1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: "Robert G. Paterson" <rgfp@mail.utexas.edu>
Date: Mon, 24 May 1999 09:17:36 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: Re: "The Economic Benefits of Open Space"

Another two cents--

Seems like there are some over generalizations here that may be leading
to disagreements.  For example, what constitutes high density is
debatable--one person's high (29 du/acre for example -- a common current
apartment complex density at about 3 stories) may be another person's
"moderate and reasonable density." (and there are mechanisms to keep a
portion of those units affordable).  As a planner, I have a bias that
says no one is right here--it depends on the situation in the community
taking into account a myraid of factors relating to different types of
"open space" that serve multiple publics and community needs, the
compatibility/suitability of various lands and adjacent properties
(remediated or otherwise) for various open space uses (active and
passive), and a collaborative planning process that allows the various
"publics" (all affected neighborhoods, environmentalists,
preservationist, social justice groups etc.,) to have an equal voice in
the planning and decision making.  Open space planning (all types) is an
integral an early part of the "community planning process."

For example, in the nieghborhood planning for the Montopolis Community
that we completed here in Austin, we have an illegal dump that looks
like it will one day be cleaned up and capped and then used as a race
track that meets the community's desires (Montopolis is a moderate, to
lower income ethnically diverse neighborhood).  The land use study that
came up with that recommendation was inclusive as can be--using a
neighborhood survey (to see what is important from the entire
neighborhood perspective, not just the active residents), multiple focus
groups (with children, residents, and property owners) and an intense
one-day planning charrette, followed up with draft plan review sessions
and then subsequent modifications to fit neighborhood needs.  

As the EPA's new Sustainability guide to brownfileds suggests
"collaborative planning" for an area is key to successful brownfield
redevelopment that is successful, respectful, and responsive to multiple
community needs. Unfortunately, in too many communities, we don't have
"genuine" participatory planning, and as such, we have conflicts flare
up where collaborative effort might have found creative solutions.  As
an academic and a experienced planner with 15 years experience, I can
say with some certainty that the "seeds" of conflict are manifest in
just about every development project (whether brownfields or
not--probably more so for brownfields). The question is whether you
anticipated it and seek to channel and solve problems jointly through
planning or try to deal with the aftermath when mistrust and hostility
are at their peak?  

We should seek to create planning processes that are fair, open and
truthful -- and be on guard for manipulative or symbolic "public
involvement" that is all too common these days.

Okay, enough said...

Bob Paterson
University of Texas at Austin

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