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Smart Growth Backlash Confirmed by Election Results in Loudoun and Frederick Counties
An Innovation Briefs Editorial

If there were any doubts left about the changing attitudes toward "smart growth" (see our Innovation Brief, "The Backlash Against Smart Growth," Nov/Dec 2003), the election victories of the anti-smart growth forces in Loudoun County, Virginia and Frederick County, Maryland have laid these doubts to rest. Six of the eight members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors who were elected in 1999 on a pledge to promote "smart growth" were soundly defeated and a slate of pro-growth advocates has replaced them. In Frederick County, all four pro-growth candidates won their way onto the board. Both elections have sent an unmistakable message that the smart growth policies of their predecessors no longer resonate with the electorate.

The vote in Loudoun County was a clear repudiation of the current board's "smart growth" policy that sought to "stop sprawl" by imposing tight restrictions on home building in the semi rural western Loudoun and channeling growth into existing communities in the eastern portion of the county. Post-election interviews revealed voter dissatisfaction with policies that were viewed as protecting wealthy landowners and their sylvan estates from further suburbanization at the expense of residents in existing communities who would bear the brunt of further development and the consequent higher living densities, crowding and traffic congestion.

The election results in the Washington metropolitan region suggest that the smart growth forces lack a realistic understanding of the political consequences of the principles they espouse. A planning ideology that is perceived by the public as sheltering a wealthy few at the expense of the many, cannot in the long run survive.

P.S. None of the above should be interpreted as a criticism of New Urbanism which, unlike "smart growth," is not a political movement but a set of enlightened planning and design principles benefitting all.

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