At 8:46 PM, Anonymous said…

“M. Risse’s comments about settlement patterns have a deep foundation of irony for me because he lives in one of those giant houses in a small lot in a modern subdivision rather than in the city or in a place more consistent with his perspectives.

“I am a preservationist, and I live and put my wallet there, albeit I do not sell books about it.

“One can write a book advocating no alcohol but still drink. The reader may never know; does it matter?”

The work of SYNERGY/Planning is centered on a branch of science that is not yet widely understood. For this reason, the experience and veracity of spokespersons is critical. An off-hand statement such as this is deceptive, damaging and requires a factual response.

Let us examine the statement of Anon 8:46 in detail:

“M. Risse’s comments about settlement patterns have a deep foundation of irony for me because he lives in one of those giant houses in a small lot in a modern subdivision rather than in the city or in a place more consistent with his perspectives.”

What is “ironic” is that Anon 8:46 has no idea about what he / she speaks.

“… he lives in one of those giant houses in a small lot in a modern subdivision rather than in the city or in a place more consistent with his perspectives.”

As an overview, if Anon 8:46 had any idea of the parameters of functional human settlement patterns he would know that this “place” – this Dooryard (Derby Way), this Cluster (Menlough), this Neighborhood (Culpeper / Menlough / Hospital Hill), this Village (Greater Warrenton) and this Community (Greater Warrenton-Fauquier) is / are fully consistent with our perspectives.

He / She would also know we recommend never using the term “city” because the use of the word, other than as part of the legal name of a municipality, generates confusion about the structure and function of human settlement patterns and compounds Geographic Illiteracy and Spacial Ignorance.

We will deal with “giant” house and “modern subdivision” below but first some history.


Over first 32 years of our life we lived in 21 dwellings from Puerto Rico to Hawaii. Two were built by my father, six were historic structures. The dwellings ranged in context from a flat over a bakery in Old San Juan to a log house backing up to forest and mountains that stretched for 135 miles – Flathead National Forest Service / Bob Marshal Wilderness / Sun River Game Preserve.

The first house I purchased was a Queen Anne on Maple Street in a small college town from which I could walk to work. When our oldest child could kick a soccer ball into the flower beds we moved to a Planned New Community.

Over the next 30 years I lived in Single Family Attached Dwellings in three Planned New Communities. The cluster density averaged 30 persons per acre and the community density averaged 10 persons per acre. These places had the elements of good places to raise a family that we list in our column “A YARD WHERE JOHNNY CAN RUN AND PLAY.” These were not just places to live but places where we worked and where we evolved the concepts found in our writing.

We were living in a Planned New Community when the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo provided a dramatic view of the future. We did everything we could to cut our energy consumption and reduce what is now termed our ecological footprint. Our family activities, mobility choices and lifestyle were featured on the front page of the community newspaper. When someone says put your money where your mouth is – been there, done that.

The problem was that very few others did what we did. We drove the old rabbit until our employer said he was embarrassed that a senior executive in his firm was driving such a ratty old car. He bought us Porsche.


When we completed The Shape of the Future in 2000 we spent the better part of two years looking for the best place to live next. I have a hearing loss due to military service and noise bothers me. While well located from many perspectives Fairfax Center near the confluence of I-66, US Route 50 and Fairfax Parkway is a very loud place due to the tire howl of traffic on these routes. The political erosion of the original Fairfax Center plan was also a pain to live with.

We considered places from Chincoteague, MD to Shepherdstown WV and from Southern PA to Charlottesville. Due to our regional, national and international work, a location in the Washington-Baltimore New Urban Region and not too far from Dulles was ideal.

After settling on a place in the Piedmont of Virginia we surveyed half a dozen urban enclaves and choose Greater Warrenton. We drew quarter and half mile radii from the Court House and looked at every building for sale. Early 2002 was not a time where there were a lot of houses on the market. We wanted to be within 1/4 mile of Main Street but could not find a building that would meet our needs.

I had not lived in a single family detached dwelling for 30 years and when we could not find an attached dwelling or other suitable structure, one of the tradeoffs was that a single family detached dwelling would provide an opportunity to further our research and broaden our experience. Those who read our work will be finding out what we have learned in TRILO-G. Some of it may surprise you, it did me.



The house at 124 Derby Way is a “used house” and about average for its age and price range. It is not “giant” by any stretch. It is in the mid 3,000s sq ft on three floors depending on what is counted. There are two bedrooms. The lower level is devoted to our office and a large studio with conference space and four work stations for the different tasks involved in our work. There is also a map and file room, a storage closet, etc. The third level is devoted to my partner and wife’s office, studio and a guest room. We live on the first floor although that is also where the main office library is located.

The lot is one fifth of an acre and provides an opportunity to understand the benefits and burdens of living in a single family detached dwelling. It is the first time I have had an attached garage and it serves as a shop. If you have an Autonomobile, an attached garage is a fine thing.

The travel generated by the dwelling is minimal. We hold some meetings here. We meet with our assistant who lives in Greater Warrenton once a week. We communicate via email and she picks up work when she is out anyway running errands. No commuting, thank you. We have two vehicles and drive them a total of less than 5,000 miles per year. The vehicles consume far less than our per capita share energy and meet our personal safety and comfort needs.


When I first saw Menlough, years before we purchased the house on Derby Way, my first impression was that it was too low in density and too far from Main Street. We have found living here has given us the opportunity to help solve some horticultural problems for the cluster and test governance concepts at the cluster scale.

A Three Cluster Neighborhood:

What is not apparent from first glance is that Menlough is one of three clusters making up one of the only Planned Unit Developments in Greater Warrenton-Fauquier. These clusters contain most of the dwellings in the Neighborhood. The other clusters are small single family dwellings primarily on one level marketed to empty nesters and single family attached dwellings.

The primary amenity of the Planned Unit Development is the pathway system. Right across from our driveway is a pathway that leads to a number of attractive walking opportunities and provides access to the community hospital (which has a very nice restaurant – Bistro On The Hill – open to the public), the town police station where cluster and other public meetings are held, a hardware store / lumber yard, laundry, pizza shop, 2 convenience stores, a veterinarian, dentist, orthopedic practice, an optometrist, auto repair / inspection, tattoo shop, a floor covering store, an office building, etc. Over the past five years we have had occasion to use many of these services including the tattoo shop. Main street is a hike of half a mile but not beyond question on foot.

The Village:

The Town of Warrenton, Greater Warrenton and Greater Warrenton-Fauquier provide a great laboratory for considering the role of urban enclaves in the evolution of Balanced But Disaggregated Communities. They provide opportunities for innovation as our current column “The Conservation Imperative” suggests.

At this point in my life – approaching 70 – the most important thing is have a pleasant place to complete our work. When we complete TRILO-G we may move to a single family attached dwelling, having learned about as much as we can from single family detached dwellings.


Anon 8:46 said: “I am a preservationist, and I live and put my wallet there, albeit I do not sell books about it.”

I count myself a preservationist as well. We co-founded and served as professional staff for a ground breaking regional preservation effort, authored a regional historic architecture guide, authored the first state historic preservation plan drafted under the National Historic Preservation Act, contributed to the rescue of several historic buildings including a sugar mill on a small Caribbean island, etc,. I do not happened to have been married to a person who wanted to take on the challenge of living in and restoring a historic structure (aside from the sugar mill) when that opportunity arose. Does this mean I could not write a book about preservation?

“One can write a book advocating no alcohol but still drink. The reader may never know; does it matter?”

This snide remark implies our work is not based on experience and is taking money under false pretenses.


You might want to buy a few copies of TRILO-G and distribute them to your preservationist friends. Without a sustainable future, preservation is a futile effort.


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  1. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    EMR, you are 70? And you were in the military?

    That revelation explains a great deal to me.

    Now I understand a lot better why you appear to have so little real understanding of the terrific life that children can have growing up in suburban neighborhoods.

    In fact, the history you provided here explains a great deal about your views.

    I will have to say, you might want to rethink your dismissive arrogance because the world doesn’t subscribe to your terms.

    “City”, regardless of if you like the term or not – is a perfectly good term.

    Conversely, your desire to force a new lexicon on everyone else often fails to actually communicate your point.

    Maybe you need to step off the ivory tower and express yourself in a manner that fits in with a wider readership?

    I am a very precise technical professional.

    If I were to use precise industry terms on public blogs I doubt that all but a handful of folks would have any clue as to what I am talking about. I can hear their frustration now if I used some of the terms you insist the world conform to – “Gosh, what is a “Alpha Region” again. What exactly does the term “region” mean????

    While you condescendingly roll your eyes at those that use the term “city” or “suburb”, imagine how many every day folks roll their eyes when you write stuff like this:

    The Town of Warrenton, Greater Warrenton and Greater Warrenton-Fauquier provide a great laboratory for considering the role of urban enclaves in the evolution of Balanced But Disaggregated Communities.

    Sure, both us might be brilliant and precise in our use of technical language – but we would also fail to communicate to our readers because we insisting that they learn a language that they don’t use in their day-to-day lives.

    Moving on …

    Where you and I often have disagreement is what I perceive as your failure to fully appreciate the benefits of living in neighborhoods that don’t satisfy your desire to organize the world to your “vision” of perfect human settlement patterns.

    You see, I truly value freedom.

    Freedom of mobility. Freedom to choice who I travel with, when I travel, and how I chose to travel. Freedom to live with people I want to live with, not people I am forced to suffer with – as in the desire of urban planners and the run-amuck “Social Justice” crowd that seek to force “multiculturalism” and “socio-economic justice” and “diversity” on folks.

    EMR, I have lived in great cities around the world. (Sorry, but they were “cities” – regardless of if you think that term would only be used by ignorant masses that failed to “educate themselves” regarding the lingo that you and other urban planner types ascribe to)

    I could have said “ontological taxonomy” (or some other precise term referring to language) instead of “lingo”, but “lingo” is more easily and widely understood … see?

    (I can envision you now – “ontological”, why that doesn’t apply to this discussion! Actually, is does – but YOU might not appreciate how.) Gosh, that sound pretty arrogant and condescending of me, doesn’t it? Remind you of anyone? Gee … one can make a pretty good case that the ordering of human settlement patterns are a logical progression due to the synergy between nature and human beings … but I digress.

    Anyway, as I wrote, I have lived in cities.

    I also was blessed to have had the opportunity to live in rural America, on a working Dairy Farm.

    I have lived in “planned communities”. (I have also lived in over planned communities).

    I have lived in subdivisions surrounded by what are often referred to as “sprawl development”. You know, those “ring cities” of hideous, “auto-centric” strip malls and drab cookie-cutter development that many people disparage?

    I now live in a fairly unique place. That being Sandbridge Beach in Virginia Beach VA. It is different from the majority of communities. It is not only seasonal, but it is a blend of fulltime residents (many retired), part time mega-wealthy “escape home” owners that live far away, tourists from across North America that rent massive beach “homes”, and folks like my family – everyday middle class working families that have not yet sold our homes because we can no longer afford to live here.

    The point I am making is that I have benefited from the choices I have had. I have can appreciate the terrific aspects of the cornucopia of neighborhoods I have been a resident of. I can appreciate the ‘downside’ each forced me to deal with. Long commutes often being a common thread.

    What I am beginning to appreciate about you is that you have a profession that allows you to live close to where you work, and yet to live well. You also have a wife with similar opportunities. You professions appear to have resulted in a situation whereby your wife’s job wasn’t 30 miles away from your job.

    You appear to have been able to afford to live where you desired to live.

    You are blessed.

    A great percentage of the population is not as fortunate as you and your family.

    You were able to purchase a nice place to live very close to where you and your wife worked, so both of you could walk to work – and work at home.

    That is not a reality for a great many individuals or families.

    Many of us do the best we can.

    You stated that noise bothers you – so you want to live in a quiet place.

    Gosh, I don’t know too many folks that want to live in a loud place.

    But if you worked at an airport, and you wanted to walk to work – oh well, those “human settlement patterns” just wouldn’t “work” for you, now would they?

    You see – you’d have to decide if it more important to you to walk to your job at the airport — or to live far enough away so your home is quiet.

    I wonder what you would choose?

  2. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Mr. Greenmun:

    Thank you for thaking the time to write your long response.

    When I have a moment I will read it with care and perhaps respons further.

    Right now some quick items:

    I may be old and out of touch but my views of functional settlement patterns are based on what the market values this year, last week, today.

    Recall I spent 40 years building and managing places where people wanted to live and work. The developers and builders I worked for and with have made billions selling to the majority of folks who think differently than you.

    I am not saying you are wrong in the way you feel, I am saying that in the market, the vast majority, when given the opportunity, vote with their dollars for a different outcome.

    As an aside, with functional settlement patterns, younger generations could enjoy the best of “new” entertainment and still come to understand the functions of the natural world and get healthful exercise.

    As to vocabulary: You could find smart folks who said what you do about human settlement pattern when discussing human health 500 years ago, 50 years ago and last week.

    The smart money is on citizens coming to understand the parameters of maintaining good health and that takes more than “I have an ouchy in my tummy.”

    One last thing: Those great urban places in which you have lived? The folks who manage them refer to them as “regions,” “zentrums of regions,” “urban agglomerations,” etc.
    They translate them into “city” for american tourists.

    Check out the literature of the EU as it evolved over the last 50 years from the Common Market.

    Check out the roadside markers throughout the EU for a roster of the components of human settlement pattern in which any one place is located.

    Much of the vocabulary we use is already in use in other parts of the Globe.


  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: military childhoods

    I too am a military brat as they say and part of where EMR is coming from .. MAY if it matches my experience… and MAY if it does not match others experience .. explain .. more.

    When I was a kid.. my Dad would get transferred every 2 or 3 years, often to places that were far enough away from civilian amenities that the military would essentially – plan and build – self-contained – COMPACT – communities where folks COULD walk and bike from where they lived on base housing to the Commissary (the military’s term for super market) or the Exchange (the military’s term for Drug Store).

    There were ball fields, bowling, theatres, a gym.. where you could check out canoes to go paddling or a golf course.

    At some of these bases, there was no reason to go off base at all. Some even had schools.

    Folks may have read a few months back about how Fort Belvoir built a mixed-use compact development where folks could live, work and shop… so the military still does some of this in some places though it has become very expensive and they no longer duplicate facilities that are close by outside the gates.

    I remember back .. to that time and often think.. “why can’t we plan and design communities like the military does”?

    I think it’s a valid question – still – at least in part – in my opinion.

    But I caveat it greatly… because of real-world realities that occur outside of military base gates…

    Back then.. there were no WalMarts per se but the combination of the Commissary and Exchange.. came close.

    The problem was .. that there was no competition. No matter how good a job the folks who ran that facility were – there was no competition to challenge them to provide better selections of merchandise – at low prices.

    Everything was essentially determined by edict….

    and that’s where I tend to get a little unsettled when EMR proposes “fundamental change” that does not come from people and businesses making voluntary choices but rather from dictate from those who “know how to plan”.

    Dialogue is important to me. No one is right about everything and everyone should be open to understanding what others advocate – and none of us should arbitrarily dismiss out of hand – ideas that we have trouble understanding.

    I will agree completely with the idea that.. no matter how good an idea is – it’s not worth much if it is not communicated to those who need to understand it – if change is to occur.

    If we want the idea to become reality – then we need others beyond the academics to agree.

    and the silly thing is that many, really dumb products and candidates get “bought” by false advertising.. and yet when we talk about real concepts for change we do really, really awful.. with the “advertising”.

  4. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Larry, Above, you wrote: “I tend to get a little unsettled when EMR proposes ‘fundamental change’ that does not come from people and businesses making voluntary choices but rather from dictate from those who ‘know how to plan’.”

    What has EMR proposed that would violate the precept of consumer sovereignty — the right of people to make voluntary choices about where to live, work, play, etc.?

    I hear your criticism echoed over and over, not just by you but by many other contributors to this blog. I’ve known EMR for nearly 20 years, and I’ve been editing his Bacon’s Rebellion columns for nearly five, and I don’t know what you’re talking about. How does *un*doing dysfunctional land use regulations violate consumer sovereignty? It should open up *more* choices for consumers. How does eliminating subsidies for “sprawl” (dysfunctional human settlement patterns) violate the rights of anyone but those who benefit from those subsidies? How does transforming outdated governance structures to match the realities of 21st-century human settlement patterns
    restrict anyone’s freedom of choice?

    Please, quote me chapter and verse. I don’t think you can. I suspect that you and others are unconsciously reading your own preconceptions, based on solutions that many in the “smart growth” community favor, into what EMR is saying. But EMR is critical of many “smart growth” nostrums as well.

    So, with all due appreciation for your lively contribution to this blog, I repeat the request in the form of a challenge. How, exactly, would the implementation of EMR’s ideas diminish freedom of choice? (I open that question up to anyone else who shares Larry’s concern.)

  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    this one is easy.

    it’s omission.

    we ask: “how will this work”

    and the response is “fundamental change is necessary”.

    define “fundamental change” in terms of process.

    If it is market-based – user pays – then I am happy.

    If it is .. planning dictates then I’m not.

    I’ve tried to ask the question in many round-a-bout ways to allow EMR to weigh in with more specifics and to fess up as whether the plan is primarily market-based or primarily government-dictate-based or if a hybrid or .. something else…

    so I issue a challenge back to Jim Bacon.

    Without help/prompting from EMR – you TELL US what YOU THINK EMR is advocating in terms of process.

    Because if you can do that – then I’ll admit.. I have not been paying close enough attention.

    However, if you cannot – then you join me in shared ignorance ..



  6. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Nice try, Larry, You were the one who made the criticism. It’s up to you to back it up.

  7. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’m asking the question.

    I’ve made comments (criticisms?) along the lines that I felt that fundamental change by government dictate would not be a good thing in my opinion.

    I was hoping that by making such comments, that we’d get some fuller disclosure about the process for Fundamental Change and perhaps some major reassurance that it would not happen by government dictate by rather by ….(fill in the blanks).

    And if you think about this – if I don’t know the process.. and I have misgivings about the lack of detail/disclosure then how would I become a supporter and/or advocate?

    How could I support something I do not fully understand?

    How could any of us?

    So again… is the issue one of a simple lack of connecting the appropriate information so we all sit here stupid and unable to have the condition alleviated?

    Can we please see all see all the parts of the elephant?

    so my “criticism” is that I’m not hearing a concise answer to exactly how Fundamental Change should occur and I think that is a fair criticism but I’m willing to listen to others judge that criticism.

  8. Freedom Works Avatar
    Freedom Works


    I think Larry is asking the right question.

    You wrote, “How does *un*doing dysfunctional land use regulations violate consumer sovereignty?”

    But the real question is: Is EMR for abolishing government control of zoning in favor of a truly free market in human settlement patterns so we can have true consumer sovereignty, or does EMR simply want to replace existing land use regulations with his vision of what land use regulations should be?

  9. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Larry, If you don’t understand what EMR means by “fundamental change,” that’s fair enough. It’s an incredibly complex topic, and elucidation of EMR’s ideas requires the writing of another book. But take care not to mischaracterize that which you do not understand.

    I’m speaking for myself now, as one who is influenced by EMR’s thinking, not for EMR himself.

    What is Fundamental Change? It is:

    (1) Rethinking zoning codes from top to bottom. Some zoning is necessary, but prevailing codes are far too restrictive. They mandate “sprawl” development (and by sprawl, I refer to segregated land uses, mandated low densities, and disconnected, pod-style development). The goal should be to make it easier for developers to build the kinds of projects that the marketplace has demonstrated a preference for. The idea would *NOT* be to substitute one zoning code with another and force people to live according to some new vision.

    (2) Creating a level playing field by making people/businesses pay location-variable costs for utilities, roads and public services. The current “sprawl” paradigm is heavily subsidized. The idea would not be to subsidize “smart growth” but to let all development patterns compete on an equal basis. If there were a level playing field, I would argue, the marketplace would shift towards more “smart growth” projects. But there would be nothing to stop people from living in traditional suburban communities of shopping centers and cul de sac subdivisions if that’s what they wanted and were willing to pay for.

    (3) Revamping agricultural-era governance structures to conform to the human settlement patterns of a post-industrial society. To my mind, that means creating metropolitan-wide regional governments to deal with issues of regional import, and it means a re-balancing of powers between regional and local governments. (EMR would go so far, I believe, as to create neighborhood-level governments.) The logic is to put the government responsibility (schools, roads, planning, safety, etc.) at the level at which it is most appropriately delivered.

    (4) Creating Balanced Communities. This is the one area where an element of planning is necessary, but I think that the level of planning could well be less obtrusive than the “planning” that takes place today. Indeed, it would be a proactive form of planning in contrast to the reactive planning that takes place today. By building transportation and utility infrastructure and permitting greater densities where the marketplace will support it, local governments can steer development into areas where roads, utilities and public services can be most efficiently provided. The idea would be to create communities where the vast majority (not all, just most) of human needs can be obtained locally. That includes most shopping, services, schools, health care, parks and recretation, houses of worship, etc. It also includes a balance between housing and jobs, while recognizing that there will always be some people who have to commute outside their Balanced Community. Transportation systems — roads, mass transit, etc. — would be designed to support the activity of these “apha” communities, and to interconnect them.

    As Ray Hyde has observed, societies and economies are dynamic by nature. Balanced communities would not be frozen into place. They would be dynamic, constantly evolving entities. The job of perfecting Balanced Communities would never be done. Likewise, governance structures — the most ossified institutions in the United States — would have to be reinvented to be more flexible and dynamic than they are today.

  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross


    There have been some hints.

    For instance, in the discussion, there has been mention that the current Governance structure would probably have to change.

    That is not a minor change by any stretch of the imagination.

    Also – we have discussed Regional Governance, Regional Comprehensive Plans, Regional Transportation Plans, etc.

    All of these things … without further explanation with respect to Fundamental Change .. in my mind .. beg the issue.

    so .. we need the Wizard to have us come back behind the curtains for a tour….


  11. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    Thank you for the help.


    I have been working on this set of complex issues for over 40 years.

    One of the shortcomings of the Blog format and Blog attentions spans is that the participants want instant responses that address the issue in the context of their question.

    Not possilbe. That is why politicians hide behind sound bites.

    With respiect to governance changes Jim has mentioned some key issues but he overarching framework requires starting from the fundamentals.

    We have a book on that.

    If you want to see how governance transition would work there is a sketch in The Shape of Richmonds Future.

    If you read that column with care most of your questions would be answered.

    I cannot, and no one can rewrite everything they have done in response to every question.

    Some of it is up to you.

    By the way my father was a farmer, a plumber and what in western Montana is called a woodsman. I was in the military for a short but meaningful time as an intelligece and security officer.


  12. Groveton Avatar

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the only places in the real world that exhibit the characteristics of what some people on this site call “functional settlement patterns” achieve that result through broad, tight, overwhelming government control.

    Germany is a fine example of this. Specifically, Frankfurt and the towns that surround that city. Specifically, Kronberg if you want an example.

    There is no suburban sprawl because the government will not allow you to develop large tracts of land surrounding Frankfurt. By using regulation to severly limit the ability of land owners to sub-divide their land or to expand the size of exissting houses they achieve what some on this board espouse.

    People live in haouses on large grass covered lots in the Washington suburbs because that’s where they want to live. There are plenty of town homes, mixed use communities (like Reston town center), etc. However, being Americans and being free to do what they want with limited government interference – they do what they want. Namely, they buy homes on big grass covered lots and drive a long way to and from work.

    The “functional settlement” theory is a closet socialist argument with heavy NIMBY undertones.

    In fact, the only way to get people to stop doing what they observably want to do and start loving “functional settlement patterns” is to have the government forbid people from doing what they observably want to do.

    And, of course, this is exactly what the closet socialists and NIMBYs really want.

    Mr. Bacon – my points are clear. You and Mr. Risse want to put us on a path of much greater governmental control of our lives. If not, please provide a single city-level example of where “functional settlement patterns” have been achieved without strong government regulation. And, I’ll apologize in advance for using the term city-level but I left my EMR / English, English / EMR dictionary at work.

  13. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I sort of come at this a little different.

    I don’t expect instant and complete answers…

    but when I saw Regional Governance per existing processes – MSAs and the response is that MSA’s are “wrong” for planning and for governance.. then fine… show me a different path.. even if all these details are not worked out.

    For instance, we have planning districts and MPOs and now Regional Transportation Authorities in NoVa and HR/TW – and I can virtually guarantee you that next year – more regions are going to come forward to get their own Transportation Authorities.

    These things are happening now – and their impacts on planning will extend for decades – probably beyond most of our lifespans…

    so.. what should we have done instead? … OR .. what can we do right now.. even in small but significant ways to deal with the perceived adverse and un-sustainable policies?

    What should we advocate for at the NEXT General Assembly?

    What should I advocate for in my Region or in my locality?

    I know that all of these things cannot be supplied in quickly or completely an online Blog format but the basic elements can.. and especially those apparent inconsistencies and more serious doubts and questions – addressed at least in a form that would encourage further reading to get the “details”.

    And again.. I don’t mean to beat up on EMR… as I actually do agree that things like commuting 50 miles from the suburbs – is not sustainable.. not without change.

    If someone has a proposal for change – even Fundamental Change – then … it’s NOT what the vision is – like Balanced Communities – it’s HOW we get there… baby steps first.. then on and on and so forth.. to the more difficult challenges..

    .. but you gotta articulate the challenges and the approaches to those challenges.. in my mind.

    laying down a vision without much of a hint as to how to achieve that vision… … well… sigh.. I have to leaves me wanting a bit.

    so I do apologize if I have ruffled the feathers too severely.

    Dialgoue is good but it is not so hot.. if it results in hard feelings and ultimately less dialogue.

  14. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    IRT: “I’ll apologize in advance for using the term city-level but I left my EMR / English, English / EMR dictionary at work.

    Was that the “Alpha” edition, or the balanced, aggregate beta edition?


  15. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    One last time Groveton:

    You show me a place where the market has been allowed to work and the costs of alternatives are fairly allocated and I will show you functional settlement patterns.

    In some cases, such as in the Frankfurt New Urban Region (or in Sweden, Italy, Austria ….) where government stepped in, there are examples of “more functional settlement patterns” but they are not as effecient as they could be if the market was allowed to meet the needs of well-informed citizens seeking to maximize their household and enterprise best interst. To create this “level playing field” citizens must be served by a functional democratice governace structue but that is not draconian government control.

    Please do not leave home without you dictionary, you will needed it in the market and in the voting booth to make the decisions that best meet your needs.

    As Jim Bacons has noted, show us a place where we advocate something different.

    Just because you cannot yet grasp what we are talking abou, does not mean it cannot come to pass.

    As we note in Chapter 18 of The Shape of the Future, some of the best places to see the outline of what we suggest is in the large Planned New Communites that were allowed to evolve following the original investors programs.


  16. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    … reminder..

    hammer on ideas
    respect people

  17. Groveton Avatar

    Once again Mr. Risse – every example you cited is from a socialist leaning country where the government has imposed draconian regulation to achieve your objective of “functional settlement patterns”. That same draconian approach has led to very high taxes and consistently high unemployment.

    The only way you are ever going to get to your nirvana of “functional settlement patterns” is through heavy handed government regulation.

    To Mr. Bacon’s credit he has proposed a multi-pronged approach to improvement.

    1. Redo the zoning regulations to encourage better development.

    That sounds promising. I’d ask two questions:

    a) Why are the current zoning laws so bad? Incompetence? Vested interests?
    b) Where in the US is there an example of good zoning laws?

    2. Make people pay for their decisions on settlement. Mr. Bacon believes that the current sprawl paradigm is heavily subsidized. This is one of those arguments that sounds a lot better than it is. The key argument is that the current sprawl is heavily subsidized. Given that sprawl almost always is used in the context of suburban sprawl, I’ll infer that the suburbs are being subsidized. Now, that’s just not true. It’s the suburban tax base that propping up this nearly bankrupt state. I have a better idea – let the suburbs solve their own “sprawl problem” by letting them keep all of the taxes paid by their citizens. The suburbs could then make local decisions regarding what priorities to fund. If we fail to fix sprawl or if we fail to educate our children we’ll have only ourselves to blame. The suburbs generaate plenty of tax revenue. They just don’t get to keep it.

    3. Institute regional governments and maybe even neighborhood governments. Rarely does more government make anything better. The first question, of course, is paying for these new, multiple layers of government. I am guessing that the logic would be (as usual) for the state to take all the money and then dole it back to the local governments as it sees fit. If that’s the plan – no way. It would just be another way for the politicos in Richmond to steal money from the people in the suburbs. If, instead, the local governments were able to keep all the taxes paid by the citizens of that locality and spend those taxes on the priorities of that local government – I’d say absolutely.

    4. Creating balanced communities. This is where the closet socialism comes in. If people were demanding high density balanced communities – then that’s what developers would have been building. Instead, people are demanding low density suburban neighborhoods. That’s why the developers build these neighborhoods. You talk about making people pay for their low density decisions. That’s a challenging idea. Isn’t a person who buys and lives in a $1M home probably paying taxes sufficient to pay for all the services he / she receives? Of course they are. What you really want to do is apply penal taxes to discourage people from wanting low density housing. The people in the expensive, low density houses out in the suburbs are already paying more than their fair share of taxes. You don’t want cost matching, you want penalties. Just like in Germany when you want to tear down an old house and build a new, bigger house. You pay a penal level of taxes. It has nothing to do with matching taxes to costs. It has everything to do with penalties to discourage land use decisions that people want but the government doesn’t.

    Forced to chose between more government levels, more regulation, more taxes or staying with what we’ve got – I’ll stay with what we’ve got.

  18. Groveton Avatar

    Oh yeah, I almost forgot this from your post, “You show me a place where the market has been allowed to work and the costs of alternatives are fairly allocated and I will show you functional settlement patterns.”

    To the best of my ability to decypher this I think you want me to show you a place where the market has been allowed to work and the costs of alternatives are fairly allocated. At least that’s what I think you want. With these kinds of statements – who really knows what they mean?

    But – if you’re looking for a “functional settlement pattern” – I’d suggest (again) the Lincoln Park section of the City of Chicago.

    Maybe it would be worth trying to figure out how that neighborhood got to be so well organized.

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    M. Risse, from my perspective, what was lovely historic Warrenton has been ruined from a contextual perspective by all these new subdivision, Menlough included.

    Give me a Morroccan souk any day.

    The phrase “human settlement patterns” should focus on the “human” rather than on the pattern. As a history buff, my love is for what has come from humanity.

  20. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I think Groveton has important points.

    but I’m not sure I agree that folks who buy houses pay all the associated costs.

    We all know that it takes a very expensive house to pay sufficient taxes to offset it’s infrastructure and services costs.

    We also know that some one who drives 100 miles a day to/from work is paying around less than $3 for the road… that is a LOT cheaper than an equivalent road that charged per user – the pro-rata share of the allocated costs.

    But having said that – I’m not really sure exactly what the impact will be of putting HOT lanes in place for 100 mile a day commuters.

    My quess is that they will keep their suburban homes.. and find a cheaper way to commute.. possibly even switch from SOV to HOV… but NOT move closer to work.

    So THEN .. what will the SPRAWL argument be?

    Is SPRAWL what Groveton said it was – folks with fancy homes (cut out of the forested rural countryside)… who oppose the cutting of the forests and fields around their subdivisions for more homes like the ones they live in?

    I’m always amused to hear folks at local hearings who say with genuine rightgeous indignation that “had they known” that the woods behind THEIR subdivision would be cut down to build more houses like their own .. that they would have NEVER bought their home!

    So .. they bring their NIMBY arguments.. about killing all the critters in those woods… “ruining” the “viewshed”, overtaxing the water resources, “gridlocking” the roads, etc, etc…

    I have my issues with who pays and why but exactly WHERE would these folks have these other folks go live?

    Oh.. I forget.. they’re SUPPOSED to go live in a compact development cheek-by-jowl with other of the same ILK.

    So.. Smart Growth if for all those folks who would have a tendancy to SPRAWL if you gave them half a chance.

    Some folks .. call this attitude “anti people”.

    I’m not so severe. I just call it human nature…

    Oh.. and the folks who fight SPRAWL… has anyone noticed.. they already have THEIR house?

    Can we grow better? do more intelligent planning and better link land-use and transportation?

    You bet we can – but we cannot get there by hypocritically demonizing others.. who are doing no more than what we ourselves have done.

  21. Groveton Avatar


    Spot on comments. The NIMBYs always already have their house. They also already have their money. So, in their minds, who cares about additional housing or continued economic development.

    Here’s an installment of NIMBYs in the News. A perfect example:

  22. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Well, you have to hand it to EMR.

    After 70 years he has rarionalization down pat.

  23. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    “I have been working on this set of complex issues for over 40 years.”

    I’m really sorry to hear that. I had sort of hoped that this was sort of a retirement folly for you.

    But having said that you remind me of one of my Chemistry professors. For 40 years he had been painstakingly synthesizing all of the members of a certain class of comounds, searching for an anti-cnacer drug.

    I spent all of two summers synthesizing and purifying one of them. It made me realize how difficult the work was.

    He told me that after 40 years he had pretty much concluded his work was a dead end. His only solace was that he had erased that path of enedeavor for future academics.


    For what it is worth.

  24. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I do have a question with respect to clear/hard edges.

    are those “edges” the same as the limits of water/sewer?

    I ask this because almost any form of “Smart Growth” cannot be implemented without the availability of water/sewer .. or to put it another way.. you cannot achieve the density levels recommended by advocates of Balanced Communities .. without water/sewer.

    Am I wrong?

  25. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Groveton, Permit me to respond to your remarks of 9:42 p.m., in which you countered my summary of what constituted Fundamental Change.

    1. You asked, “a) Why are the current zoning laws so bad? incompetence? Vested interests?
    b) Where in the US is there an example of good zoning laws?”

    My expertise (such as it is) does not extend beyong Virginia, so I cannot cite examples of where good zoning laws exist. But the very fact that I can’t cite any examples is probably an indication that there are very few locations with what I would consider to be
    “good zoning laws,” which may explain why so many of our growth-related problems are national in scope.

    Why, you ask, do we have counterproductive zoning laws? I would suggest the following: (1) Intellectual fashion and faith in the power of local government to do the right thing, (2) the mastery of the development/real estate/construction lobby in comprehending those zoning laws and working in a highly regulated environment, and learning how to manipulate the system to their advantage, (3) NIMBYs who use the laws to prohibit the kind of development they don’t want near them, and (4) the inability of the media, the thought leaders, the elected officials and the general public to comprehend the negative, unintended consequences of zoning.

    2. You disagree that “sprawl” is subsidized, noting that suburban jurisdictions are propping up the finances of the state. You are exhibiting confusion about different types of subsidy.

    Yes, it is true that suburban jurisdications pay a disproportionate amount of taxes into state coffers. But that is utterly beside the point: Your frame of reference is the political jurisdictions. My frame of reference is patterns of development. I’m not saying that suburban political jurisdictions are subsidized. I’m saying that the political jurisdictions (and the state, and the utilities) are subsidizing a *dysfunctional pattern of development* through the way they structure the tax system, utility fees, and road construction programs.

    I’m also saying that much of the fiscal stress incurred by the political jurisdictions is caused by dysfunctional development patterns that are expensive to provide with infrastructure and public services.

    3. You disapprove of the idea of creating regional and neighborhood governments. “Rarely does more government make anything better.” I quite agree. But, again, you are missing my key point. I’m not arguing for creating *more* powers for government — in fact, if you read my writings over the years, I’ve *opposed* granting governments more power in most cases. I’m in favor of *reallocating* the powers of government to the level where they are most appropriate. The end result of my proposals (and I speak only for myself, not EMR, who can speak far more eloquently for himself) would be “local” governments (such Fairfax, Loudoun, city of Richmond) that exercise significantly less power and authority than they do today. Some of their powers, regulating such things as local parking ordinances, or maintaining parks, or making certain types of public improvements, would be devolved to neighborhood “governments.” Some powers, such as regional transportation and land use, would be devolved to regional governments. Under my scheme, however, land use controls probably would be significantly diminished in favor of granting developers more freedom to respond to the demands of the marketplace. As I’ve said all along, if people really, truly want to live in single family dwellings on five-acre lots, that should be their prerogative — as long as they pay the location-variable costs associated with their decision.

    4. You describe Balanced Communities as “creeping socialism.” I’ll admit, I haven’t thought this through thoroughly, and I look forward to seeing EMR develop his ideas more. But here’s how I look at this issue now. Government *already* makes decisions on how and where to build roads and infrastructure and provide public services. All “balanced communities” would do is change the criteria they use to base their investment decisions. Right now, planning is largely reactive, responding to the initiatives of developers who, in turn, are driven by their ability to consolidate parcels of land, which, in turn, is dependent upon the vagaries of landowners’ willingness to sell for a variety of entirely personal reasons (old age, retirement, family financial stress.) As I see it, localities (or 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.

  26. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “..”local” governments (such Fairfax, Loudoun, city of Richmond) that exercise significantly less power and authority than they do today..”

    okay.. THANK YOU … for at least offering SOME idea of how this might happen.

    It appears that you may actually lean more toward Dillion Rule and more away from Home Rule.

    Which makes me wonder.. about Rodger’s examples of Portland and Vancover… are they Home Rule or Dillion Rule ???

    then… “planning is largely reactive”

    but we have a process that relies at least in part on the Comprehensive Plan – which – is supposed to address land-use and transportation planning…

    I have waited .. for EMR to weigh in on whether or not the Comp Plan itself is right or wrong as a planning discipline .. or is it right but not applied at the correct geographic/jurisdictional level.

    Should it be .. instead.. applied at a Regional level … and would that be .. a New Urban Region vice an MSA or a Virginia Planning District or MPO level?

    Is the problem that we have many different planning agencies who do not operate in an integrated fashion – not to mention the fact that their boundaries don’t match up either…?

    We’ve mentioned the Reality Check exercises where two major themes were addressed:

    1. – land development in concert with transportation facilities

    2. – regional cooperation on where to designate land-uses and transportation corridors.

    These are the issues – addressed from a New Urban Region perspective that would help myself (and I bet others) better understand what is being advocated.

    And as you can see.. if you don’t say much.. then folks can and will assume that the reason not much is said is that socialism is the underlying advocacy… so not good.

    I’m not looking for complete answers but rather a dialogue along the lines of how Jim answered Groveton…

    so thanks … good start…

  27. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Writing Through Revision:

    Anon 11:56 said

    “M. Risse, from my perspective, what was lovely historic Warrenton has been ruined from a contextual perspective by all these new subdivision, Menlough included.”

    I tend to agree with you on this. That is exactly what I said in the late 60s when I was deeply involved in “historic preservation” and drafting the legislation that now provides a protective context for the historic villages in the Adirondacks.

    That is also what I said when I fist noted what was happening around all the urban enclaves in the Virginia Piedmont.

    I would prefer to see Clear Edges more like those along the Wine Road in Alsace where my father’s family was from or in Bavaria, the Cotswalds, etc.

    The values of both the urban and Countryside properties would be higher and the costs of providing services lower.

    We moved to Greater Warrenton Fauquier in part to better understand how to make that happen.

    In the Fall of 2002 we laid out an 18 point plan for a group of Community Leaders. They thought it was too ambitious and that things were going OK.

    In the Spring of 2003 we articulated a path to Fundamental Change in a Community College certificate program for the Subregion’s leaders.

    There were only a few who stepped forward an offered to lead. Some who were not in office have since been elected to public office.

    Given what has happened since 2002, more may now be interested in Fundamental Change.

    The pace is frustrating, however, we live in a democracy with a market econonmy, not in Morroco.

    A better result will come only from educated citizens, a functional governace structure and a fair allocation of location variable costs.

    “Give me a Morroccan souk any day.”

    As far as I know, you are free to go there any day.

    In the meantime the Town of Warrenton and Fauquier County are working to create a “Hard Edge” (we call it a Clear Edge)around Greater Warrenton.

    Such a Clear Edge exists at the edge of Menlough.

    In any Balanced urban enclave there should be a range of housing options that match the market and for now the there is a market for these units.

    We will explore in TRILO-G just how far these dwellings are from providing shelter for “families” that meet the ideals of the family values crowd.

    The current process is slow and messy but better than the alternatives.

    That is what Churchill said about democracy and the same is true for a market economy.

    The key is educated citizens. You need to ask yourself if your comments foster disinformation or intelligent discussion.

    “The phrase “human settlement patterns” should focus on the “human” rather than on the pattern. As a history buff, my love is for what has come from humanity.”

    As a student of human settlement pattern, I am not aware of any way to seperate “human” from the physical pattern, the social structue or the economic context of settlement.

    Also, note question above about dialogue.


    You need to take a NIMBY to lunch.

    Talk about functional and sustainable settlement patterns.

    I hate the results of their uniformed actions as much as you but as we note over and over, there are no Villains, just citizens who are badly informed about their selfinterst.

    Oh yes Anon, you still owe an appology.


  28. Anonymous Avatar

    EMR, you still live 50 mmiles outside of the urban metropolis; you yourself mentioned that you selected your position for its viabilty transportation to the baltimore washington area. You also live in a “modest” 3000 sq home, by your disclosure, luxurious in many sustainable communities. Your design in Reston, from my frugal and preservationist perspective, uses much land, and the answers of shifting control when we have too many controls to begin with, (eg the Warrenton that is beautiful did not emerge from controlled planning but rather market forces) opens a door where abuse seems to creep in, in a variety of forms.

    Were you to live in dupont downtown in one of the elegant old condos in dc, I would not be sceptical. You would be living in a place developed by time and thought and humanitas (see Chaucer). That is not the case with where you choose to live.

    My original post asked a question that was perceived as an attack: the question deals with credibility. Does one have to live an organic, green life, to be preceived correctly as an authority in that arena? Must one be thin to advocate healthy eating? does your residence in a commuter suburb so that you are convenient to DC mitigate your message? For me, it does. Just as an Oprah diet book would not have much impact. (But might sell.)

    In recent years I have begun to question much that I thought was preservation gospel.

    No apology is needed.

  29. Anonymous Avatar

    EMR: you make many assumptions. After reading through the varous commentaries, I have come to the realization that there is one fundamental difference between us: I like that which is organically preserved, rather than that which is manipulated, hard, and cold. I perceive your approach as the latter.

    Now that sufficent negative statements have been cast, and you’ve done your share, let me note that “eco-nuts, off the grid organics and old house types” may be the ones who save the day after all. The organization “Seeds of change” recognizes the importance of organic integrity of food resources; it does not celebrate the manipulation of DNA in our food. Native Plant Societies celebrate much the same. Your aethestic, from my perspective, would celebrate the science and the role of human manipulation.

    Mary Shelley did a very good job in addressing human scientific arrogance. The classic Movie Metropolis did much the same in its scientifically perfect society who spent much time in garden paradises supported by a slave class running the machines from below. Chaucer’s definition of humanitas was broader than our current definition of humanity. It is worth reviewing.

  30. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Writing Thru Revision Repost:

    Anon 7:52 and other handles:

    “EMR, you still live 50 mmiles outside of the urban metropolis;”

    This statement puts you squarly the 19th centruy and confirms Geographic Illiteracy and Spacial Ignorance.

    We live in a Disaggregated (and still, unfortunatley, a long way from Balanced) urban agglomeration that makes up Greater Warrenton-Fauquier.

    That place is in the Countryside that is part of the Washington-Baltiomore New Urban Region.

    It is in the R=30 to R=70 Radius Band that most of the land, water and air resources are being wasted.

    Those who do not unerstand the dynamics here will have a hard time moving society toward a sustainable trajectory.

    “you yourself mentioned that you selected your position for its viabilty transportation to the baltimore washington area.”

    Ture, our pratice in national and international. We waste less fuel getting to the airport from here. Yes airplanes are wasteful but the current alternatives are non-existant. As you know we are advocates of effecient long-distance ground travel.

    “You also live in a “modest” 3000 sq home, by your disclosure, luxurious in many sustainable communities.”

    True, but given how hard we have worked, how long we have worked and the value we have added in the the framework established by our democratic society, my cirmumstance is not something to ridcule.

    “Your design in Reston…”

    I cannot clain much design, management or leadership responsibility for / in Reston although I did live there for 8 years and learned a lot. I see and write about both the good and the not so good in that particular Planned New Community.

    “…from my frugal and preservationist perspective, uses much land, …”

    You need to get a better grasp on the reality of human settlemetn patterns, it will help your preservation work.

    “… the answers of shifting control when we have too many controls to begin with, (eg the Warrenton that is beautiful did not emerge from controlled planning but rather market forces) opens a door where abuse seems to creep in, in a variety of forms.”

    Some truth here but until you have a better grasp of the land use control context, it would be a waste of time for both of use to try to sort the wheat from the chaff.

    “Were you to live in dupont downtown in one of the elegant old condos in dc, I would not be sceptical. You would be living in a place developed by time and thought and humanitas (see Chaucer).”

    You could be a much better advocate for preservation if were you to:

    1. Better understand the economic, social and physical forces the result in differing settlement patterns,

    2. How patterns that meet citizen needs change over time, and

    3. How those who advocate Fundamental Change come to understand the real world by walking in other folks shoes — think of this last point in the context of anthropology.

    “That is not the case with where you choose to live.”

    Where we live meets our goals, does not break any laws, and consumes far less natural capital than someone who lives in a enery seive on N Street and has a summer place on the Cape.

    “My original post asked a question that was perceived as an attack: the question deals with credibility. Does one have to live an organic, green life, to be preceived correctly as an authority in that arena?”

    You do not understand our objectives and your original post was intended to discredit our work, our experience and our perspectives.

    “Must one be thin to advocate healthy eating?”

    If one claims to be thin because they are following their own advice and they are not thin, then that is very relevant.”

    “… does your residence in a commuter suburb so that you are convenient to DC mitigate your message?”

    Wrong, I go to the Federal District rarely. A dear friend who was a doctor on Ford Island during the Pearl Harbor attack and has lived all his life in Hawaii asked me in December 2005 to send him a photo of the WW II Memorial. I have not been there since to do that.

    If you bothered to read what we write you would know we are doing all we can to end “commuting.” The only help one can offer commuters is to help them stop commuting.

    This is a widely held view in Greater-Warrenton Fauquier and with help from people like you, instead of throwing stones we would have more success.

    “For me, it does. Just as an Oprah diet book would not have much impact. (But might sell.)”

    That is apples and qumquats (sic).

    “In recent years I have begun to question much that I thought was preservation gospel.”

    That is a good start. I did that starting in the mid 60s. If you check our work you will find we jointed those who questions the need for the preservation of more “grand daddies house museums” and were among the first to advocate protecting, saving and enhancing the entire historic fabric at the scale of Dooryards, Clusters, Neighborhoods and Villages. We were among the first to work for adaptive reuse of out-moded commercial and industiral buildings. The historic district regualtions and the Regional and State historic preservation plans and strategies that we drafted reflect these goals.

    “No apology is needed.”

    I think you already offered one by articulating your limited perspective.

    I focused on your comments because it is just as damaging for self-righteous greenies, econuts, off the grid organics and old house types to throw stones as it is for those at the other end of the consumption spectrum.

    We are all in this boat together.

    And on your ungracious notes of 9:42 PM:

    I am affraid it is you that make the unfounded assumptions. You sound just like a lot of my friends before they reconsidered their comfortable misconceptions.

    You on the other hand make wrong assumption after wrong assumption.

    The difference you “discovered” between “orgainically preserved” and “manipulated, hard and cold” is pure hog wash.

    Day after day I see the “eco-nuts,” “off-grid organics” and “old house types” shooting themselves in the foot by well intended but misguided efforts.

    There will be nothing to save if they do not join more broadly based efforts.

    Check out the local heritage food and organic gardeners at the local farmers markets and see what support we are providing them.

    Check out the support we provided the Native Plant Society in the 70s and 80s when we were in a position to help.

    I am glad you have time to read Shelley and Chaucer and to go to movies. Now it is time to think about the future we all share a responsibility for.


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