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Spring 2013

The Future of Rural Living

People live in rural communities for many different reasons.  Maybe your family has been there for four generations or maybe you chose to live in a small town to get away for the chaos and stress of big city life or maybe just by accident you fell in love with the little town you now call home.  But it seems that there is an outright attack on the future of living in a rural agricultural community.  Over the past decade numerous state and federal regulations have pasted that make “new urbanism” the wave of the future.

So what it new urbanism?  It’s California’s smart growth policy to combat global warming, obesity and urban sprawl.  More specifically it is the environmental communities mechanic to mandate “sustainable communities” and local land use.  New urban development is compact city infill housing, and mixed-use development centered around public transit. 

A research paper from the Heritage Institute describes the trend, “radical environmentalists, local business groups, and the ever-present Not in My Backyard crowd have been trying for decades to reshape American communities to conform to their preferred “smart growth” policies. These advocates work to impose land use regulations that would force Americans into denser living arrangements, curtail freedom of choice in housing, discriminate against lower-income Americans, and compel people to pay more for their houses and give up their cars in favor of subways, trolleys, buses, and bicycles.”

“These efforts have long been resisted by some members of the community due to their negative impact on economic growth, competitiveness, and the nation’s standard of living. As Heritage has documented, communities implementing smart-growth policies have significantly higher home prices, which precludes moderate-income households from homeownership. In turn, these high home prices have forced buyers to take on excessive levels of mortgage debt, which has contributed to the default and foreclosure problems that have led to the current recession. Indeed, the foreclosure problem is at its worst in states with the strictest land use constraints: Florida, California, Arizona, and Nevada.”

California laws such as the AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, and SB 375, the Sustainable Communities Strategy, now mandate this type of high density city infill type of housing. Ranchettes are typically viewed as a threat to the environment and “subtle sprawl”.  The environmental community would rather farmland and rural parts of the state be left for habitat restoration and for animal connectivity corridors.

So what will our state look like in 20 or 50 years if these type of growth patterns are made a reality?  How will future generations be able to run the family farm?  Where will our food come from? 

When I have asked this question to those who support “sustainable communities” they tell me that vertical farming will be the wave of the future.  Vertical farming is the concept that our food supply will be grown in high rise greenhouse in urban areas. 

It seems that concepts such as vertical farming would fail due to the illogic of the idea.  It is estimated that it would take 105 Empire State building just to replace 2 percent of our agricultural products. Not to mention the enormous costs of artificially heating and cooling a tall building.  But none the less, these ideas are gaining momentum and it can have a dramatic affect on our way of life

In light of the economic crisis that we have faced states like Florida are starting to realize that these types of smart growth policies only limit economic potential and they are finally being repealed, but in California they seem to be on the fast-track towards implementation. 

Regulatory reform is critical to assure that we can prosper.  It is clear that rural communities in California face a much different reality that our urban neighbors, but we must assure that the place we call home remains vibrant and competitive. This can be done by assuring that land use policy remains a local decision and is not elevated to a state or federal level.



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