Smart growth is more than mixing different types of housing units and tossing in a convenience store or two you can walk to. It's about more traditional patterns of development that give at least equal weight to public transit and walking as a way of getting to places, as it does to driving. If you can walk to a general store and post office but have to drive everyplace else, it's not smart growth.
"Smart growth can't be built everywhere and this isn't a feasible location for it," writes Tom Condon of an over-55 project that a PR firm is pitching as smart growth. "Residents won't be able to walk to much of anything outside the development - the RV campground down the street? - so will have to drive everywhere. There are no transit options. There are as yet no utilities. There will be one main road in and out, so there isn't much connectivity and traffic may be an issue." It may be a plus that plans call for cluster development and preserving some open space, but that's not the typical definition of "smart growth."
Condon likens the smart growth phrase to what once happened to "natural food," he says:
"This initially referred to vittles that contained no artificial ingredients and were minimally processed. But soon the corporate food industry co-opted the term and started calling everything "natural," whether or not it was laden with preservatives, fillers, taste-enhancing chemicals and God knows what else.
"Thus the term 'natural food' lost much of its meaning. . . .
"So, maybe the smart growth people - and the New Urbanism folks as well - need to do what the foodies did. They changed the term to 'organic' and created certification standards"
It is a good sign, though, that developers now want the "smart growth" label!