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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Urbanistas' War on the Suburbs

When most of us think of a new civil war in this country, we think of increasing political polarization, or reminders of the racial divide that the Ferguson riots make so clear. But there's another, more insidious, war. It's why Allentown Mayor Edwin Pawlowski attempted (and nearly succeeded) in diverting the cost of his NIZ, an in-city redevelopment tool, on surrounding communities. It's why Easton Mayor Sal Panto so blithely dismissed criticism of an unpopular commuter tax by taunting, "If you want to live in the lily white beautiful suburban community, you have to do something to pay for that." Joel Kotkin, in an interesting article in The Daily Beast, calls it "The Progressives’ War on Suburbia".

I would call it the Urbanista War, not the Progressive War. I fail to see anything progressive about telling people where they should live.

Though Kotkin's political conclusions are silly, there is no question that people who think they know better want everyone to live in "the city", whatever that is, and are becoming increasingly pushy. Locally, the best evidence of that is the $3.4 HUD Sustainable Communities Grant. This financed the 1LV report, which appears to be designed to encourage people to live in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton. It financed the Justice For All report, which simplistically lays the blame for the complex problem of wealth disparity at the doorstep of the white man.

Kotkin is the bane of urbanistas, but it is hard to dispute his factual assessments. First, while many people may have urban addresses, most of them live in lower-density suburban areas of a city. Second, contrary to urban mythology, suburban growth accounts for 90% of all metropolitan population increases, and growth in the suburbs is more than double the growth in cities.

This data make me wonder about the business plans used by developers J.B. Reilly and Dennis Benner in Bethlehem and Allentown. They have proposed massive apartment buildings in the densest areas of the city that might never be occupied. I hope they are relying on more than wishful thinking, spiced with subsidies.

The big problem with the urbanistas, and all their demands for densification, maze gardens, hockey rinks, high-speed rail and walkability, is that it is all based on the myth that people love living in the cities. They don't. Kotkin explains.
[T]he progressives’ war on suburbia is essentially an assault on the preferences of the middle class. Despite the hopes at HUD, the vast majority of Americans—even in most cities and particularly away from the coasts—actually live in single-family homes in low- to mid-density neighborhoods, and overwhelmingly commute by car. If we measure people by how they actually live, notes demographer Wendell Cox, more than 80 percent of those in metropolitan areas have what most would consider a suburban life style.
I see this during zoning hearings, when people complain of problems that are really the result of living in a city. Parking, traffic and even sunlight are raised because these people simply wold prefer a less dense environment.

My personal preference is for a more urban setting. I hate cutting grass and actually like living in an apartment. I love bicycles, and hope to pick that up again, once the cold weather is gone. But I'm insane. Most people still like big yards, swimming pools and their cars. It's just the way it is.

Having said that, the cities are currently subsidizing police protection in some suburban communities. I'll tell you about that below.


Anonymous said...

Why do you call Mayor Pawlowski "Edwin" when that is not his real name? Yet call Mayor Panto "Sal" when his real name is Salvatore?

Bernie O'Hare said...

This comment has nothing to do with my story. Pawlowski's first name is, in fact, Edwin. As someone who looks at his finance reports, I am aware of his name. Panto refers to himself as Sal in practically everything. I could call Pawlowsi "Ed" but prefer the full name. If you actually have something constructive to say, do it. If you are going to resort to these picayune and inaccurate observations, I will delete you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Bernie for calling this matter out. With the change in guard at the LVPC, the urbanistas are running amok. The one Lehigh Valley report is evidence and along with the road show that is being put on to roll it out. The LVPC went from a nice basic planning commission performing its duties under the State Planning law to an in your face advocacy outfit telling suburban communities how bad they are and get this, directing most of the significant grant and transportation money to the cities.

Anonymous said...

Of course they want consolidation into the City as it comes down to two things, money and power.

Most Cities are controlled by the unions and the democrats and have tons of unfunded liabilities.

The current tax base cannot pay these liabilities and union contracts off and you look to where the money is.

Case in point, when Allentown mismanaged their union contracts and obligations and had to sell their water to LCA. I live in the suburbs served by the LCA and do you think i will be paying more in my water bill for that Allentown investment? Of course i will. Ed was smart, he funded a city issue by spreading the costs among the city and the surrounding burbs.

Sal is doing the same thing with his pension mess with the commuter tax.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of paranoia here. I guess "urbanistas" are commie/socialists like their Kenyan leader unlike the pure of heart who developed the burbs.

This is almost as big as the "war on Christmas"

Anonymous said...

A quick look at the three cities reveals that Allentown and Easton are overpopulated for their (square miles) area, while Bethlehem is just right. Atown and Easton are at about 6,000 people per square miles, Bethlehem about half that. Bethlehem also has the most suburban look to it with countless neighborhoods with 1/3 -1/4 acre lots and front yards. No one's fault, just the way the cities developed. No one living in the Christmas City wants to see Bethlehem become Allentown.

This type of overbuilding should be avoided in Bethlehem, but you can see the move afoot on the south side.


Bernie O'Hare said...

Unlike many others, I have no problem wth the legality of the Benner proposals. My sole question is whether it will work. I hope he had sone th research for this.

Bernie O'Hare said...

8:40, Explain the paranoia. Did not Pawlowski attempt to force other communities to pay for the NIZ? Didn't he deride Nazareth as the "boonies"? Didn't Panto impose a commuter tax, and then increase it? Didn't he slam suburbs in the process? Did the $3.4 million HUD grant provide one cent for the older boroughs or any suburb? Aren't the three projects financed in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton? Shouldn't the focus be on more residential development near the industrial parks, which is where many of the jobs are? Why would you want to make cities more dense when there are no jobs there and there is no way to get from the cities to most jobs without a car? And what was up with that goofy wealth disparity report? We spent $3.4 million so that an all-minority task force can call us all a bunch of racists?

Anonymous said...

"I would call it the Urbanista War, not the Progressive War. I fail to see anything progressive about telling people where they should live."

No. It's very Progressive to dictate to others what is good for them; as determined by the more enlightened.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I notice a bit of that from both sides of the ideological spectrum.

Matt M. said...

Bernie is right... the older Boroughs are getting left behind. What do you think is happening as the older folks die off in Northampton, Catty, N. Catty, Walnutport and Slatington? No one wants to pay for a home with all of the associated municipal negatives and still have to drive 20 minutes to run errands... so you have slum lords moving into these boroughs. We're not far behind Shenandoah, PA if we keep this up.

like BO said...

9;52, old people smell badly - at least we're getting fresher air

Anonymous said...

I looked at a home in Easton recently; hoping to move back to my home town into a property requiring less maintenance. The taxes were breathtakingly high. As a soon to be senior without a mortgage, those taxes are my my monthly nut going forward. They're double my current taxes for a smaller house and one quarter of the property. I loved the house and the neighborhood. But the math doesn't come close to working. I'm a person of color from Sal's lily white suburbs who can't afford to come back to Easton.

Lighthouse said...

I don't see this as an ideological tension, but socio-economic.

" It's why Easton Mayor Sal Panto so blithely dismissed criticism of an unpopular commuter tax by taunting, "If you want to live in the ... suburban community, you have to do something to pay for that.""

Easton is doing a nice job bringing folks back to Center Square, between the Farmers Market, and taking a page from Bethlehem with festivals. However, the reality is, nice place to visit, but... I just went on Express on-line, and several of their top stories the past few days:

"2 Easton teens arrested after man shot in face, car damaged by pellet gun."

"3 men enter West Ward house, 1 fires several shots with one round hitting another house."

"Easton police investigate shooting a block from where gunshot victim found Thursday"

"NJ man shot in Easton's West Ward"

"Easton police respond to shots fired"

"Easton meth lab leads to arrest of recent parolee."

I used to frequent a restaurant on Northampton St, but I haven't been there in a few years, because if you can't park right by it the neighborhoods around it don't feel very safe (and seem to be in the paper enough). That's your problem Sal, not "wanting to live in a lily white" community. You'll never solve your problems if you hide behind the race card.

Suburban sprawl is nothing new, but the past 50 years those who can afford to (including those who grew up in the very same cities) move further out, especially once they start raising families, because of the above-type trend.

Yes, the comment about "density" is a very real part, but it is coupled with basic socio-economic factors. In the new trend of "mixed use" neighborhoods if apartments are "up-scale" (code for expensive)gentrified neighborhoods vs low-rent apartments and Zoning that allows for old homes to be converted into low-rent multi-apartment units, two very different "traditional mixed use" neighborhoods will result. I suspect Allentown and Easton have long suffered from the later scenario. I think the fear some have of the newer first scenario is that change is slow and the slippery slope of unfilled "upscale" apts might become "medium"... become "low-rent"....and back to square one. Urban redevelopment's long standing problem. Which then ripples to the schools, etc.

Interesting observation, also, someone made about the changes beginning in some of the older boroughs. I think allowing vs not allowing homes to be divided into multi-unit apartments will be a factor.

Lighthouse said...

10:57's comment about taxes is another huge issue. Compare Easton to the surrounding Twps, including Bethlehem Township which has almost the same population as Easton.

Ron Beitler said...

I'll bite.

Bernie I hope you come on Friday. I think you will see that no one wants to "force" anyone to live anywhere.

I do support urbanism but it's based on the fundamental economic arguments of it. I hate the word urbanism and have gotten into arguments with urbanistas who come at it from different angles then me. I dislike the term because it opens the narrative up to this kind of social engineering nonsense disseminated by the tin foil hat crowd.

Bottom line is the suburbs have been subsidized for years. The issue isn't taking away those subsidies and applying them to the city. I am against that. Not Gov job to decide winners and losers. It's rolling back all subsidies to level the playing field and let the market and economics take over.

I believe that if you do this the disparity between city taxes and suburban taxes would close naturally. Which would be a good thing regardless of your personal preference.

I live on 2 acres in a small town on a little river. I'm surrounded on all sides by sprawl... I don't want to move to the city at this stage in the game since I prefer country living and I have a unique property that gives me that in the middle of suburbia.

That being said the fact is I'm 35 and though I prefer one thing most of my friends (who grew up in subdivisions) do not want to live in a subdivision or anything like it anymore. They want the city / 1st ring burb OR they want to move further west into Berks in the Country. They don't want the sprawl in between. I don't think that's unique to my circle of friends based on much of what I read.

Here is where urbanism applies to suburbia since we can build better places out on the edges while benefitting from revitalized cores. For me it's about responding to the market not meddling with the market. Some of the things we're doing out here in LMT is just that.... responding to market trends to set ourselves up to compete 20 years from now. Proactively bucking the very real trend of long term municipal decline that is common for places like LMT.

Also, take a look at the deposits for Strata. As you know this is the next barometer for city center. The lease rates of the shiny new apartments. We won't really know until they open but I have heard they are selling as fast as they are released.

Sprawl is the result of meddling with the market. Take that away and it fixes itself.

Ron Beitler said...

Most I argue for is de-regulation. Aside from the classic suburban financial subsidies the biggest thing that perpetuates classic sprawl is euclidean zoning codes. Ones that fixate on uses. You can do this. You can't do that. You must build this arbitrary 100ft buffer. You must have this amount of parking based on peak demand for one day out of the year.

I support de-regulation through form based codes. Codes that focus on form and context not on uses and arbitrary standards.

Anonymous said...

love it or hate it, the LCA lease was to help get Allentown get back on firm footing, fund their pension oblicagations and get back on the road to sustainablity. So why did Mayor Pawlowski use the lease, and preferred bond rating to borrow MORE money and add MORE debt? When the lease money is all spoke for, will the City try to lease the air we breathe?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ron, It's ironic that you live in the 'burbs and are a proponent of urban living, while I live in a borough (which I consider semi-urban) and support the arguments (minus the politics) being made by Kotkin.

Your anecdotal observation about your friends wanting the city life is not borne out by the data. The data show that sprawl continues, suburbs outpace urban living by a 2-1 ratio and that most people prefer a less dense way of life.

It's a matter of preference. The social engineering comes into play when the birkenstocks and urbanistas enter the room. A few weeks ago, I saw them in action in Bethlehem. Sarabeth Brockley smugly defined the word expert to Bethlehem City Council, while making vulgar faces at me during a break. In this case, Dennis Benner was actually proposing more density, something they should have loved.

Ron Beitler said...

Here is the example I always use...

Euclidean code says No "Theater" in the _______ whatever district drawn with arbitrary lines on the zoning map.

I prefer a code that says depending on the area you may be able to build this theater

but not this theater...

Form, function and context over (sometimes) arbitrary lists of uses. You can build the multiplex on your low value C corridor. But you can also build the neighborhood movie house most other places.

Anonymous said...

"They want the city / 1st ring burb OR they want to move further west into Berks in the Country."

Agreed. I'm 32 and live in North Bethlehem. I would LOVE to live in Center City Bethlehem, and hope to do so one day. I know that most of my peers feel the same way, and the US Census Bureau concurs (https://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/2010_census/cb12-50.html). The US is definitely urbanizing.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ron, I doubt I'll be there. There is a council meeting Thursday night, and I'll be up late writing about what happened, so I doubt i could be there at 7:30 am. In addition, I believe I may have some responsibilities that day with my grandson. Finally, $65 is a lot of money. As much as i would like to hear you and the others, and learn a few things, my limited budget requires me to use that money elsewhere.

Bernie O'Hare said...

12:50, I'm glad you'd like to live in Center City, but the data contradict you. Klotkin's analysis:

"The last decennial census showed, if anything, that suburban growth accounted for something close to 90 percent of all metropolitan population increases, a number considerably higher than in the ’90s. Although core cities (urban areas within two miles of downtown) did gain more than 250,000 net residents during the first decade of the new century, surrounding inner ring suburbs actually lost 272,000 residents across the country. In contrast, areas 10 to 20 miles away from city hall gained roughly 15 million net residents."


"According to demographer Morrill, since 2010 the suburbs have added 4.4 million people compared to fewer than 2 million in core cities."

I believe you are mistaken, and i see the preference for a suburban lifestyle at nearly every zoning hearing I attend in Bethlehem.

It could be that there is a preference for urban living among younger people, but that should change once they have children.

Anonymous said...

"..Bottom line is the suburbs have been subsidized for years...."

are you referring to LMT relying upon State Police for protection?

"..Also, take a look at the deposits for Strata..."

Are you referring to the expoitation of natural resources (limestone and iron ore) that borne company towns now called suburbs that are home to many abandoned quarrys and industrial sites surrounded by older neighborhoods?

Let's not forget walk to work inner city garment factories and steel jobs went overseas...not to the suburbs.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I am twice your age, and my peers definitely prefer a more suburban lifestyle. I like the city life bc i am lazy and don't want to cut grass or fix boilers. It could be that younger people and older people have different outlooks on this issue.

Ron Beitler said...

BOH I'm sure we can get a member of the media a pass :)

I read the report you posted. I can post dozens that contradict and show millennials trending to the cities. People can always cherry pick data to support what they think. Not a critique just the way it is... Everyone does it.

That's why I rely alot on anecdotal, eye tests and gut feelings to support or refute hard data. Also think the census stuff is interesting since that represents hard data not projections or forecasts which is a science but one trying to account for lots of variables.

@12:59 That's one of MANY suburban subsidies. And like I said in the other thread, If I were seated in the state house I'd support bills to make places like LMT pay for our police. But as a LMT Commissioner my job is to represent LMT. So i'm torn. Honestly.

Strata = http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2014/11/center_city_allentown_high-end.html

Interesting you write about company town concept. We just had the most interesting company move into the old Daytimers building here in LMT.

Called Smooth-on. They came from Williams Twp. They actually walk the walk in terms of the "company town" mentality and actively sought it in a larger facility. I think it's fantastic. They encourage employees to live in the neighborhood, send kids to school local, support local businesses ect. They actively sought the daytimers building because it's in the middle of a traditional neighborhood. (East Texas) They want to re-do the facade to make it more neighborhood friendly add some small shops and services like a new daycare. A couple really nice homes on the parking lot.

Daytimers/smooth on is another good point to reinforce my comment at 12:28.

Today... with our boilerplate Euclidean zoning laws most common is the burbs we wouldn't allow the daytimers building to be built in the middle of a neighborhood. In fact we'd outlaw it.

It would be built in a greenfield somewhere and everyone would have to drive there and we'd have to build and maintain new infrastructure to get people and services there.

I live 2 houses down from daytimers and think it's awesome what's happening. I've always lived next to daytimers. Grew up in a different house down the street. Always been a great neighbor. Smooth on gonna be even better.

We need more of that. That's not a city vs. suburb thing. That's an example of a little urbanism in the suburbs. We got away from that BECAUSE of the subsidies (allowing expensive infrastructure to be paid for up front with other people's money) and the regulations. (forcing segregation of uses)

There are definitely some things that should still be separated. Quarries, warehouses, strip clubs, nuisance bars... but daytimers is an example of something we'd force out on the edge that really in my experience is a great neighbor.

Anonymous said...

I think more millenials WANT to live in city centers, even if they have children. They're the next generation of home buyers. Current policies push people into suburban living, but that's not the preference. Suburbs will eventually have more senior citizens and baby boomers than families with young children.

Anonymous said...

Check out endofthesuburbs.com. Author and assistant managing editor of Forbes Leigh Gallagher explains things much better than I can.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You may be right. i am an old fart.

Anonymous said...

Funny how these urbanistas (I prefer to call them '21st Century YUPPIES" becuase I know they hate that term) want everybody to both live and work in some crime-ridden 'downtown', yet are also the loudest voices in pushing to have rail service between the Lehigh Valley and New York City. If it is so great to live in cities then let the folks making New York money live there, too.

Anonymous said...

If these new urbanists are so in love with living in downtowns why don't they just pay the market rent for such living without using the tax money of fixed-income seniors and the poor that subsidize their luxury 'cherry wood kitchen cabinet' digs.

Peter J.Cochran said...

Progressive Insurance Company CEO would like to see things his way too.No Christmas Trees , no Jesus in a cow stall .This guy and others like him are dangerous , they want to suck the culture from your brain.This is America if I want to live in a suburban venue ,I should be able to . This is part of an over watch to CONTROL the POPULATION in the long run . Recently some issue came up with a statement that said [The dumb voters will vote...." He was right but he should not have INSULTED THEM openly.

Anonymous said...

5:19 - 21st century yuppie here. I don't care where you live and/or work. I just want public dollars to stop being used to create an incentive for suburban sprawl. The mortgage interest tax deduction and the FHA's bias against mixed use development, as well as increased infa-structure costs have starved the cities to pay for the suburbs. Talk about redistribution of wealth...from the poor to the rich!

Peter J.Cochran said...

Anon 5;23 you are more correct than you know. 13th street Easton ,HUD money ? Bernie tell them.

michael molovinsky said...

in my opinion everybody is confusing a grant dog and pony show with some meaningful planning decisions. the grant came first, and you have to create a certain amount of data and input to justify using $3.4million. in reality development is profit driven, and the governing bodies accommodate. look at the NIZ, or jaindl with the empty quarry threat (who has really developed a quarry in the last 50 years?)

Peter J.Cochran said...

However I have to tell you , New York professions are moving into Easton ,people with money. Smart people with discernible careers. The house near us on Cattell will close this month by an nationally known stand up comic couple. They want in !I,m the welcome wagon ,get it?

Peter J.Cochran said...

Mr. Molovinsky, you are unquestionably smarter than me ,AND I gotta know, how does the 'turkey king' use a quarry as a standoff ?or am off base?

Anonymous said...

Jandl owns land in LMT. He wants to put a ton of townhouses, warehouse and other nonsense there.

He threatened the commissioners that if they did not do what he wanted, he would turn the farm land into a quarry, which was an allowable use for the site.

The LMT commissioners at the time voted for the variances needed for Jandl to put all of this stuff here over the objections of the residents of LMT.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Peter, MM is unquestionably dumb. Need proof? First, he blogs. Second, he ran for office.

michael molovinsky said...

the best one: i attended the allentown planning commission meeting to approve the arena. could you really imagine those little monkeys saying no. but the little monkeys asked questions and pretended that they had real input.

Anonymous said...

Peter J Cochran, what do you mean by "13th street Easton ,HUD money" ? I'm not very familiar with what's going on in Easton. But, as I understand it, they're trying to make the 13th st corridor more walkable, no? Seems like this will lead to more job opportunities and higher incomes for those that currently qualify for subsidized housing in that neighborhoof.

Bernie O'Hare said...

MM and I plan on opening a school for tactful communications.

Ron Beitler said...

It was more than variances it was wholesale zoning changes plus act 537 sewer expansion which was insane for a community to do with so much valuable infill land on appropriate largely undeveloped C corridors (appropriate meaning that public investments are already made just waiting to be capitalized on) to do. INSANE. (don't worry though couple years later the strip mall builders go their subsidies as well)

LMT is literally building new roads to service Jaindl's warehouses. Well actually the school district is carrying the lions-share of that bill but the Township is paying also and we of course have to pay the long term maintenance and inevitable improvements. Either way taxpayers subsidize it.

I said it for 4 years let jaindl build the quarry. So did 1000 people who signed a petition. Our Commissioners at the time (most realtors) disagreed. There were really 3 choices. 1. Accept the "quarry" (prob bluff) BUT even if it wasn't it was NEVER going to be as large as advertised and would have had no where near the infrastructure demands of the warehouses...2. Defend the curative amendment process and therefore defend two decades of preservation. Or 3. roll over. We rolled over.....

MM you make good points about the grant dog and pony show but I've never been an activist in the way I respond to these kinds of things. Now that the grant is awarded I see lots of opportunity for good work to come out of it. The local food economy report for example. It's a fantastic document that some enterprising forward thinking municipality that values QOL & open space and wants to make connections between farmland and economic development as an alternative to sprawl and strip malls will jump all over. I agree the whole thing was a HUGE price tag. These are problems we have to take up in Harrisburg. I won't be someone who discounts a good opportunity and leave it on the table because I disagree with the way it was funded.

I think this was something worth doing and paying for locally. (and it would have been much cheaper that way)

Ron Beitler said...

Sorta of the same as the LMT PD issue. We play the hand we're dealt. We'd be crazy not to. We all remember county commissioners willing to pass up on grant money cause they had philosophical issues. I disagree with that. You work within the system. That doesn't mean we can;t work to change the system. I DEF have problems with the way we funnel money to Harrisburg and DC to get back pennies on the dollar. I believe that if things are worth doing they are worth doing with local money.

BUT we have to work in the system we got while voting in ppl to go off to the faraway places like Harrisburg to reform. Problem is we don't do the second part. Ever. We just keep re-electing our local incumbents cause we recognize their names.

Funding things incrementally and locally is more chaotic but smart. The opposite is the current orderly but dumb and ultra expensive system.


Anonymous said...

5:19 - 21st century yuppie here. I don't care where you live and/or work. I just want public dollars to stop being used to create an incentive for suburban sprawl. The mortgage interest tax deduction and the FHA's bias against mixed use development, as well as increased infa-structure costs have starved the cities to pay for the suburbs. Talk about redistribution of wealth...from the poor to the rich!
5:48 PM

Are you suggesting that homeown rs in cities don't take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction? By the way, I think it should be grandfathered out. Does anybody really believe people wouldn't buy a home unless the interest was subsidized?

Anonymous said...

Ron Beitler said...

"We all remember county commissioners willing to pass up on grant money cause they had philosophical issues."

Ron -

Could you be specific here and back this up. I don't remember this at all.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I suggest you do some research. I've written about Lehigh County here and it has happened in Bethlehem as well. No grant money was ever rejected, except possibly for a housing development, but concerns were raised.

Ron Beitler said...

@9:51 here:


Ended up accepting 8-0 here. There were others rejected though if I remember. In this case Ott abstained which I guess was a protest. And that's fine. Commissioners were correct to challenge the system publicly. I'm fine with that.

I would have had an issue if they actually voted against the CDBG grants.. questioning the system is perfectly appropriate and I'm happy someone did. End of day though when push comes to shove Osborne was correct that CDBG's aren't the appropriate venue to protest DC.

No way should intersection in Whitehall be paid for with a pass through grant. . Flaw in the system yes, but same time we'd be nuts to pass the money up.

Identical to LMT and PSP issue the way I see it. The system has a flaw. Needs to be fixed in Harrisburg. Until that happens we're crazy not to take advantage.

You have to all ask your local reps why only Schlossberg co-sponsored HB1017. I plan on asking Ryan Mackenzie honestly curious.

Anonymous said...

"Are you suggesting that homeown rs in cities don't take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction?"

I'm sure some do, but the majority of those who benefit from the MID reside in the suburbs. The deduction encourages the construction of single family homes over multi-family and mixed use properties, since they are typically more expensive.

Anonymous said...

@Ron Beitler... thank you for the Planning 101 lessons and regurgitating the propaganda dumped on your generation since you were in Kindergarten. The residential growth happening in the Cities is a direct result of immigration (some legal, some not). Oh, puhleaze stop with the "Euclidean" Zoning model trashing. That is so Planning 101 too. People still don't want to live next to malls, farms, and plants. Any Zoning Hearing Board variance meeting will clearly show that. Just look at the Farm Market debacle on Nazareth Pike in Bethlehem and what that poor shop owner was put through by his neighbor. I also disagree with your claim that the suburbs have been subsidized. I argue that the suburbs are better managed and generally live within their reasonable means. Lastly, its ironic that you live in the suburbs on a large lot and like that and prefer that. Its also ironic that you are a councilman in the fastest growing suburbanized community in the Commonwealth.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:29 Sounds like you need a refresher course in Planning 101; your views are antiquated. People want to live in walkable neighborhoods. They want to be less dependent on automobiles. They're tired of long commutes and traffic headaches.

Ron Beitler said...

Anony 6:29 most of this is your opinion which you are welcome to. But some things you misrepresent what I think and believe.

If you read my comments I acknowledge there are lots of things people don't want to live next to. Lots of these things we build in LMT en masse. Warehouses, strip malls ect. No one wants to live next to either of those. Form based codes address that because the form, context and orientation of a warehouse would STILL make it illegal to build next to someones single family home.

Next to accurately characterize where I choose to live. I live in East Texas which is an old village. A traditional neighborhood in the middle of Lower Macungie. I live two houses down from the Daytimers/smooth facility which employs 200 ppl. I live in a home built in the 70's. My business is on Main St. Macungie. Please understand urbanism doesn't always mean city. That is why I hate that term. Nor does it mean you want to convert everything to a city. Or "pack people into" cities. It can be summed up best as "balance". And allowing mixing of compatible uses. Letting the market do it's thing.

Typical zoning codes breed regulations and require a government planning apparatus to enforce them. They takeaway rights of property owners to do what they want with their land,
telling people what they can build and where. We need to make sure no one builds a strip club next to single family home. But we can accomplish that without the list of arbitrary uses and lines on a map.

Instead of:
Lines on maps

We should focus on:

Where I live is not really ironic at all. My neighborhood would be totally illegal under current zoning. Smart growth is about de-regulation of arbitrary uses based zoning using arbitrary lines on maps. It's about allowing people to do what they want with their property so long as form and function are compatible with neighbors/neighborhood. That's how you get traditional neighborhoods.

And folks are right that not everyone wants to live in a city, a mixed use neighborhood or traditional main street. And in LMT we have 1000's and 1000's of units in subdivisions to choose from they aren't going anywhere and we'll likely continue to build more. We are overflowing with that use. Some of these neighborhoods are currently seeing the first signs of decline. One in particular.. the day it was built out large sections were purchased by investors as rental housing. Nothing inherently wrong with that. But it shows the market wasn't strong since someone could accomplish purchasing whole blocks of bran new homes.

What I argue for is diversification. There will always be ppl who want to live in a subdivision. I just believe moving forward a growing number who want something different as an option. All I want to set LMT up to be successful in a changing market 20 years from now. Diversification of housing types, neighborhood flavors is good. We're a huge township. 24 square miles. And more residents are coming according to projections. We can't stop it. But we can make it more livable.

Lastly, I don't have to guess at the success of form based codes. They have been employed across the state. Most similar to LMT (size, demographics ect.) is Cranberry township. Actually Cranberry is practically identical to LMT but on the western side of the state.


I like to be challenged on the things I believe in. I learn alot through it. Just make sure your accurately challenging what I believe in. Alot of folks commenting here from the "smart growth means packing everyone into a city" "smart growth is a UN plot to takeover the world" crowd really don't get it so the critiques are useless.

Anonymous said...

I think most commuters would have no problem paying extra tax for road improvements. However, to tax these communters in order to pay someone's retirement fund that is wrong !

Anonymous said...

Crazy Old Lady who is now 70 says - when I was a kid, we lived in South Bethlehem near Fountain Hill, in an apartment in the Wilbur mansion. It was a wonderful life. We had a garden, lots of grass around the building, trees to climb, and we could walk everywhere -- to my school, to church, to the bank, to my grandma's house, to the drug store, the butcher, the grocer, the fish store, etc. The merchants would bag up my mom's purchases and deliver them by car later in the day, after we had walked back home. We had neighborhood clambakes, and we kids had play friends in nearby buildings and nearby streets. After my dad came home from the mop-up after WWII, my parents bought a house in Hellertown. Was this suburban? Not really. It was up above Lost Cave, we had a yard, they could garden to their hearts' content, and we could walk everywhere -- to school, to church, to the park, to the swimming pool, to the hardware, the bank, the drug store, Stern's Market. The market delivered mom's groceries to the house. She could even call them on the phone to order the groceries. I spent my childhood walking all around my communities, and am alarmed at the way my grandchildren spend their whole lives strapped into car seats, going by car to every single thing they do, even to play with their friends. There has to be a better way, without high-density urban living. There once was a better way.

Anonymous said...

The proliferation of automobiles has transformed the landscape, and micromanaging zoning nonsense has played a role as well. Which came first, the chicken or the egg--they interact to make the situation worse, IMHO. --Crazy Old Lady