Northeast Neighborhoods plan "deeply disappointing"

Monday, July 20, 2009

From a commentary by Michael Vickerman, member, City of Madison Sustainable Design and Energy Committee:

The Northeast Neighborhoods Plan is a deeply disappointing exercise in sustainable and forward-looking urban design. All of the rhetorical flourishes and modest gestures toward sustainability cannot disguise the essence of the plan, which is to continue the fundamentally unsustainable practice of reserving relatively undeveloped and distant parcels of land for future highly urbanized development that may or may not ever materialize. There is no immediate reason to absorb this parcel of land into greater Madison. Between the deteriorating conditions in the local commercial and residential real estate marketplace and the current excess of vacant land already zoned for development, it is doubtful that development pressure will return to boom levels any time soon, if ever at all. And, from a sustainability perspective, that is not a bad thing, considering how much land was consumed and pavement was created during the housing boom that ended in 2007. It’s worth adding that no amount of “green” add-ons--bike paths, electric vehicle charging stations, district heating systems or rooftop solar systems--can offset the environmental degradation that will arise from transforming a relatively undeveloped area with few roads into a full-blown city neighborhood.