Friday, August 26, 2005

Planning and Exit Ramps

In case you missed Bill Zoller's excellent comments in today's SHT, we reprint it here with his blessing:


In the article on the I-75 problems in today's paper, the reporters state: "By their very nature, exit ramps promote commercial and residential growth." This is not correct. By their nature, exit ramps get cars on and off the interstate... that is all they are designed to do. The nature of the planning around these interchanges promotes or discourages or controls growth. In 1976, two government publications addressed these issues: the "1976 Report on National Growth and Development: The changing Issues for National Growth" and "The Growth Shapers: The Land Use Impacts of Infrastructure Investments". Both of these Federal Government documents detailed the experience of communities around the country where interstates already existed (we did not yet have I-75), and they spoke of the need to limit development around the interchanges because of the induced sprawl, congestion, and lowering of air quality that had been found to result.

Unfortunately for us, we seemed oblivious to this experience and information, and we designed what we now have.... our own terrible planning has brought us to this point. It is not the "growth" that has done it... it is our planning (or lack thereof) for the growth. As Pogo said long ago, "We have met the enemy, and he is us".

Our bad planning continues even now. Recently, the BCC ignored its own Comprehensive Plan and voted to change the MEC designation at the University Parkway interchange to commercial, to allow an immense retail development (SIPOC). Amazingly, the Economic Development Council (EDC), which had championed the need for MEC land, remained strangely silent as the BCC removed what was, potentially, one of the EDC's prime MEC parcels. It was one with a direct link to the airport and to Lakewood Ranch via University Parkway. One has to wonder whether the EDC, which is under the financial thumb of the county administration, somehow lacked the courage to fight for this MEC designation. Kevin Connelly's recent letter regarding this issue should cause the EDC to hide their heads in shame. Someone recently said to me that a meeting of the EDC felt like a county staff meeting.

In any event, there is nothing mysterious or surprising in the situation at the interchanges. We have, through poor planning and greed, created these situations. I mention greed, because several BCC members were chirping with great enthusiasm about the sales tax dollars that the SIPOC development would bring. We seem to allow these considerations to blind us to the greater reality of the destruction we are causing down the "road", long after the sales tax dollars have proved sorely inadequate in paying for the costs that the development has created. To repeat: we planned for the situation that we have.

Sincerely yours,

William C. Zoller
6375 McKown Road

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