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A Response to Mark Pennington

Charles C. Bohl


Mark Pennington has provided a spirited defense of market mechanisms and the critics of New Urbanism and smart growth. I agree that there is common ground with respect to the need for regulatory reform in land market controls to allow the market to meet the demand for greater variety in settlement choices, and also in the essential role of the market in the growth, development, and rebuilding of neighborhoods and communities. Penningtons defense of the anti-planning, pro-sprawl advocacy coalition, however, relies on: a much too casual dismissal of a variety of empirical evidence showing both a regulatory bias against New Urbanism (NU) and the market acceptance of Traditional Neighborhood Developments (TNDs); an internally inconsistent position regarding the existing relationship between the (imperfect) market and consumer preferences as manifested in the built environment; and a devaluing of the democratic process and the very concept of community in American life. While New Urbanists and smart growth advocates would be quite comfortable with his veneration of the market (no government or policy has ever built a traditional neighborhood development or subsidized their mortgages and rents), the ultimate extreme of unplanned, market-as-god (and market-as-citizenry, market-as-elected governor, and market-as-judge), metropolitan landscapes to which Pennington leads us toward at the end of his commentary spawns an increasingly frightening vision and one at odds with core American values which are not, as the marketists imply, limited to the contents of our wallets.

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