Deep in the comments on the post “THOSE LIVING IN OLD GLASS HOUSES…, Jim Bacon makes an important point – as he frequently does.

“As I see it, localities (or Regions and the organic components of Regions , if we had governance reform) would not have any more power to create Balanced Communities than they do today. Indeed, they might well have less. But they would apply a different conceptual framework to their planning of where and how to invest public resources. And they would be more proactive in creating Communities that provided for a Balance of activities within close proximity rather than a landscape of residential and commercial monocultures.” [Capitalization and italics added for clarity.]

It is not the scope or array of governance powers that is lacking, the problem is the level at which they are exercised – or the level they are now allocated but not intelligently exercised.

The evolution of functional and sustainable settlement patterns does not require more “powers.” The U.S. and state constitutions grant plenty of powers to governments – and reserve appropriate rights to individuals.

The problem is establishing a Balance between community (public) responsibilities and private rights (privileges).

With respect to land use controls, the issue is the level of application: The Level of Control must be at the Level of Impact.

“Well.” you say, “most important actions have many levels of impact.” Very true, so citizens need a sophisticated system that shares key decisions with appropriate weight for each level of impact.

At this point there is no governance structure at most of the levels of impact. The organic structure of human settlement pattern, and thus of contemporary society, is not reflected by the governance structure.

“Oh!” you say, “that would be too cumbersome.”

Give me a break! If the existing system worked, then for starters, citizens would not face the:

Mobility and Access Crisis

Affordable and Accessible Housing Crisis

Helter Skelter Crisis

Wealth Gap Crisis

Energy Crisis

Balance of Payments Crisis

Retirement and Health Benefits Crisis

Food Security Crisis

Communicable Disease Crisis

Species Diversity Crisis

Personal and Community Security Crisis requiring a War on Terrorism

And the slide toward entropy.

Did we leave any out?

The three levels of governance was not enough for an agrarian society in 1789 and it is surely not enough now.

Existing land use controls are based on a 1926 conception of reality that included a cloudy understanding of the impact of the Industrial Revolution as well as a Roaring 20s conception of the evolution from an agrarian society and the emergence of the Autonomobile in a process overseen by Herbert Hoover.

The 1926 land use control concept is based on an ideal of separation, not Balance. The locus of overt land use controls is at the municipal level but many other laws, regulations, policies and programs are scattered at all three levels. (Four levels with counties, and five with scattered special district authorities that vary from state to state.)

In the 1960s when we drafted an alternative conception of the state enabling legislation [See 21 Syracuse Law Review 375 (1969)] we did not add new powers. We just reallocated them and established systems to share responsibility and move the level of decision to the level of impact.

The one tangible product that grew from this work was our Adirondack land use control system. This system is still working today. It is not perfect by a long shot, but the Adirondacks do not look like West Virginia or the Ozarks or even most of the Rockies. It was a step in the right direction but few further steps have been taken.

The simple guideline is: Level of Control at the Level of Impact

In his comment, Jim Bacon was responding to a comment by a regular commentor on Bacon’s Rebellion Blog. In a later comment on the post “GRAPHIC PROOF” this same individual demonstrates why it is so difficult to achieve fundamental change when there are so many smart folks that live in human settlement patterns and who believe themselves to be experts.

In framing a hypothetical, he states: “Now the land is sub-divided into 20 one acre lots. The reason that these lots are one acre is because THAT’S WHAT THE MARKET IS BUYING.” (Emphasis in the original post.)

The emphasis in the post is intended to dispute the view that, if given a choice, buyers (“the market”) favor by a wide margin Balanced, diverse dwelling options.

I am sure a lot of developers and builders got a chuckle from the “WHAT THE MARKET IS BUYING” declaration. Those who I heard from did.

Developers supply sites and builders build houses because of the outcome of running a complex (but often informal) calculation. The base equation balances of greatest return in the shortest time frame with lowest risk.

This calculation includes, sometimes fuzzy and sometimes incorrect understandings of:

Complex land use control environments noted above

Complex municipal governance and political dynamics

Land assembly and transfer practices skewed by amateur and professional speculators

Loan conditions established by badly informed capital markets

Complex labor, subcontractor, supplier and material availability relationships

Uninformed and misled buyers

Other factors too numerous to mention

To cover their mistakes and minimize their risk developers and builders spend billions on advertising to reinforce myths and misconceptions of buyers.

What is the reality of the market?

For 40 years Same Builder / Same House / Different Location (SB / SH / DL) studies have shown a strong market preference for dwellings in locations with balance, diversity and close proximity to jobs, services, recreation and amenity, as provided by the best of the Planned New Communities.

The failure of Planned New Community developers has had almost nothing to do with the market acceptance of the product except where the project location is very bad – in other words, locations where there was no near term prospect of achieving a J / H / S / R /A Balance.

The SB / SH / DL reality is why many builders are shifting to “New Urbanist” projects and to “Traditional Neighborhood Developments” or at least advertising them as such. The primary problems with these developments is not the ideals, it is the location, scale and mix of uses that preclude achieving Balance. (Reminder for Larry: “New Urbanist” has almost nothing to do with New Urban Region.)

For 25 year S/PI has been using SB / SH / DL studies in the context of Regional Metrics and radial analysis to show the market reality of location, scale and mix imperatives.

One last point:

The supposed “American Dream” of scattered monocultures of the single family detached dwellings on large lots makes up a small percentage of total dwellings but is a major contributor to settlement pattern dysfunction.

As we recall, a study in Maryland found that 12 percent of the new houses over a 20-year period caused 80 percent of “sprawl.” At S/PI, we do not use that word and thus developed the 87 ½ Percent Rule, the fifth of the Five Natural Laws of Human Settlement Patterns.


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66 responses to “INSIGHTS AND SILLINESS”

  1. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun


    The readers looked at each other as they read the starage language.

    Read that again!

    Okay .. it said “At S/PI, we do not use that word and thus developed the 87 ½ Percent Rule, the fifth of the Five Natural Laws of Human Settlement Patterns.

    (The two of them looked at each other … each waiting for the other to explain)

    The silence was eventually broken … one asked the other; “What language is that?

    The other replied, “Beats me. I have no idea. Let’s move onto to something written in plain English …

    … and they did.

    Thus, the “pearls of wisdom” fell to the floor … there they rest, useless. Sone to be ignored as they were preceived as having no useful value.

  2. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    “…..rights (privileges).”

    You write this as if our rights were actually privileges.

    The two are distinctly different.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I have to agree with Reid.

    Fundamental Change is not going to happen if the masses who do vote – do not understand what the heck is being said.

    I’ve asked before – assuming I accept the premise that we do need to think and act differently than we are right now with regard to settlement patterns

    … what exactly would I advocate for at the local level to our elected BOS?

    .. what would I advocate for to my GA elected?

    is advocacy of Comp Planning at the Regional level a reasonable first step?

    Is what Rodger Provo advocates – a State Level Planning office – an element needed for Fundamental Change.

    Most of us recognize and accept some of the problems with our current methods of settlement patterns .. and yes .. we can accept the thought that Fundamental Change will be needed..

    bu thow can one advocate – a process – Fundamental Change – without discussing not only what needs to be changed but how?

    I realize that the “how” is not a single answer and that this whole idea is a work in progress but to be honest – I have, at this point, absolutely no clue of how to move this beyond the academic stage.

    I see this as similiar to JLARC declaring that VDOT is really screwed up.. naming the problems.. then ending the report without a list of recommendations…

    where are the recommendations to implement Fundamental Change?

  4. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Yeah, and where is the budget?

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    do you mean the “budget” for change?

    let’s ask another question.

    If we approached change as not happening unless someone paid for it then how would things like cell phones happen?

    No one paid these companies to develop and market cell phones – right?

    The point is … that change can and does happen without someone paying for it to happen.

    The second point is – that Government can and does have a role.

    For instance, cell phones would NEVER had happened if the government had not granted radio frequencies to be used.

    They could have effectively prevented cell phones from going forward and/or severely cripplied and slowed it down..but they did not …

    but the government did not step out of it… completely

    for instance…

    the government got involved by forcing the companies to provide phones with GPS embedded in them to provide for a public purpose – 911 emergencies. (or you consipiracy folks might think the government had an alterior motive).

    The tricks is for the government to know where to get out of the way and when to be involved for a public good.

    The same thing goes for settlement patterns… the same analogy ..

    who pays?

    the consumers and taxpayers.

    Mandating GPS does not impose costs on the cell companies – they just pass that cost on to consumers.

    HOWEVER.. that is better than a special tax collected .. IMHO (in my humble opinion).

  6. Groveton Avatar

    Mr. Risse:

    First of all, you don’t have to call me a regular commentator. You can call me Groveton and quote me under that name.

    My hypothetical had two points:

    1. Rich people moving into an area results in more taxes being generated (by these new rich people) than consumed (by these new rich people). There is a constant theme on this site that sees every new suburban house as a net defecit to the state. This argument holds that new suburban homebuilding (especially on large lots covered in grass) is bankrupting the state. I don’t think this is true. In fact, people who pay far more in taxes than they consume are “un-bankrupting” the state. My first hypothesis, economically speaking, is that suburban development is fine as long as the houses are expensive and the people who buy them pay a lot in taxes.

    2. My second point is that the market is buying large homes on large lots in the suburbs. If not, these new developments in Great Falls and Loudoun would sit empty while people look for mixed use neighborhoods. But these new sub-divisions do not sit empty. In fact, they are frequently purchased before the first foundation is poured on the first home site in the development. And there are mixed use options available. For example, the whole Reston Town Center is a mixed use community with substantial building in progress. Some people want the mixed use product (often, in my observation, young people (22-30) and empty nesters (50-65). The families in between (31-49) buy the big homes on the large lots.

    This really isn’t all that hard to understand.

    However, it is very hard to change. Surveys asking people if they’d like mixed use living seem suspect. The people taking the surveys envision living in large comfortable houses with plenty of open space – either their yards or a series of parks. They then imagine walking to movies, restaurants, shops and perhaps even their job.

    Then they see the communities in Arlington or Reston that are built as mixed use and they realize that these communities are almost entirely two and three bedroom condos with little to no yard. You cab walk to shopping, you can walk to restaurants but you live the high density lifestyle. Young people live in places like that until they get married and have kids then they move out to the suburbs where they buy big houses on large lots.

    This “problem” of suburban expansion is directly tied to demographics. As the baby boomers got old enough to be married and have kids the demand for large homes on large lots increased. Developers do consider a number of things when the build with the risk of being able to sell at a profit right at the top of the list. And time has proven that large homes on large lots sell at a profit.

    If you want to stop this supposedly “dysfunctional settlement pattern” you have to either directly outlwaw it – as is done in much of Europe or you need to make the acquisition of the land so difficult and expensive that developers will “take a pass” because you have changed the risk formula by instituting a penalty level of pricing.

    I suppose you could also argue that some magic change of heart will occur and people who get married and have kids will stop wanting to live in large houses with large lots. However, this trend has been occurring since Levittown in the 50s and I see it continuing.

    If you want to end “suburban sprawl” you’ll have to legislate against it – either through restricitve land use laws or a penal tax system.

    The free market speaks every time a new development is sub-divided, the free market speaks every time a home in that new sub division is sold. The free market speaks as Fairfax spills into east Loudoun which spills in West Loudoun on its inevitable way to Front Royal.

    Are Mr. Risse and Mr. Bacon in favor of heavy handed government control of the housing and land use markets? They say they are not but there seems to be no other way.

    I have repeatedly asked for a real world example of where the free market has created a “functional settlement pattern” without heavy government involvement. I have asked that the example be soewhat at scale – let’s say at least 300,000 people within the “functional settlement area”.

    No such example has been put forth.


    Because the only way you are going to get people to live in places different from whaere they want to live is by government fiat. And people want to live in the suburbs – at least a large percentage of people want to live there.

  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I don’t see where Groveton is wrong on any of the main points with respect to the market and how it works.

    and I see the issue as to .. perceived subsidies and their influence on the market… with regard to … change…

    If we put proffers on homes to pay for the locational infrastructure deficits caused by the growth AND people who choose to commute are charged tolls to pay for the roads they want – will this lead to Fundamental Change via the marketplace?

    In other words… let’s squeeze out most of the bigger (lower hanging fruit) subsidies and ask.. will this change the demand for suburbia and commuting?

    or to put it another way – we get rid of the primary subsidies.. now what else needs to happen for the marketplace to steer towards Fundamental Change

    … and at the end of the day.. what specifically will government have to do – to close the gap between what the market will accomplish .. and what the market cannot accomplish?

  8. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    “….that change can and does happen without someone paying for it to happen.”

    Nope. Someone pays for it. But, Like Deena said, it isn’t always obvious who.

    In the case of cell phones, government not only allocated the spectrum, but virtually gave it away.

    “Mandating GPS does not impose costs on the cell companies – they just pass that cost on to consumers.”

    Mandating infrastructure does not impose costs on developers – they just pass the costs on to consumers.

    Suppose, somewhere at the bottom of the pyramid,there is someone for whom the additional cost of GPS puts the cell phone out of reach. He suffers all the costs associated with being without a cell phone. He might crash his car into a hidden ditch and die, where someone else could be located by cellphone.

    OK, that’s his problem, isn’t it?

    Meanwhile, people with old cellphones still have service and pay nothing for the 911 “benefits”.

    But, if people are homeless because of artificially added government costs, then pretty soon that becomes OUR problem. Meanwhile, people with old homes pay nothing for the added “benefits” paid for by their newer neighbors.

    I’m convinced Deena was right: it is hard to tell who pays and who benefits. I think it can be done, if we choose, but I’m not so sure we would really like the answer. I’m also not so sure it wouod be worth the cost. We might very well find out that the best answer is to throw the money in a black box.

    I think Groveton raises the question, Suppose we started Fundamentally Changing; who is the arbiter of when we have reached sufficient “functionality” to stop changing? Once everyplace reaches that magic level of functionality, then what do we do about growth? In the meantime, who is overcharging whom: those who want growth and are unwilling to pay for it, or those that don’t wan’t growth and are unwilling topay for that either?

  9. Freedom Works Avatar
    Freedom Works


    Your analysis of the free market demand for large lot suburban development is missing one crucial fact. Most large lot development would not have occurred in Fairfax County were it not for overly restrictive zoning laws.

    These zoning laws limiting large areas to 1, 2, and 5 acre lots arbitrarily and unreasonably denied the property rights of prior landowners.

    The entire McLean and Great Falls areas to the north and west of Tysons Corner would have developed in a mix of housing types, along with neighborhood retail, in a free market. Instead the housing was forced west to Loudoun and south to Prince William. Hence the commuter traffic congestion.

    The government through zoning took the higher economic land value of more dense housing. Most of this locational value was simply thrown away. Rich people who like large lots are in effect subsidized because the government artificially reduces the cost of buying a large lot. The land value for redevelopment of substantial areas of Fairfax County would exceed the value of the large lots and existing McMansions were it not for the artificial non-free market restraint of zoning. And we are talking housing here; we are not talking about factories spewing pollution which can rightly be considered an assault on nearby properties.

    In a truly free market, landowners would be free to sell their land for the most economic use, not the single one mandated by government edict.

    Why are there no townhouses, condos, and apartments along Route 7 between Tysons and the Loudoun County line? The Crippen family owned hundreds of acres for more than a hundred years at Route 7 and Baron Cameron. They were repeatedly denied zoning for higher density housing and were forced to sell their land for much less.

    Meanwhile Reston was given a monopoly on higher density residential zoning west of Tysons Corner, and all the landowners north, east, and south of Reston were denied any use other than large lots.

    Reston’s monopoly zoning was finally broken to the west, and entire large lot neighborhoods have consolidated and sold for higher density.

  10. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    “what else needs to happen for the marketplace to steer towards Fundamental Change?”

    The marketplace has to want it. I see little evidence of that. However, I see plenty of evidence that individuals want it for the “rest” of the market. The “rest” of the market seems to be people of color, immigrants, people with less money, and white people with money if they are newcomers.

  11. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: ” Instead the housing was forced west to Loudoun and south to Prince William. Hence the commuter traffic congestion.

    beyond.. to Culpeper, Stafford, Spotsylvania, etc.

    But I’m confused. Are the policies in Loudoun, Prince William et al substantially different from Fairfax either now or in an earlier time frame?

    and if so.. what would be the result of ALL the exurban localities adopting the same restrictions as Fairfax?

    Would that ..then level the playing ground in terms of commuting?

  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I confused a statement with regard to people paying for change.

    The question was – do people pay for change to happen…

    as opposed to them paying for change (which is not clear).

    So.. change happens.. and people do pay for it – if they want the benefits of the changes.

    So folks willingly pay for cell phones but they do not PAY for cell phones to be developed prior to their development.

    The idea that people who benefit financially from existing policies – that those policies cannot be changed without compensating those who are affected financially – in effect – asking the question ” who will compensate them for change” is .. well.. a viewpoint.. and little more.

    Everytime the tax code changes.. they take away something from whoever is affected … and no.. these folks will not be compensated by that change.

    When the state requires inspection of your auto – you pay – the state does not compenstate you for that “change”.

    so.. we need to think about dropping the idea that any change that financially affects people cannot happen until those folks are compensated..

    happens all the time…

  13. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Groveton, You’re still imposing your pre-conceived notions upon what EMR and I are arguing. You said: “If you want to stop this supposedly ‘dysfunctional settlement pattern’ you have to either directly outlwaw it – as is done in much of Europe or you need to make the acquisition of the land so difficult and expensive that developers will ‘take a pass’ because you have changed the risk formula by instituting a penalty level of pricing.”

    No, I’m not advocating outlawing any type of human settlement pattern, and I’m not proposing making the acquistion and development of land more difficult. To the contrary, I want to (a) put “sprawl” and “smart growth” development patterns on a level playing field by making people pay their location-variable costs, (b) reform zoning codes that impose “sprawl” development, and, in so doing, create *more* choice in the marketplace, not less, and (c) create comprehensive plans and invest infrastructure that lead to the evolution of Balanced Communities.

    To repeat myself, if people want to live in “sprawl”-like subdivisions and are willing to pay the cost of providing roads, infrastructure and public services — and not ask me to subsidize them — that’s just fine with me.

    I don’t expect a mass exodus out of the “sprawl” burbs. But I do expect a re-balancing of the marketplace to more compact, more transportation-efficient development patterns over time. But it doesn’t really matter what I think. What matters is that a free marketplace is functioning and developers are building the kinds of communities that people want and are willing to pay for.

    How many times do I have to say this?

  14. Groveton Avatar

    I understand your points. Unfortunately, I just plain think you are wrong.

    People obviously want to live in “sprawl” – like subdivisions because they keep buying houses in these kinds of sub-divisions.

    And … as far as I can tell – you are not subsidizing anything. You keep bringing back the argument of “location-variable costs”. I keep saying that the suburbs are generating a surplus in total taxes raised vs. total state spending. If anybody is subsidizing anybody in this state it is the suburban taxpayers who are providing the subsidies. They pay far more in taxes than the state spends in the suburbs. In fact, Dave Hunt (Republican candidate for the 34th district) thinks the state might be in violation of its own constitution because it isn’t spending 1/2 of the taxes raised for education in Fairfax County within the county. That’s 1/2! What are you talking about “ask me to subsidize them”?

    You will probably come back and say that all costs needed to run Virginia should be shared by those who can afford to pay EXCEPT transportation costs – which should be paid by directly by those who use the transportation. Translation – the suburbs are already subsidizing the rest of the state and this “argument in parts” means that the suburbs should just subsidize more.

    You keep talking about reforming zoning laws. So, I ask, “where are there good zoning laws”?

    San Francisco?


    I keep asking you and EMR to name one place in the world where this “smart growth” has been implemented without significant government intervention.

    One place.

    In the whole world.

    You don’t answer because there aren’t any examples.

    There aren’t any examples because the zoning laws reflect what the people living in the suburbs want. They want large houses on large lots. They don’t want acres of mixed use condos.

    And the suburbs provide more in total taxes than they consume. They pay to keep real estate taxes arbitrarily low in non-suburban areas, they pay for the education of children in non-suburban areas, they pay for economic development plans that rarely work, they pay for the court system, they pay for emergency services.

    And – if you really look at the transportation funding allocation system – they pay for transportation too.

    I believe you really like the subsidies the non-suburban areas get from the suburbs. And, as the suburbs need to spend more OF THEIR OWN MONEY on their priority of transportation you see the suburban subsidies to the non-suburban areas decreasing. The possibility of decreasing subsidies from the suburbs to the non-suburbs disturbs you and, more importantly, your NIMBY sponsors. So, you put forth academic arguments about “location-specific” this and “clear edge” that.

    In truth, you really want to either:

    a) tax the suburbs more or..
    b) keep the suburbs paying the same amount of tax but get them to receive an even smaller percentage of the money they pay in taxes.

    Either way – you and the NIMBYs keep the suburban generated subsidy.

    I repeat the same proposal I have made in the past –

    All taxes raised in Northern Virginia stay in Northern Virginia. If we’re not paying enough in taxes to pay for all of our needs – we’ll have to raise taxes on ourselves. But we both know that this is plenty of money being raised in Northern Virginia for Northern Virginia’s needs.

    However, there is not enough money for roads needed by Northern Virginia AND the subsidy from Morthern Virginia to elsewhere.

    I think Northern Virginia’s taxes should be used on Northern Virginia priorities.

    And you think Northern Virginia taxes should continue to subsidize your NIMBY sponsors.

    How many times do I have to say this?

    Get your hands out of our pockets.

  15. Freedom Works Avatar
    Freedom Works

    Larry –

    Obviously eastern Loudoun along Route 7 has been allowed to develop in a way that western Fairfax along Route 7 has not.

    However, Loudoun and Prince William did adopt many of the same restrictive zoning policies as Fairfax County. That is why so much development is now taking place in “Culpeper, Stafford, Spotsylvania, etc.”

    For example, the debate over western Loudoun is similar to the situation in western Fairfax 50 years ago. Back then the western 2/3 of Fairfax was zoned for large lots, ostensibly to protect farming and the rural character of the area. In the end all of that real estate that wasn’t later rezoned for higher density gets wasted on mini Mount Vernons for millionaires.

    If everyone adopted more restrictive large lot zoning everywhere, housing costs would skyrocket.

    I would argue that more land use freedom is what will bridge the gap between where we are now and where Risse wants to go with “fundamental change.”

    By changing zoning rules to allow mixed use developments and more dense housing, much of Fairfax County would voluntarily urbanize. Redevelopment could be done voluntarily on a subdivision by subdivision case level. If the risk and cost of changing the zoning were taken out of the equation, you would quickly see whole neighborhoods near the existing job centers joining together to consolidate and compete for the best developers.

    All of this would take enormous development pressure off of the outlying counties.

    Everyone likes to point to Reston as a great planned community with a lot of trees, trails, and open space. It has a diverse mix of housing types and densities. It has golf courses and a town center. I think Risse would view it as a balanced alpha community.

    Here is the kicker. If all of Fairfax County had been allowed to develop like Reston, there could be over twice as many people living in Fairfax County as there are now. That is more than the population of Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford, Culpeper, Spotsylvania, Fauquier, etc.

    The world’s growing human population is going to live somewhere. There would be a lot more open space and farmland were it not for misguided government zoning regulations limiting housing densities.

    To put it in some perspective, at Reston densities, the entire population of the world could comfortably live, work, and play in an area the size of California, Alaska, and Texas, leaving the rest of the planet for farms and wilderness areas. I have read that if everyone were willing to live in a townhouse, you could comfortably fit the world’s population in an area the size of Texas.

    If you care about open space, impervious surface area, carbon footprints, etc., you should support housing freedom. The free market will work if it is allowed to.

  16. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    ….”Fairfax County would voluntarily urbanize”

    and …”[if] Fairfax County had been allowed to develop like Reston, there could be over twice as many people living in Fairfax County as there are now.”

    lots of food for thought on these comments.

    Would most folks consider Reston to be “good” urbanization relative to Fairfax?

    Then.. if so.. what is it about Reston that Fairfax allowed but then refused to allow for development external to Reston?

    then.. what if Spotsylvania required development to be like Reston – but folks still worked in NoVa?

  17. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Larry Re your 7:10 AM comment:

    You keep asking the same question: “What do you suggest citizens should do to chart a sustainable course?”

    And we keep giving you the same answer: “For an overview, read ‘The Shape of Richmond’s Future’ from 16 Feb 2004.”

    Then you ask the same question again.

    There is a working definition of insanity in this exchange someplace.

    Just to be sure we were not giving you bad information, we went back and read over the column. At first blush, we would change little if we wrote that column today except we would capitalize “Fundamental Change.”

    The column is divided in five sections that are noted at the outset and the fifth is “What really needs to be done – What is the anatomy of Fundamental Change?” (Capitalization added.)

    The next question is how do citizens jump start the process sketched out in the column? First there have to be enough citizens who understand their enlightened self-interest to motivate political change. The first part of the Richmond column notes two studies and a Jim Bacon column that ought to have frightened and energized citizens. That has not happened. Business-As-Usual still reigns in the Richmond New Urban Region.

    A lot of citizens in the Region are unhappy about the impact on their lives of all the crises we list above in this post but they have not come to understand the causes and that their location decisions based on bad information are a prime cause.

    How do a sufficient number gain an understanding so they can have a political impact in a democracy with a market economy? There are many ways to approach challenge. The default strategy is to allow society to collapse and then rebuild. Jim Bacon and I, along with others, do not think that is the best approach. Among other reasons there may not be the resources left to rebuild on the ruins.

    The citizen education necessary to support Fundamental Change is the objective of PROPERTY DYNAMICS of which we write from time to time and which will be the first Part of ACTIONS PROGRAMS, the third book of TRILO-G.

    The follow on question is: How do citizens carry out the program sketched out in the Richmond New Urban Region column? One technique is the process we spelled out in “HANDBOOK: The Three Step Process to Create Balanced Communities in Sustainable New Urban Regions” five years ago. Based on our experience designing, building and managing functional components of human settlement patterns, HANDBOOK provides a step by step process that incorporates Fundamental Changes in the 1926 conception of how citizens create strategic plans for their future. Every element of the process has been field tested but the entire process has not yet been attempted. There were only a few copies of HANDBOOK, First Edition printed and we are now completely revising it to become the second Part of ACTIONS PROGRAMS.

    Now the easy part:

    Why have programs such as this not been started and carried out?

    Why are there no examples of places that have adopted more effective land use control systems such as those outlined in our 1969 Syracuse Law Review article noted above?

    Why are there no places where the market has been allowed shape human settlement patterns at Alpha Community scale?

    One need go no farther than the postings of Groveton above.

    There have been thousands of cost-of-alternative-settlement-pattern studies carried out. (They go by many names.) Not a single one of them I have seen supports the assumptions he makes about the viability of monocultures. The twenty or so done for development projects in eastern Loudoun during the time we were doing our “Shape of Loudoun County’s Future” work, including the one on the impact of WorldCom are illustrative.

    (Before going on, there is a basic problem with every one of these studies. This defect makes the results seem more rosy than reality. Almost all the studies are municipal cost-benefit analysis and do not address the non-municipal costs and benefits. With out exception they do not reflect of impacts related to the organic components of settlement patterns.)

    The second problem highlighted by Groveton’s comments is his conception of the “market.” The distance his perception is from reality is demonstrated by mistaking SB / SH / DL studies with “surveys.” SB / SH / DL studies are not preference surveys, they look at what people actually buy and what they actually pay for dwellings in different contexts.

    ‘Freedom Works’ has a point concerning the impact of zoning on the settlement pattern and Groveton’s misunderstanding of “market.”

    Groveton is so sure he is right about his misconceptions that he does not bother to read with care what Jim Bacon and others right.

    When a critical mass of citizens are as sure as Groveton is about the existence of Villains, the cost of alternative development patterns, the nature of the housing market and other myths, the education challenge is enormous.

    We hope this helps.


  18. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Larry Re your 6:36 PM comment:

    Do the numbers.

    If all of the existing vacant and underutilized land in Fairfax County were to be redeveloped at Reston density (or if it had been allowed to be developed at that density in the first place) there would be capacity for 2.5 to 2.7 million population with 40% Alpha Community openspace and 30% Subregional openspace.

    There would be little market for developement in Spotsylvania.

    If Spotsylvania required “Reston-like” develpment then the jobs for those in the dwellings would be in Spotsy and everyone could avoid the lefty-righty mixing bowl.

    They would not have to venture to other parts of the Virginia portion of the National Capital Subregion or the Washington-Baltimore New Urban Region.


  19. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Quoting from “The Shape of Richmond’s Future”, here is how EMR described “Fundamental Change” back in 2004:

    Here is a simple formula for creating such a structure and to start the process of evolving a human settlement pattern that is sustainable. This is what “fundamental change” involves:

    Create a temporary regional agency for the Richmond Metropolitan Area (MSA). The MSA is the counties of Goochland, Powhatan, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Prince George, Charles City, New Kent, Henrico and Hanover plus the cities of Richmond, Hopewell, Colonial Heights and Petersburg. Amelia, Louisa, and King William Counties would be wise to petition to join, and this would make the agency jurisdiction closer in area to the entire Richmond NUR. Surry and Sussex would also be wise to join unless they become part of a similar organization centered on Hampton Roads.

    The agency, with a 20-year sunset provision, would be governed by a five-person board. The chair would be elected at large, while four councilors would be elected from pie-shaped districts centered on the corridors defined by I-95 North, I-95 South, I-64 East and I-64 West. Each of the new districts would have the same number of citizens — one-person-one-vote guidelines would apply — and each district would have the regional average of job locations and worker homes, as well as the regional average of persons who live in census blocks with over 10 persons per acre and those the live in census blocks with under 10 persons per acre. This may sound arcane, but it is critical. At first these parameters may also sound hard to calculate, but recall how easy it is to do the gerrymandering now employed to ensure all the majority party candidates are in “safe” districts and the minority party candidates are in “unsafe” districts. Computers can do marvelous things.

    The new agency should have three basic powers:

    Regional Plans. Create a regional land-use plan and a compatible regional transportation plan. The transportation plan must provide mobility for the planned land use. The first step would be to create a quantifiable sketch plan for the region and for the organic communities therein. This should follow the Three-Step Process laid out in the Handbook.

    Balanced Communities. Implement the evolution of a system of Balanced Communities within the New Urban Region (but not necessarily related in any way to the four interim governance districts). Each community would have a relative balance of jobs/housing/services/recreation/amenity. The population and job location necessary to achieve this balance would determine the size of the communities. Within each of the comminutes, the agency would oversee the evolution of an organic system of governance with democratically elected representatives at the village, neighborhood and cluster scales.

    The agency would construct an organic system of governance so that the level of decision was at the level of impact. This process would be completed as soon as possible but prior to the 20-year sunset provision. The regional functions of the agency would be taken over by a new democratic assembly with representatives from the Balanced Communities and from the citizens of the region at large.

    Allocation of Costs. Ensure a fair allocation of all the location-based public and essential utility services costs. The agency would also make citizens aware of the location-based cost of all private services. As outlined in The Shape of the Future, this is the key first step in the process of evolving functional human settlement patterns.

  20. Freedom Works Avatar
    Freedom Works

    Jim and E M Risse:

    “Regional Plans. Create a regional land-use plan…”

    This is where you guys go wrong. Socialist, statist, top down planning is what got us to where we are. Or is Risse the new enlightened ruler?

    Reston worked because Fairfax granted them a new zoning category for a 10 square mile area that basically said build anything you want anywhere you want to.

    Instead of a free market, your new “Regional Plans” would result in the same corruption from what you call the “Business-As-Usual” group.

    Freedom and flexibility in the development of property are individual human rights. They have been usurped by the government with disastrous results. George Mason and the other Virginia founders would be appalled.

    Get the government out of my wallet and off my property.

  21. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    “These zoning laws limiting large areas to 1, 2, and 5 acre lots arbitrarily and unreasonably denied the property rights of prior landowners.”

    Yep. And imagine what 180 acre minimum zoning does.

  22. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    “When the state requires inspection of your auto – you pay – the state does not compenstate you for that “change”.”


    Sure the state has an interest in protecting its citizens from damage caused by jalopies. But the primary beneficiary is the owner and driver. It is perfectly reasonable that you would pay for this service.

    It is also a perfectly lousy analogy.

    But, try this. You buy a car, registration, and license, with the understanding that you can use it with reciprocity in other jurisdictions. Then the government changes the rules and says, nope, you can only use it in your county.

    Suddenly, that Ferrari you bought for high speed transcontinental commuting is worth a whole lot less to you, and probably everyone else as well. Suddenly, little smart cars are in demand, and your legislator’s cousin is the smart car dealer.

    When the government seriously screws up the market, then recompense is in order. It is only the prospect of recompense that forces honesty into government regulations supposedly made for the public good.

    EPA recently stiffened the ozone rules. By law, they are prohibited from considering the cost of that regulation, only the public health. Problem is, if the regulation throws thousands into unemployment or bankruptcy, then there may very well be a health problem associated.

  23. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    “Why are there no townhouses, condos, and apartments along Route 7 between Tysons and the Loudoun County line? The Crippen family owned hundreds of acres for more than a hundred years at Route 7 and Baron Cameron. They were repeatedly denied zoning for higher density housing and were forced to sell their land for much less.”

    This is exactly the scenario I watched play out when I was growing up on Martha’s Vineyard. Old landowners were denied subdivision rights, that were later granted to subsequent owners. My brother is among the subsequent owners.

    I’ve watched it play out here in Fauquier, in almost exactly the same way, and I fully expect the same fate will befall my wife’s family, along with other members of her church.

    It is particularly ironic, since the family still owns one of the original surveying instruments used in this area, dated in the 1700’s.

    George Mason would be appalled. He would be appalled that the government is now going back on promises that date to the original land grants, based on really flimsy interpretations of the police power.

    FW is correct in saying that regional plans is where you go wrong. Even local plans is where you go wrong. There is no government, no planner, at any level that can begin to improve on the net result of thousands of individual decisions.

    It is the purpose of government to facilitate those decisions at the least net cost, not to deny those decisions on the basis of cost, and then claim a “savings”.

    Communites will be balanced only if you allow the maximum amount of freedom to change, because balance is a dynamic state, not one created by a plan that is instantly out of date.

    I’m fairly certain that the concept of location based costs as espoused by EMR and Bacon, is just wrong, and probably completely backwards. In any case, it amounts to claming a savings by avoiding costs which may actually have been associated with a larger profit.

    Sometimes, spending less isn;t the same as saving more.

  24. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    ‘Freedom’ writes:

    By changing zoning rules to allow mixed use developments and more dense housing, much of Fairfax County would voluntarily urbanize.

    If I wanted to live in an urban environment, I would have moved to one.

    Mixed use developments, yuck! I can’t stand them.

    And here in lies the problem. Many intelligent and respectable hard working families chose not to live in a high-density “urban” environment when they bought their homes. Meanwhile, up on Mount Olympus, smug Elites sit stare down on them and claim their choices are bad – making the excuse that they were duped into making their bad choices by clever advertising, crafty developers, in essence asserting that they are too dumb to make right choices, bla, bla, bla….

    Their arrogance is dripping from their posts. Oooh, yuck! – look –see? Their condescension has leaked out of my monitor and onto my keyboard. Great, now I have another mess to clean up.

    It’s like that movie the “Sixth Sense”, only the “Urban Human Settlement” Elites whisper (okay, its more like they hiss); “I see dumb people” instead of “I see dead people”.

    Like I said, if I wanted to live in an urban jungle, I would have moved there.

    Newsflash: I don’t want my family living in a high density, mixed use “balanced community”. I don’t want to live right next to my job. I want to live on the beach, next to the Ocean. It would be terrific if my job was nearby – but guess what? I work at the highest paying job I can find so that I can afford to live where I want. In this case, I have to drive a long distance to work at my high paying job.

    When I find a better, higher paying job, I will quit the job I have and take it, so I don’t have to drive as far.

    But, you see … the jobs available near my Sandbridge home that I am suited to perform aren’t really too close to the beach where I live.

    I am blessed to live in what was a terrific neighborhood.

    I sadly write “was” because developers left to their own devices have destroyed Sandbridge, ruining our community, inflating the cost of property, and forcing us working family types to sell and move. You see the house I bought for $113,000 12 year ago is now assessed at nearly $500,000 – and Sandbridge now has a higher property tax rate than any other neighborhood, because we are forced to pay for sand replenishment – yet our taxes are used to subsidize sand replenishment everywhere else in Virginia Beach. We are the only neighborhood with a TIF for sand replenishment.

    Last year our City Manager declared that our TIF produced a $9M “surplus” and he seized $9M from our “special fund” – and spent it in the General Fund. Then – at the end of the year, he declared a $39M “surplus” to his budget. Instead of retuning our $9M to our neighborhood, City Council spent the $39M “surplus” on stuff like, and I am serious here – $90,000 for one painting to be placed in the taxpayer subsidized “Town Center” Performing Arts Theater – you know, to create “a sense of place” to cater to the “Creative Class” we don’t have – because we don’t have any interesting jobs that pay enough to actually attract the “Creative Class”.

    But I digress – the point is once government began tinkering with Sandbridge – and once the rules were relaxed and the government installed a massive government sewer system – WHAM!!! Much larger beach rental properties could be built – and the rape of Sandbridge begun. Next, massive condo projects destroyed the neighborhood character of my neighborhood.

    You see, before the developers lobbied City Council to put in a city sewer system, we all has only our own septic tanks. The ground only allowed for so many toilets for each home and only so much water could be used safely and perked.

    Once the local government stepped in and forced my wife and I to pay thousands of dollars to connect to a city sewage system we neither wanted, nor needed – that was the end of my neighborhood. Now, “high-density” doesn’t even begin to describe the traffic problems the city and their developer pals have created. These are MASSIVE high-rise condos – blocking out the view in what was restricted to 3 story homes. But, the City Manger is happy. By destroying our neighborhood, the modest, affordable homes near the ocean are being torn down, replaced with HUGE rental properties – assessed at millions of dollars – each!

    Wahooo! Look at all the new property taxes the City Manger can spend, subsidizing the rest of the city.

    Families like mine?

    We are forced to sell and move – because I can’t afford to live here – and, because of high-density development and its traffic, I don’t want to live here anymore. I often have to wait up to 10 minutes to get out of my driveway now. On weekends? Forget it – during the day I can’t get out of my driveway. Endless traffic now.

    Yeah – urban living is “great”. Not.

    Who protected my neighborhood and my home from the developers and their “free market”?

    New – the free market should be unconstrained. Ops, so what there is no longer any “affordable housing:” near the beach. It’s okay that only rich people can live next to the ocean. Hey, it’s the free market, right? Take your equity – and leave! Government has no business protecting your neighborhood from developers seeking to buy property cheap – they reap windfall profits. It’s the American way. Who cares whose neighborhoods are destroyed in the process? Whose dreams are crushed along with their 3 bedroom brick homes by the sea?

    You see ‘Freedom”, here is your words, changed slightly to reflect the reality of my neighborhood:

    By changing government forcing a sewer system on a neighborhood without one, and by changing zoning rules to allow high-rise condominiums and mixed use developments with more dense housing, much of Sandbridge would voluntarily urbanize – because outside developers would buy up the neighborhood, displacing the residents, and rebuild a place where only the wealthy elites can afford to live, or vacation.

    So maybe having government defend the rights of property owners, instead of “partnering” with developers to destroy our neighborhoods isn’t such a bad thing after all?

  25. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Hi, Reid, Given your experience in Sandbridge, I can see where the intensity of your emotion comes from. I would be furious at the Virginia Beach government, too, if I’d paid into a sand-replenishment fund that the city raided, and if I had to pay for sewer connections I didn’t want, and if those sewer connections led to development and traffic and higher taxes.

    Clearly, the raid of the sand-replenishment funds was a grotesque abuse. Someone ought to be filing a lawsuit to get the money put back into the fund.

    The sewer issue is more complex. Why did the city install sewer in Sandbridge? Who requested it? Was it the residents? (Not you, obviously, but other residents.) Was it landowners seeking to upgrade their cottages? Was it condo developers? How did other Sandbridge residents feel? Did they oppose or support the sewer project?

    I agree about the condos, they really hurt the character of the community. How did they get in? Did the condo developers acquire the land and then lobby for a rezoning?

    I suspect that your rage against being displaced from Sandbridge has skewed your understanding of what EMR and I are advocating. You see the “urbanization” of Sandbridge as a natural consequence of our ideas. I see it as the opposite. I see the urbanization of Sandbridge as the logical consequence of Hampton Roads’ disfunctional human settlement patterns. If the older areas of Virginia Beach (and other Hampton Roads communities) had been permitted to develop with a more urban character, development pressures never would have reached Sandbridge.

    I’ve been visiting Sandbridge for some 40 years now. I remember when there was next to nothing along Indian River Road, next to nothing around Pungo. Sandbridge was a self-contained community that existed only because of the beach and bay. My family went there to escape. It was the Virginia Beach policy of disconnected, leapfrogging, low-density growth and the city’s willingness to subsidize that growth by building the roads to enable it that brought development to Sandbridge.

    One of key reasons to encourage more urbanized development in established areas is to *protect* special areas like Sandbridge against the very kind of growth that you deplore.

    Sadly, by railing against EMR and myself, you *support* the kind of growth and development that is destroying the old Sandbridge and pushing you out of it. Reid, you are your own worst enemy.

  26. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    interesting thread. LOTs going on!

    EMR – if the idea is to have enough of the population to become educated and elightened enough to pursue Fundamental Change..

    I do understand that one can choose the academic end of things and leave the implementation to others somewhat akin.. to those who break ground scientifically and then let the engineers figure out how to use it in a practical application.

    But until I hear folks running for office – offering a different vision of Fundamental Change – I think it is fair to ask..

    if we think our current planning methodologies are wrong.. then what is the next step?

    For instance.. many folks sit on citizen committees for the update of local Comp Plans.

    What would those folks advocate for?

    If I’m a citizen.. and I buy the idea that Fundamental Change is needed .. what do I advocate for and who do I advocate to?

    If I don’t know the answers.. then why would we expect Fundamental Change to “happen”?

    I apologize for focusing on the pragmatic… it’s a character flaw that I have…

  27. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “Sadly, by railing against EMR and myself, you *support* the kind of growth and development that is destroying the old Sandbridge and pushing you out of it. Reid, you are your own worst enemy.”

    well.. there is a certain amount of “leave me alone” on one hand and “why can’t the government stop this bad stuff” on the other hand.

    I understand it but it’s not realistic.

    As long as other folks own land and have the right to develop it – then those that live next to that land and who don’t own it – .. their voice can only be effective if it has the force of government.

    Is the complaint that the land is slated for mixed-use development or is the complaint that the land is slated to be developed – period?

    I can think of a whole bunch of different scenarios… good and bad… but at the end of the day – isn’t this what government is about.

    I mean .. you can exercise your rights as an indivdual or even band together as a neighborhood but if you don’t own the land – your own alternative is the government – right?

  28. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    It is not that simple.

    Recall that I have been pushing this string since the 60s and have learned a bit from victories and defeats.

    I am encouraged by the number of folks who read our material — “Burned Out” the 10 July 2006 column and “The Whale on the Beach” the column of 28 August 2006 and then call up and ask to sit down and discuss a winning strategy.

    Several stood for election since those visits and have won.

    They and I know that they cannot articulate their full beliefs on the need for Fundamental Change because they would loose.

    It takes receptive, well informed citizens to support “leaders.” This is a democracy with a market economy, not Morroco and we noted in a response in “Glass Houses.”

    Many try to play the practical role as skeptics, realists and pragmatists but they end up just supporting Business As Usual and defeating themselves as Jim Bacon so accurately notes.

    By the way HANDBOOK is written for those who sit on citizen committees to rewrite comp plans. But before they can be effective, the first have to understand that the whole sturcutre of Municipalism is preventing them from having any impact.

    We will deal with this a bit in the Costco segment of “The Problem With Cars.”


  29. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    EMR – points taken.

    I sat on a Comp Plan committee and participated in a Reality Check exercise and no one ….

    .. no one… even talked about Balanced Communities as a concept – much less pushed for specific changes to help evolve communities towards NUR.

    Not a single elected official that I know – at the BOS level or the GA level uses the NUR nomenclature and I have to say that Edd Houck is one of the more enlightened GA Senators with respect to tying land-use to transportation.

    Our local MPO – not a word about NUR – not on their radar screen..

    so..these are the things that I look for.. to see where we are headed…

    And what this tells me is that we are a long, long way from change… because at this point – no one that I know – has a clue as to what laws, codes, and ordinances need to be changed to get us on the better path…

    would you not agree or if you don’t come back at me with what you think is a more accurate view of current status…


  30. Ray wrote:

    “…There is no government, no planner, at any level that can begin to improve on the net result of thousands of individual decisions…. Communities will be balanced only if you allow the maximum amount of freedom to change, because balance is a dynamic state, not one created by a plan that is instantly out of date.”

    Well said.

    It appears that E M Risse wants to change one form of top down planning and control for another.

    Jim and EMR, am I wrong about that?

  31. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Freedom Works, Yes, you are wrong.

    I don’t know how I could be any plainer. To repeat myself one more time: I would loosen zoning regulations to grant developers far more flexibility to build a wider range human settlement patterns, and I would create a level playing field by making houses and businesses pay their locational-variable costs. What’s “top down” about that? It’s only “top down” if you insist that the only alternative is to do away with the entire zoning/planning apparatus entirely — an intriguing idea but not one that’s going to happen politically in this century.

    As for building Balanced Communities… the first key step is to eliminate zoning codes that *mandate* separated land uses. This afternoon, I just toured the Rocketts Landing project in Richmond, a mixed use project that required years of negotiation — at great delay and expense — with Henrico County (and negotiations still haven’t ended with the city of Richmond). Not only are there different land uses (offices, retail, residential) in the same block, there are mixed land uses in the same *building*. There is huge pent-up demand for this type of development, but supply can’t keep pace with demand because of government zoning regs. And don’t tell me the demand isn’t there because it *is* — mixed use projects are materializing all over the state when developers are allowed to build what people want to buy. If people are buying something else, it’s often (not always, but often) because what they want is not available.

    But there’s more to Balanced Communities than just mixed use. Someone has to provide the infrastructure and provide public services. In Virginia, state and local governments are the entities that do that. Now, as a libertarian, you can argue about the need to get government of the business of schools, roads, water, sewer, public safety, etc. — indeed, in some instances, I have done so — but the fact is, government in Virginia, right now, the state is responsible for planning, building and maintaining most infrastructure. That means government has to *plan* where to invest its scarce resources — just as Verizon has to plan where to invest in its FiOS broadband, or Cingular has to plan where to invest in wireless towers and other capacity upgrades.

    My argument is that if governments are in the business of planning for infrastructure, they should not simply respond to the initiatives of developers, who build projects helter skelter wherever they can snap up a big piece of real estate, they should plan to create compact, connected communities that have a balance of jobs, housing, retail, amenities, etc. where people can meet the vast majority of their daily needs with fewer, shorter automobile trips.

    If you want to call that “top down” planning, and you want to label EMR and me as “socialists” because we accept that institutional reality, then be my guest.

    If you think that acknowledging that reality makes me a socialist, please recognize that you’re anathematizing someone who shares many of the same core principles that you do.

  32. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Here’s an example ….

    In my county – there was a big hoop-de-doo about whether the country could force stand-alone strip commercial retail to share a single curb-cut by building internal intra-parcel connectors.

    I’m quite sure if we got government out of this decision that bad stuff would happen – actually already has.. as our arterials roads – paid for by tax dollars – have been essentially co-opted for business venues.

    So .. do we really think that private development – left to it’s own devices will craft the best solutions for citizens and taxpayers?

    So .. is the claim – that anyone who wants the government – as a representative of citizens/taxpayers – involved in such decisions – is a “socialist”?

    bzzzzzt .. wrong answer – try again.

  33. Jim:

    I appreciate your response and understand that it is a long road back to freedom.

    A few observations:

    You wrote, “…the state is responsible for planning, building and maintaining most infrastructure. That means government has to *plan* where to invest its scarce resources — just as Verizon has to plan where to invest in its FiOS broadband, or Cingular has to plan where to invest in wireless towers and other capacity upgrades.”

    It is one thing for the government to plan the infrastructure it builds. But that does not mean the government has to plan what infrastructure a property owner can build on his/her own private property.

    The fact is, the overwhelming amount of infrastructure required for modern life is planned by, built by, and paid for by the private sector. Think every home, factory, store, office building, subdivision street, subdivision sidewalk, subdivision utilities, refinery, farm, not to mention private transport vehicles, ships, airplanes, refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines etc. etc. The private sector in a free economy does just fine (without government planning) providing the infrastructure of life. Verizon never tells someone they cannot build a structure on their property because Verizon didn’t plan for it. Yet that is unfortunately what the government does to private property owners everyday. The result, of course, has been a housing affordability crisis, and dysfunctional commuting patterns.

    Perhaps I want to build a 200,000 square foot data center on my property with only a few employees so there is virtually no road, school, water, or sewer impact. And suppose I’m using onsite solar power generation (so you can’t drag me into the power line location controversy). And suppose the FiOS cables already run by the property. And suppose the property is large enough that I can easily meet all existing angle of bulk plane requirements and screening requirements.

    I ask you, is there any legitimate interest for government to say no simply because that is not what the government planned for the property?

    And Jim it seems that as more private toll roads are built, as more children are home schooled, as more people telework, the excuse that government should control land use because it builds roads and schools starts to go out the window.

    I agree with you that a first baby step is more flexible zoning. Mixed use zoning is simply allowing a small amount of the land use freedom that used to exist in this country before utopian planning took hold.

    I agree with your emphasis on user pays the locational variable costs so there is an unsubsidized even playing field. I agree this would lead to a change in human settlement patterns (assuming zoning allows the change).

    When can we get I-95, I-495 and I-66 tolled? This would certainly finance a massive amount of transportation infrastructure without unfairly charging people like E M Risse who do not commute to work.

  34. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Perhaps I want to build a 200,000 square foot data center on my property with only a few employees so there is virtually no road, school, water, or sewer impact. “And suppose I’m using onsite solar power generation (so you can’t drag me into the power line location controversy). And suppose the FiOS cables already run by the property. And suppose the property is large enough that I can easily meet all existing angle of bulk plane requirements and screening requirements.”

    Thank You. You have described my situation perfectly. I can think of hundreds of things I might do here, and disturb very lttle.

    All of them are illegal.

    “When can we get I-95, I-495 and I-66 tolled? This would certainly finance a massive amount of transportation infrastructure…”

    Maybe. But that infrastructure will never be built in time to benefit the people who are paying for it. When the ICC takes 40 years, the prospect of new infrastructure is very slim.

    If that is the case, then that infrastructure will be built someplace else to benefit someone else. What happens to the user pays argument then? Now, instead of a black box that everyone chips into, we have a black box that only a few chip into.

    If we don’t have enough money now how will we get it out of a smaller cross section without increasing the burden?

    A smaller cross section only increases the likeliehood that those that pay won’t benefit. With a larger cross section, the retired and semi-retired will have to pay, but they at least stnd ome change of enjoying the benefits.

    Bacon’s comments on the Rockketss project also apply to the Arrington project in Warrenton. The process is way out of control for the “benefits” it generates.

    However, I’m not sure I agree that there is a huge pent up demand for this. I do believe we are seeing more of these projects becasue that is the only way you can get an approval. I’m willing to believe that all, or some, of the promised benefits will eventually appear.

    I’d just like to see them actually measured. Same goes for location variable costs. When we eventually get the answers, they might be a lot different than we wish.

    Assume, for the sake of argument, that EMR is as much as 20% correct. How would such a revelation (sensitivity analysis) affect our plans? Our beliefs? Our desires?

    My guess is that if we had that information tomorrow, someone with an agenda would be discounting it the next day, because it was inconveneient.

  35. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    FW, It sounds like we’re not that far apart.

    I-95 and I-495 will be tolled. I’ve got an intern working on a report laying out those plans in as much detail as we can get.

  36. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: who builds infrastructure and why

    who build the water/sewer line that the hypothetical business would not need “much” of?

    how many other parcels in that area will also be developed and need water/sewer?

    so.. who decides how big the water/sewer lines that will serve ALL of those undeveloped properties will need to be?

    what is a comp plan?

    why does it exist?

    whose job is it to create and maintain a comp plan?

    If your answer is “the private sector” .. please elaborate.. I’m all ears…

  37. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Let’s take a hypothetical development.

    Let’s say that it is going to be one of the best examples of mixed-use compact development – lets say – state of the art – perhaps even a true balanced community.

    Let’s say the developer is going to do all of the interior roads and utilities via a CDA.

    Now ask yourself what else that near-perfect development will need.

    any/all of the following?

    water/sewer connections
    curb/cuts entrances, traffic signals, etc

    who would the private sector developer expect to provide these things – as opposed to the development itself provide these things and the costs passed directly to the folks who move into the development.

    To suggest that private development actually is self-contained and takes care of itself without government-provisioned infrastructure and services…

    .. well it leaves me a tad skeptical because as far as I know – no locality would deny a developer the ability to do – just that so the zoning code IS very flexible – right?

    You as a private sector company.. develops a stand-alone property that does not require others to provision infrastructure and services.

    So any locality could stipulate that any development that was truly standalone (wouldn’t that make it an “alpha” community) and did not require any public-sector provisioning would be granted speedy approval to proceed.

    methinks .. sometimes.. there is much yammering about the big bad government squashing private sector dogooders.. for no good reason.


  38. Larry:

    It would be great if the government just got out of the way. Private developers could build and operate all this stuff far more efficiently. We have private fuel, power, and communications systems in this country. There is absolutely no reason we could not privatize sewer and water service.

    Do you ever hear the private natural gas companies complain about more development? Yet the public sector whines constantly about whatever it is they are providing. And it is not like the government doesn’t collect enormous new tax revenue and fees from new development.

    Lately, private developers have been building schools, fire stations, parks, and libraries as part of their developments.

    Imagine what kind of schools we could have if all the real estate taxes designated for education stayed in the new development and funded their own developer built neighborhood private schools?

    Andrew Carnegie who died in 1919 “built 2,811 free libraries in all. Of these, 1,946 were located in the United States – at least one in every state except Rhode Island — 660 in Britain and Ireland, 156 in Canada. A handful of libraries were also scattered in places like New Zealand, the West Indies and even Fiji.”

    Of course, with the Internet, who needs libraries anymore?

    One more point: the existing bonded indebtedness in a county like Fairfax is enormous. So when a developer builds a new home, that homeowner is now on the hook for his/her proportionate share of the localities debt. So new development does pay toward past infrastructure, and is not per se getting a free infrastructure ride.

    On Fairfax County’s web site, the Park Authority even brags about this. “The utilization of general obligation bonds ensures that current users are not burdened with the full cost of improvements, but that these costs are spread over an extended period of time. This assures that future generations of park users who enjoy the benefits of improved park facilities will contribute to their costs.”

    Available here:

  39. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    FW – I think we probably agree on much of the idea of private verses public provisioning of infrastructure

    .. with the exception of water/sewer and roads

    in my experience.. I see no developers that propose to build their own plants ….

    because I suspect it would be prohibitively expensive to build those plants on a per development basis.

    But this is an interesting aspect of this discussion because JB and EMR espouse what I perceive to be essentially stand-alone, self-sufficieint New Urban “pods” which you also seem to think could be done if the local governments would get out of the way.

    I don’t know about where you live but here in downtown Spotsylvania – where the publically-provisioned water/sewer is .. (and it is not) – is a subject of intense interest on the part of the development community and as I stated above.. I have yet to see not one of them propose a true self-sufficient development..

    We have development interests down the road at Lake Anna – and they want water & sewer and they showed up at the Comp Plan meetings advocating that the county change it’s comp plan to extend water & sewer

    .. and it was pointed out to them that several developers could band together to develop a local system but they would have none of it.

    .. so .. I have to ask.. FW …
    .. how this might work…

    .. then when we figure out how water/sewer should work.. we can get into the really tough issue of how to fairly allocate road costs.

  40. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Larry, I don’t advocate “stand-alone, self-sufficieint New Urban ‘pods’” at all. Although I’m a big fan of New Urbanism on the micro level, the big problem with New Urbanism as actually practiced is that many projects tend to be built as stand-alone pods on the urban periphery. As such, they do not enjoy the kind of connectivity with surrounding development that you’d expect from a healthy urban fabric.

    As for water and sewer, I would like to see it privatized. Water-sewer companies would be insulated from popular and political pressure to extend service into areas where it was not economically justified. The key is to create a legal/regulatory framework that allows water-sewer companies to charge location-variable costs — preferably in the form of variable hook-up fees that reflect the cost of exending water lines, sewer lines and pumping stations.

  41. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Jim Bacon:

    Good point re location-variable costs but there are huge downsides for monoply private utilities.

    There is just as many problems drafting functional charters for private utilities as there is creating functional special districts for provision of utilities or in keeping municipal government agencies on the straight and narrow.

    On special districts a big problem in the northern part of Virginia is the independent board becoming an empire building group that spreads water and sewer to inappropriate locations.

    A good example of the private sector problems is the Lake Anne chilled water system.

    Because Bob Simon hated window airconditioners – as those who have traveled know, driping, poorly located air conditioners are a pain.

    So are free-standing ones in Neighborhood and Village scale urban enclaves over 20 persons per acre due to noise.

    Bob solved the problem in the original Lake Anne Cluster by creating a chilled water system.

    Gulf Oil sold the utility off with no strings attached and the owners have been charging huge rates with poor service to get every penny that can from old technology.

    The result has depressed values and kept Lake Anne from being renewed via market forces.

    There are no easy solutions.


  42. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    JB/EMR – I’m curious

    in your mind – is there any connection in terms of service area or boundaries between water/sewer and New Urban Regions?

    do you consider the placement of water/sewer to be a separate and independent issue from where/when/how settlement patterns are – and are not?

  43. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    Public water and sewer, along with many (if not most) of the other 40 +/- services that support contemporary urban life should be avaliable inside every Clear Edge.

    That is the Clear Edge around the Core of a New Urban Region (the Urbanside)


    The Clear Edges around all the urban enclaves that make up the Balanced But Disaggregated Communities that are found in the Countryside.

    Exceptions are the areas that make up Communtiy, subregion and Region serving Openspace inside the Clear Edge around the Core of the New Urban Region.


  44. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    EMR – if the density of the new urban development is too high for the exiisting water supply under the high density development, should water be piped into the urban development from outside the Clear Edge around the core of the new Urban Region?

    If so, what will the new urban region pay those not living in the new urban region for using their (rural) water supply?

  45. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Good Question Reid!

    HR/TW already pipe in water from outside their region and are in the process of adding new reservoirs outside of their region for future water supplies.

    If you look at any of our urbanized regions – there is not a direct correspondence between where the water supply reservoirs are – and when dense development is or is not.

    Does the location of water supply play a role in WHERE a new urban region and clear edges should or should-not be?

  46. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    Complex question.

    First, water supply is a Regional issue for both New Urban Regions and Urban Support Regions.

    Since New Urban Regions include Countryside as well as Urbanside many have resources within their Region.

    For areas that have coterminus New Urban Regions such as the area from Maine to North Caroloina the questions become more complex.

    Because many of the Cores of the New Urban Regions were originally ports (sea or navigable rivers) they have a “natural watershed” to use as a basis for allocation.

    There are a lot of ways to design and finance water supply strategies badly and there are historic examples of many unsatisfactory approaches. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and New York all have ugly water supply histories with which I am familiar.

    There are to items of good news however.

    Fairly allocating the cost of water supply will encourage conservation and pay for the water rights that may need to be transfered from basin to basin.


    Allmost all water systems in the US of A waste so much water in transmission, distribution and by end users that if the population is maintained within reasonable bounds, and rates are based on consumption, water is not as critical an issue in the US of A as it will be in the four major river systems arising in the Tibet highlands where one half of the earth’s population now lives.


  47. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    There are many factors that go into the locaiton of Clear Edges and New Urban Region Boundaries.

    In some cases water may play a role. Of the top of my head I can think of no example. Both water and sewer can be pumped if there are strong reasons to “break a divide.”

    The good news is we are now wasting so much water and have wasted so much land that there is plenty of resources and area to work with in all the cases in which we have been directly involved.


  48. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    My city of 435,000 residents get our water supply from 2 main supplies.

    (1) Those of us that have wells – use them.

    (2) Those that do not use a pipeline from Lake Gaston – in North Carolina!

    Why is it that our water is taken from a area that has nothing to do with our region – and is not even in our state?

    One reason is that Norfolk used to lay claim to all of the region’s water and used water as a “tool” to threaten other cities in our region.

    Virginia Beach got sick of the extortion and found our our own source of water. You see, “regionalism” is a form of extortion used by “core cities” to push around the surrounding suburbs.

  49. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross


    we keep hearing that NUR fundamentally is about the optimization of fair allocation of locational costs.

    If you build a place like Phonenix that is hundreds of miles away from it’s water source and could never exist in it’s current size/scope without pipelines – what does that mean?

    The same deal applies to HR/TW. Not only Lake Gaston but now Newport News want to go outside of it’s own natural watershed – also -to secure a water supply – that it says is needed for future growth.

    The obvious unanswered question thus far – is if NURs are about sustainability – then it would seem that a similiar criteria would be used for not only mobility and electricity – but water also.


    By the way – THESE are the KINDS of questions that have to have reasonable answers in terms of public understanding – if we want fundamental changes in governance – right?

  50. Freedom Works Avatar
    Freedom Works

    Larry, regarding the issue –

    “… if NURs are about sustainability…”

    Humans are interdependent, globally. Our region of interdependence includes outer space with the common use of satellites for communication, research, global positioning, and weather forecasting, etc.

    Humans have always been dependent on energy from the sun, so our essential sustainability region is quite vast. Some would argue it requires the entire universe, and a designer of infinite intelligence behind that.

    All this griping about water shows how inefficient socialism is. Two-thirds of the earth’s surface is covered in water. In Saudi Arabia, when they need more water, they build more desalination plants.

    Check out this article from a week ago, “ACWA Power Projects is proud to be participating in what is the largest privately financed water and power project that is currently under development in the world…”

    This private water desalination facility will have a capacity of 800,000 m³/day, which equates to over 200 million gallons per day. Water is a commodity like anything else. In a free market without price controls, the market will clear. More will produced as the price rises, and many individual users will find ways to consume less. There are already over 7,500 desalination plants around the world, including in the United States.

    We can have all the water we want, we just have to pay for it. Apparently that is startling information for some people who would like to use the threat of water scarcity as another means to control building more houses for humans.

    We pipe our natural gas and our gasoline all over this country. What is any different about water?

    In Fairfax County, a major source of the water in the Occoquan Reservoir is recycled treated sewage. “The UOSA plant is relatively unique in that the highly treated output from the plant supplies roughly 20% of the inflow into the Occoquan Reservoir, which provides drinking water used by the Fairfax County Water Authority. During drought periods the plant may briefly provide up to 90% of the reservoir inflow.”

    Personally, I prefer privately produced bottled drinking water instead of the public water.

  51. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    NB: The Hampton Roads New Urban Region includes part of the State of North Carolina. Even the MSA does.

    The definition of Urban Support Regions is that it provides resources for more than one New Urban Region.

    The relationship between the Upland Carolina New Urban Region and the Applacacian Urban Support Region as well as the boundaries of the later are among the more interesting issues yet to be examined.

    Phoenix is a special case that I would have noted in the earlier comment if I had time. Some interesting recent research has revelied that contemporarty Phoenix is building its cannals right on top of a ancient system built by a culture that died out thousands of years ago.

    Freedom Works:

    You are right about interdependence.

    I would be interested to know how you balance that perspective with your individual rights views to establish a balance between community responsibilities and individual rights.

    I hope you have a composting toilet to go with that bottled watter and that you recycle your containers.


  52. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    thanks for the link…

    so let me steer in between FW and EMR.

    On one hand – NUR, if not mistaken, is about configuring communities so that they are “balanced”, which means that their locational costs are not
    subsidized by others outside of that community??

    .. but NUR “support communities” are not balanced but, in fact, provide resources to other NUR that could not exist without a NUR support community?

    now I am confused… but typical for me…

    FW may be right. Va now has Public-Private enabling legislation for roads and schools and there already exist private water/sewer providers.

    What would we do if a private entity proposed to buy and operated water/sewer for TW/HR?

    I can predict the bow wave of controversy… ” we don’t want no stinkin greedy company ripping us off for water “….

    unstated thoughts: ” much better to have government run a bloated and wasteful water plant so that we all feel better that we got ripped off by incompetence than by strategy.”


  53. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    “If so, what will the new urban region pay those not living in the new urban region for using their (rural) water supply?”

    It is a good question. You might add, What will those in the NUR pay those on the outside NOT to develop. Not developing in the watershed not only protectst their water supply, but also their housing values.

    Once the density of an area increases such that the area per person is less than the true ecological footprint of what it takes to support its inhabitants, then the area is living on imported goods of all kinds.

    If they are not paying a fair price for these goods, then they are not paying theri full locational costs.

  54. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “If they are not paying a fair price for these goods, then they are not paying theri full locational costs.”

    how could that be if the private sector market provides the goods?

    or …. oh oh… are you saying that there are government-sanctioned subsidies? the big “S” word?

    how else could it be explained?

    is the solution to evolving to balanced communities to .. HORRORS – remove the govt-sanctioned subsidies?

  55. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    If you want to unconfuse yourself use the terms as defined, spelled and capitalzed.

    “New Urban Regions” are one thing.

    “Urban Support Regions” are another.

    Take a map of the US of A and draw scaled circles around the 70 largest MSAs.

    120 miles for MSAs over 8 Million

    100 miles over 4 million

    60 miles over 2 million

    50 miles under 2 million

    That is a snap shot of New Urban Regions.

    There are others down to perhaps 500,000 but do not worry about them for now.

    The Rest of the US of A is allocated among Urban Support Regions.

    There are hard questions as to what is a small New Urban Region and what is an urban agglomeration of Beta Community scale within an Urban Support Region. Think Lynchbrug, Roanoake, etc.

    Economic, social and physical parameters allow one to make good threshold judgements. Obviously old school geography plays a role.

    You get the idea.


  56. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I thinking this.

    Assume EMR has got it right – or at least he’s got it “right enough” on the macro and the rest of us are intelligent enough to see the things that are wrong – right in front of our own eyes.

    The challenge – is turning this huge ship in a different direction.

    What are the first steps to doing that?

    EMR sez it is up to citizens which is true.. but when you go to your BOS and/or elected officials – they are going to ask – “what specific things within my control should I be pursuing?”

    At that point if you start throwing the Zentroid words at him/her – they’re going to smile knowingly and put you in their crazy tree huggers files….

    LID – Low Impact Development has made progress, in part, because they went the extra mile to actually produce Model Ordinances that local officials could.. with some tweaking.. directly insert into their codes and ordinances.

    In my view – the same approach is needed for Balanced Communities.

    When enough citizen folks hold a well-defined shared vision – and they promote that to their elected leaders – change can happen.

    Until then.. lots of head scratching.

  57. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    You are very right.

    LID has made progress with model regs, so have New Urbanists with their new “Codes.” But those are regs.

    We did regs 40 years ago in historic preservation, land subdivision, regional land use controls, land use control reform. There was some improvement, but…

    As we said, those were regs. A lot of folks do not like regs.

    There is a need to develop market devices, strategies that citizens can see are fair.

    That is much harder and requires new conceptual frameworks, new Vocab, etc.

    That is what we are trying to do.

    We can only do so much, and we only have so much time left to do it so our mission is to articulate a clear path so others like you (and many, many others) can follow it, in spite of the Business-As-Usual smokescreens.


  58. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    “If they are not paying a fair price for these goods, then they are not paying theri full locational costs.”

    Today there was a special on the Science Channel in which they specifically covered the topic of paying people for “environmental services” instead of merely prohibiting certain activities. They went on to describe other market oriented appraoches to conservation.

    Some of those approaches even included selling licenses to take trophy animals.

    They gave examples from Costa Rica, Peru, India, Mongolia, and Africa. I have previously noted that New Zealand and some other countries do the same.

    Then they talked about where the money comes from. Some comes from ecotourism, but most of it comes from additional fees charged to the urban areas (for water for instance). Apparently some of the ideas I have promoted here are increasingly accepted in some places.

    The interviewed a farmer who had converted some of his cow pastures back to forest. He was able to do this because of the payments he received. He has done this long enough that he can now see and recognize the benefits of the forest.

    “What if the payments stop?” he was asked. “It would be a very sad and emotional thing for me, if I now had to cut down my forest”, he said, ” but if comes to feeding your children, what would you do?”

  59. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Ray – I have a really hard time with this concept.

    If I understand correctly, the idea is to pay people to not do behaviors that are deemed not in the best interests of society rather than having regulations against the behavior.

    or if I have it wrong – then come back and explain your general policy.

    Your concept has big problems.

    First – who would pay?

    Second – would’t your idea then encourage everyone to demand payment to not do the undesired behavior?

    third – who would pay for all of this especially if a majority of people were being paid to “be good”?

    Would we think pay people to NOT pour oil into road gutters or small streams?

    Would we pay people to NOT use illegal drugs?

    Would we pay folks to NOT speed on the highways?

    Would we pay child molesters to stop molesting?

    Please explain further how your proposed policy would work.

  60. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    The idea is that if you want to have something of value that costs money, then you need to find a way to pay for it.

    The farmer in the show was converting pasture lands where he grows cows to forest. Maybe someday the forest will make money too. In the meantime, how does he live?

    What has happened is that a new societal requirements have appeared, and these are being promoted as unfunded mandates, with real costs to those that are affected, and no costs to those that benefit.

    You can look at it as a demand not to do “undesired” behavior (cutting down forest), or you can look at it as unfunded societal consumption of other people’s goods. Confiscation, in other words.

    Now, if you want to talk about undesired behavior, confiscation would have to be high on the list.

    Clearly, pouring oil in the gutters is (now known to be) a bad idea. But, unlike our farmer friend, who made his living on cleared forest space (probably for generations) no one makes a living pouring oil in the gutters, other than hazardous waste recycling criminals. Passing an ordinance against pouring oil in the gutters isn’t taking anyone’s (formerly legitimate) livliehood or property away.

    Still, oil has got to go somewhere, and we have legal recyclers. But recycling oil is not clean either. If we regulate the recyclers to death, then we will have a lot more oil in the gutter. In other words, if you want oil recycled, it has got to be easy and profitable.

    You should see the show. I’m sure the show will be re-run, or maybe you can get a copy on video. The show explained things to me that I had only vaguely thought about, and it showed how they worked (and sometimes failed) in practice. But, it was a revelation to me to see that so many conservationsists in so many places are promoting the kinds of ideas (but much better ones) than the few feeble attempts I have made here.

    But basically it comes down to this: when the locals living aroung Africa’s game parks were able to, and learned that they were able to, and gained the skills to be able to make more money as park custodians, tour guides, hotel operators, than they could by selling bush meat, then guess what happened? Poaching went way down. It’s a clear case where conservation was successful because it was both sustainable and profitable. In effect, they were paid to stop killing and selling monkey meat.

    Rationalize it any way you like, for most things, if it doesn’t pay, it probably isn’t going to happen.

  61. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Clearly, pouring oil in the gutters is .. a bad idea. ..Passing an ordinance against pouring oil in the gutters isn’t taking anyone’s (formerly legitimate) livliehood or property away.”

    I think you picked a good example.

    but you need to tell me what differentiates a bad idea that needs a law and a bad idea than can be better delt with – with incentives.

    why would you not just pay folks who dump oil .. to not dump it in the first place?
    If I understand correctly, if instead, a fee is added on to the price of all oil changes to pay for the recycling…

    it is at this point that you would claim that an unfunded mandate was passed that caused “harm” to those whose businesses changed motor oil.

    Have I got it right?


    why would the recycler not just take the money and continue to dump the oil to maximize their profits?

    isn’t the law needed no matter because some folks will take the money AND dump the oil?

    Then finally.. if the State paid the recylce to NOT dump the oil arent’t we not just passing that cost onto taxpayers anyhow?

    Why not have the guy who is buying the oil change – pay that fee.

    Your solution seems to advocate using taxes to pay someone to not break the law.

    The “fee” solution means the customer has to pay – and then the dealer has the money to pay for his oil to be recycled – and the law punishes him if he does not.

  62. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    All I can say is, go watch the show.

    If your only interest is in not spending taxpayer money, then this idea will naturally seem strange and even perverse.

    Why pay for what you want, when you can just pass a law against what you don’t want? Even if it is a new law against previously legal activities, that obviously amounts to outright theft and wealth transfer. Let’s not let ethics, economics, or common sense get in the way of ideology and the greater good.

    Fine. What do you do when it turns out that it doesn’t work or it is even more expensive than the alternative? Every time you pass a law, it becomes a business opportunity for someone. A bounty on Butch Cassidy is a Business Opportunity for Pinkertons. Like he said in the movie, “If they’d pay me the bounty, I’d stop robbin banks!”

    Big business is more than happy to have us help line their pockets by passing rules that keep the little guy out.

    All I’m suggesting is that we can afford to recognize that conservation is not free: someone always pays the costs. We just need to be a little smarter about how the money is directed.

    A little bit of local money is good PR for THE PLAN but stepping on a lot of little local people is not.

    Take the oil example. We pass arule that says the oil changers have to have to save the oil for the recyclers. This is a boon for the recyclers. But then we have some big oil spills occasioned by crappy tanks.

    So then we require a double bottom tank with leak detectors, and manifests to show the amount of oil in and oil out, and to whom. Then we go check up on Whom. And we find out that oil recycling is a dirty business, so we pass laws to prevent pollution there.

    So now we have bureaucrats to chase the oil, and oil changes cost alot more. More people resort to self administered oil changes. The oil chnager don’t want yu dumping your home projects in their expensive tank.

    Guess what happens?

    As soon as they started charging to take tires to the dump, I noticed more tires in the ditches.

  63. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    You are one smart cookie!

    Without knowing what is upstream, you have stepping in with all the right questions.

    The concept is “Free Market Environmentalism” it is supported by a number of right of center and far right of center interests and scholars.

    The originators at the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman Montana ( deserve a lot of credit for a number of good ideas and fresh approaches.


    There is a limited range of really good applications — places where some rich folks are willing to pay to hunt or fish or etc. and some not so rich folks who are willing to stop doing what they were doing (and make more money not doing it).

    The strategy fits a model of a 19th century agrarian society with 20 % urban population and wide-spread comfort with the Wealth Gap between the urban and nonurban population.

    In a society where 96 % of the citizens are urban and 85% need to live on 5 % of the land and where the Wealth Gap / Mass Over/Consumption will lead to revolution if not addressed soon it is only a small part of the path to a sustainable trajectory for civilization.

    In the literature there is no discussion of the Balance needed between community responsiblities and individual rights.

    We plan to address this issue in more depth, but after TRILO-G is completed.


  64. Anonymous Avatar

    Having been called ignorant by EMR for liking organic settlement patterns (not understanding his work) and also having been chastised for liking the message in Chaucer, with that disclaimer, I will note that the ownership structures in the medieval world used the village green as a functional concept. The meeting of community and personal rights is endemnic in the village green.

    This concept was essentially a tribal concept; however in tribal structure ruling entites were usually individuals given hereditary rights. Ergo a balance between commmunity rights and individual rights, was essentially based on economic realities.

    This medieval world is now alien to ours; productivity and technology have created a world of individuals and communities have become luxuries written about in magazines celebrating “chic” places. Not in all places, of course, but in those reared in suburban America, the community has become an abstract concept more closely aligned to those who sit on the HOA board.

    We pay lipservice to community when buying homes but it may not be something that we can buy; however it more than likely is something that individuals think that they can buy.

    Fundamental change comes with economic reality or changes in power structures. Do we really want to lose our current power structures to those individuals who would rule in a new arena and simply change the rules of selling? Not to mention the value and definition of what is being sold?

    I agree with Ray Hyde. We can never surpoass the wisdom of many individual choices in cohort. But forcing choices and limiting options by government fiat is akin to yet another stamp act.

    Freedom is more important than conservation. Mea culpa to those here who do love conservation. I love it too but won’t through away our freedom.

  65. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    interesting discussion.

    when we manufacturer a tire, why do we not consider the cost of it’s disposal to not be a legitimate part of the cost?

    Disposing of a tire improperly imposes a cost on others – who eventually will have to pay to clean it up.

    Using Ray’s argument – it would be cheaper for people to not pay the trash hauler to remove their trash but instead to dump it in a nearby ditch.

    And that is his rationale for paying those folks to NOT dump their trash in the ditch.

    The problem is – what if we paid EVERYONE not to dump their trash in the ditch?

    We’d then had two big problems:

    1. – where would we get the money to pay EVERYBODY to not dump the trash?

    2. – where would we get the money to pay someone to take it out of the ditches and haul it to the dump?

    Well.. I admit it.. I’m bamfoozled by this logic.

    I’m sure I must be missing something here and that it can be explained so I’ll better understand where I have gone wrong on my logic.

  66. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Anon Again and Again:

    “Having been called ignorant by EMR for liking organic settlement patterns …”

    The New Urban Region Conceptual Framework is based on the organic reality of human settlement patterns.

    If you just read a little of our work you would not have launched the original attack on where we live and what we have done or are not doing.

    “and also having been chastised for liking the message in Chaucer,”

    I have no problem with Chaucer or his message in the context of his life and times.

    “… the ownership structures in the medieval world used the village green as a functional concept. The meeting of community and personal rights is endemnic in the village green.”

    You are confusing “village green” with “village common.”

    Given that level of disconnect between reality and your perspectives is is hard to make any connection with what you say.

    That is a shame because you may have some helpful perspectives not often heard in this forum.

    Community and the need for a Balance between Community responsibilities and private rights is not dead.

    The market in 2007 cries out for community at all scales and in every context including those who love old houses.

    Driven by hardwired genetic proclivities, citizens flock to any place they think they can achieve “real” community.

    With the current settlment patterns what they find are not even shadows on the walls of Plato’s cave.

    Please that a cold shower and come back when your head is clear.


    As I said earler, there is good reason for your bamfoozlement.

    The pay me to stop doing what I am doing scheme only works in a few narrow cases.

    That does not keep those with over inflated views of the value of their assets, time or activities from loving the idea of being paid to take actions for which there is no market.


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