The world is a pretty great place. There’s unparalleled access to information and resources that frequently lead to an abundance of health, happiness and hope. All is not perfect, however, there are numerous deficiencies that need addressing – famine, war, disease, pollution, economic disparity, At a macro level, the discussion of solutions often becomes binary – suggesting that government on one hand, or business on the other, is best suited to solve a given issue.
I’m not a binary thinker. Our problems are not either or, and our solutions shouldn’t be either.
In my own neighborhood, there is a situation that demonstrates where both government and business have gotten it wrong; government with a one-size-fits-all approach, and business – I imagine – based on pure economic self-interest.
First, a little background. I live in Phase I of a subdivision. The county where I live is undergoing extreme growth. Growth that hasn’t been managed very well with residential development quickly outpacing infrastructure, leading to voter frustration. One of the ways the county commission sought to appease constituents regarding the high-density residential zoning that commission approved was to demand sidewalks be required by developers. The county also built a number of sections of sidewalk as a move toward at least appearing to want to support “livable” communities.
Now, let’s examine how both government and business failed in my neighborhood.
As construction began in the third and final phase of our subdivision began, one of the aforementioned sidewalk mandates came into play. The sidewalk doesn’t connect in any way to streets, driveways or common areas, it’s simply a segment of concrete installed between the fenced backyards of Phase III residents and a fairly busy two-lane road.
I try not to be cynical, and offer kudos to the County Commission for trying to incorporate livability into the zoning process, but they failed in so many other areas – infrastructure, school construction, green space commitments, residential lot size, etc. – that it’s difficult to give them any credit. Let’s assume that their intent was well-placed, and just examine the result. Why require the sidewalk if the rest of the neighborhood was built without? Why mandate the sidewalk along a busy road and not inside the neighborhood?
The distance from the end of the sidewalk to the nearest neighborhood entrance is maybe a couple hundred feet. Maybe. The cost distributed across the sale of the Phase III homes would have only added a few hundred to the cost of any one house. And, it would have been the elegant solution. The world would have been better – not worse – for it.
So, when people try to sell me that their government or business solution is “the” answer, I cringe a little. This is why.
- There are zero additional sidewalks inside the subdivision. None.
- The “Phase III” sidewalk runs along the back of the Phase III homes and doesn’t connect to any neighborhood street.