- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2001

A new nationwide survey shows that Americans want to preserve open space, but are concerned about what

the space is to be used for and how much it will cost them. The survey was published in the National Association of Realtors' semi-annual publication "On Common Ground: Realtors and Smart Growth."

The first thing I look for in surveys is who paid for it. What special interest is involved? In the area of smart growth issues, however, a strange phenomenon is occurring: People from differing viewpoints are starting to find areas of agreement.

For instance, the "On Common Ground" publication presents a wide range of views on smart growth issues. Although NAR published the report, it includes writings from organizations that traditionally hold a polar view from NAR on this issue.

Right off the bat, the new survey touts the fact that when most of those surveyed say it is very important for open space to be created or maintained in their community, they mean open space that is useful for the community for recreation and parks, rather than untouched woods.

The most popular open space voters want is playgrounds for children 96 percent. Next, 92 percent say it is important that soccer and baseball fields be created. Then 90 percent say it is important for them to have neighborhood parks within walking distance of their homes.

In the world of development, while these type of areas don't have houses or retail sites built on them, they are still considered developed. So defining what one means by development is an important part of the survey process.

Proponents from both sides of the smart growth issue have begun to realize this. Therefore, instead of demonizing each other in the press and public arena, they are starting to find the common ground on smart, planned growth.

The growth is going to happen; that is not the argument. Instead, how land is going to be developed is finally becoming the key issue. That's a good thing.

The NAR survey shows, overwhelmingly, that participants want growth controlled on a local level, not state and federal.

The exceptions were in New England, where residents favor federal involvement and in the Middle Atlantic states, where most survey respondents favored more state government assistance in local growth related problems.

Debates on smart growth will continue as our nation continues to burst with an influx of immigrants and population growth by birth, both pushing the demand for more housing.

In the meantime, here are a few Web sites devoted to land development issues:

• Funders Network (www.fundersnetwork.org) assists efforts to advance social equity, create better economies, build livable communities, and protect and preserve natural resources.

• Greener Prospects (www.greenerprospects.com) was created by a consulting firm that helps bridge the gap between land-use planning and land conservation.

• Green Space Design (https:// greenspacedesign.com) brings together voices from differing positions on open space and growth issues.

• Land Trust Alliance (www.lta.org) operates a Web site to promote voluntary land conservation, whereby land owners donate land for conservation.

• Livable Communities (www.livablecommunities.gov) was established by the now defunct White House Task Force on Livable Communities. However the site has plenty of information for those wanting to conduct smart growth research.

• Sierra Business Council (www.sbcouncil.org) is a consortium of 500 business, agencies and individuals from the Sierra Nevada region, working to secure economic and environmental health of that region. The site is rich with information about successful initiatives carried out by that organization.

• Smart Growth America (www.smartgrowthamerica.com) is a nationwide coalition promoting a balanced way for growth that protects farmland and open space, revitalizes neighborhoods, keeps housing affordable, and makes communities more livable.

• Smart Growth Network (www.smartgrowth.org), besides having a great Web site address, provides plenty of research information and an online community for people who support development that is environmentally smart, fiscally smart and economically and socially smart.

M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate issues for more than a decade. Questions and comments can be sent by e-mail. ([email protected])

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