As a transplant to Oregon some 14 years ago, what I have found so compelling living here is the natural beauty of the place and the willingness of legislators to protect that natural beauty. In the Portland area, this has traditionally gone beyond simply protecting natural amenities, but also in controlling urban sprawl that seeks to engorge itself upon the surrounding agricultural land. As many urban theorists - including Lewis Mumford and Murray Bookshin - have noted, cities work best when they are ringed by agricultural land that supplies them with food and green space. By historically protecting this land from development through comprehensive land-use management, the wider Portland area has been able to mitigate urban sprawl and provide Portlanders access to locally produced foods and wines.
Dense urban development, including access to local foods and wines are important today – they enable mass transit linkages and make cities more generally sustainable. As fuel prices continue to rise, and as formally sprawling, car dependent areas across the country, such as Detroit, find themselves forced to contract in size – the wisdom of the Portland model for controlling urban growth proves to be all the more apparent. Our land-use policies should reflect the urbanization choices and opportunities of both the traditional city and of the future – dense urban development with preserved agricultural land - rather than those simply of the last 50 years. It is for this reason that the urban and rural reserves process currently being undertaken by Metro is crucially important. It is also why I feel that Metro is making an enormous error of judgment in designating some 352 acres of the Helvetia area as an urban reserve area.
|Photo thanks to http://mikasavela.tumblr.com|