September 27, 2005

Smart Growth Pitch: Author Randall Arendt

What's true for good photography is also true for good community development: If you have no focus point, your creation isn't compelling, whether it's a picture or a town. That's one of many reasons suburban sprawl has so little sense of place, and is so aesthetically unsatisfying.

Author Randall Arendt recently "showed slide after slide of subdivisions all over the eastern half of the United States. He clicked to one picture of homes scattered over dozens of acres, with no sense of community, because of a large minimum lot size," reports the Lynchburg, Va. News & Advance. Instead, he "extolled the benefits of having smaller lot sizes in exchange for more shared open space in a subdivision. The shared space could be used for an old-fashioned village green, walking trails or picnic areas, he said,"

Urban-sized tiny lots are necessary to create a sense of community. Some of it has to do with good design of the lots, buildings on the lots, streets and community space. But Arendt isn't talking about postage-stamp-sized lots, but a scale where you have 20 homes on 30 acres and keep 70 acres for community use and open space, instead of 20 homes on five-acre parcels.

He also urged narrower tree-lined streets in residential areas, to discourage speeding traffic. Such streets are much more likely to be used by pedestrians.

Arendt wrote the book, Rural by Design: Maintaining Small Town Character.

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