The majority of Americans live in low density single family detached housing (approximately 60%). Each subdivision looks the same; houses on small lots with lawns and garages on dead end streets. For the smaller cities and towns it is the predominate housing type. It is what everyone expects and we have been doing the same thing for the past 50 years. This low density development pattern consumes a large amount of land and resources, increases the cost of utilities and puts a tremendous number of vehicles on our roads.
The rate of land that is being consumed for urban uses is more than double the rate of the Country’s population growth. The rapid pace of conversion from resource land to suburbs is not due to the amount of development, but to its low density. We are spreading fewer people across each square mile and using more land in the process. Urban areas will always continue to expand to accommodate the population growth, but the way in which they expand is becoming very important. As we confront dwindling land and energy resources, concentrated growth patterns make sense. Concentrated growth patterns should reflect the following: reuse of land that has already been altered, limiting the range of new development to areas that are already accessible and, in some cases, building up not out.
Volusia County, including Deland can ill afford to accommodate our future population increase with more suburban sprawl. Fortunately, there is an alternative in urban planning that is growing in popularity. It preserves more open space, creates cohesive neighborhoods with distinct identities and local amenities, and reduces dependence on fossil fuels, to name just a few of its benefits. This alternative works because it combines established and time-tested principles of town planning, innovative ideas, and public participation in land-use decisions. It is smart growth.
When communities choose smart growth strategies, they can create new neighborhoods and maintain existing ones that are attractive, convenient, safe, healthy and affordable. They can foster design that encourages social, civic, and physical activity. They can protect the environment and conserve resources while stimulating economic growth. Most of all, they can create more choices for residents, workers, visitors, children, families, single people, and older adults—choices in where to live, how to get around, and how to interact with the people around them. When communities do this kind of planning, they preserve the best of their past while creating a bright future for generations to come.
Smart growth works because it is built upon principles that relate to positive aspects of community development.
Finally, smart growth aims to foster a sense of community, where residents can take civic pride in distinct places, places where people can meet and hang out, places that attract tourists, places where people can feel a sense of belonging, places you'd want to stroll down when you don't have to be anywhere. This is the intangible side that is nevertheless essential to quality of life.
Smart Growth has the potential to positively affect our built environment in many ways. It's important to remember that smart growth is primarily a set of principles that can be adapted to fit particular locations' culture, climate, and history. There is no one way to build a smart growth neighborhood.