The Stealth Land-Grab of Regional planners

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Thrive 2055 is a 40-year tri-state region­al plan­ning scheme to cre­ate pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships that will exchange the cur­rent rep­re­sen­ta­tive gov­ern­ment for a region­al gov­ern­ment, with the ulti­mate goal of elim­i­nat­ing the prop­er­ty and per­son­al rights of residents.

Thrive 2055The peo­ple of Polk Coun­ty Ten­nessee cher­ish their land. Farm­ers will tell you the soil con­di­tions on every square inch of their acreage and landown­ers rev­er­ent­ly dis­cuss their prop­er­ties’ his­to­ry. These peo­ple would nev­er know­ing­ly sub­mit to strict zon­ing reg­u­la­tions or gov­ern­ment con­trol of their land. Yet with­out their knowl­edge or their informed con­sent, that is exact­ly what is about to happen.

Thrive 2055 is a plan­ning scheme to roll 16 coun­ties in Ten­nessee, Alaba­ma and Geor­gia into a sin­gle region­al bun­dle effect­ing over 1 mil­lion res­i­dents. Dri­ve dis­tances to work, bike paths, light rail, mixed-use con­struc­tion, and green­belts will all con­verge into a uni­fied scheme that is a car­bon copy of plans unfold­ing across Amer­i­ca. By form­ing a region, zon­ing deci­sions now made by local com­mu­ni­ties, will be under the author­i­ty of a pow­er­ful, region­al board.

Most Polk Coun­ty res­i­dents nev­er heard of Thrive 2055. It is no won­der. Only a hand­ful of res­i­dents attend­ed plan­ners’ meet­ings. On a recent radio appear­ance, a spokesper­son stat­ed that after 2 years of com­mu­ni­ty out­reach, plan­ners received just 1200 com­plet­ed com­mu­ni­ty sur­veys. Of the planned region’s 1 mil­lion res­i­dents, 998,800 did not participate.

Accord­ing to the plan­ners, com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers decide their plan’s make­up and the sur­veys are crit­i­cal for gath­er­ing their infor­ma­tion. The ane­mic par­tic­i­pa­tion sug­gests very few are inter­est­ed. Nor have plan­ners been forth­com­ing about who took the sur­veys. Were they stacked with the fam­i­lies of venders who stand to prof­it from Thrive 2055, or pos­si­bly groups of oppo­nents and their friends? Why are they con­tin­u­ing with a so-called ‘com­mu­ni­ty plan’ with so lit­tle inter­est on the part of the com­mu­ni­ty? The plan­ners have not answered one of these questions.

Com­mu­ni­ty par­tic­i­pa­tion and full-dis­clo­sure about the good and bad of region­al plan­ning is fun­da­men­tal if res­i­dents are to make informed deci­sions. Thrive 2055 offers no plan details. They claim the com­mu­ni­ty decides the plan. What com­mu­ni­ty? Are the 1200 who took the sur­vey decid­ing the plan for the remain­ing 998,800?

The few who have heard of the Thrive 2055 have scant idea of the out­comes beyond the col­or­ful brochures and trendy plan­ner-speak. Feel good phras­es like, “edu­cat­ed peo­ple with good jobs liv­ing in a great place” do not inform peo­ple. Rather, they dis­arm them from ques­tion­ing the under­ly­ing flaws of the process.

Since many peo­ple own their land and can pro­duce a prop­er­ty deed, they feel their rights are safe. Where region­al­ism is involved, this fatal mis­un­der­stand­ing sets peo­ple up to lose their prop­er­ty rights, their home val­ues and their way of life.

The gov­ern­ment does not need to own land to gov­ern what own­ers can do with it. Instead, they need to con­trol the zon­ing of the land. That is what region­al plan­ning does. It turns zon­ing deci­sions over to un-elect­ed boards who must com­ply with the require­ments of the fed­er­al grants that paid for the region­al plan’s implementation.

Already, in Chat­tanooga, the eco­nom­ic epi­cen­ter for Thrive 2055, plan­ners are enter­tain­ing the idea of form-based codes. This is a pro­gram­ma­ble sys­tem for fast track­ing zon­ing ordi­nances while mar­gin­al­iz­ing or alto­geth­er bypass­ing legislatures.

Nowhere do plan­ners dis­cuss these impor­tant facts with com­mu­ni­ty members.

The com­mu­ni­ty did not ask plan­ners to sell them a region­al plan that would swal­low their com­mu­ni­ties’ choic­es. It is incum­bent on the plan­ners to reach a rep­re­sen­ta­tive num­ber of peo­ple with full dis­clo­sure. It is not incum­bent on the peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate in a poor­ly defined and unso­licit­ed scheme that endan­gers their prop­er­ty rights.

Per­haps it is time for Thrive 2055 to admit their fail­ure to inform and engage the pub­lic, and sim­ply to move on.

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