-require us to balance competing interests and, I believe, move past commonly held assumptions. Open space, for instance, must be seen as an urban, suburban, and rural issue-for preserving park land within the confines of our cities is as important as saving farmland from unnecessary development.

Brownfields, too, must be seen in this light-because a family farm is as likely to house a brownfield as an abandoned gas station on a crowded street corner. We all must be looking for new and innovative ways to address these challenges-and several others-in the coming years.

I am proud of what we are doing-and what we will do-to promote Smart Growth across the country. Working together we can ensure that the local land-use planners have the information and tools to: save open space, save money on roads and sewers, keep homes affordable, and make our cities and town centers thrive.

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We are giving people the opportunity to make choices that will improve their quality of life. Choices on transportation so they can spend less time in the car and more time with their families. Choices about where to live, or work, or shop. Choices about how they will use the resources of today and how they will affect the environment of tomorrow. Through smart growth, we are giving people the opportunity to live healthier and more prosperous lives-and to protect that same chance for their children and grandchildren as well.

I would like to thank all of you for your dedication to making those choices available. I look forward to working with you in the future to make sure that our country's growth is Smart Growth, and that our quality of life does not degrade that of future generations.

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© 2014 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.