Friday, January 18, 2008

Need to Distinguish "Traditional" From Planned Residential Development

In in his Intelligencer Journal column of Jan. 18 headed "Like it or not, it is time to talk TND," Jeff Hawkes leads by saying "In a democracy, the will of the people is sometimes going to frustrate common sense." There is no arguing with that. But as philanthropist George Soros has opined "A well informed public over time will tend to make better decisions."

Hawkes seems to be under the mistaken impression that TND is an innovation for achieving more dense utilization of ground and creating a village-like neighborhood. In fact, many municipalities have for decades made provisions for Planned Residential Development including a certain amount of commercial area to serve their residents.

Hawkes attributes the opposition to the proposed Traditional Neighborhood Development [TND] to irrational fear: "Residents whipped each other into such a frenzy of fear that they stampeded the East Hempfield supervisors into rejecting a concept worth considering and refining, and they did so before the voices of reason could clear their throats." But by published accounts, some criticism of the plan seemed quite cogent.

Reported East Hempfield citizenry's concerns as well as NewsLanc's Editorial "East Hempfield TND May Benefit From Adjustments" included: (1) the excessively high amount of permitted commercial usage that could have led to shopping centers to serve the region rather than small stores to serve the planned neighborhood and (2) the dubious concept of insisting on alleyways between the rear of townhouses which reduces density, eliminates common back yards, increases paving by a third, is environmentally unfriendly, creates security issues for the future, and drives up cost of construction and future maintenance.

In short, it is "Traditional" as proposed by the East Hempfield planners that has been challenged, not the concept of planned residential community allowing twice as much mixed type housing units (single family, single lot line, and townhouses) as the post World War II three-to-the-acre, single family housing developments.

Hawkes is right about the need for mixed used, higher density, village-like developments to avoid urban sprawl. But "smart growth" requires attention to the details, not genuflecting to a misleading name.