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Reason Foundation

Urban Ugliness

Leonard Gilroy
July 26, 2005, 9:33am

Forget the tangible impacts of development (traffic, water, noise, etc.)...apparently planners should be concerned with ugliness: How about...letting the market work, allowing it to respond dynamically to changing consumer needs and preferences? How about ditching highly prescriptive zoning and subdivision ordinances that micromanage all creativity out of development projects, implicitly creating the incentive for developers to design for the purpose of code conformity rather than giving them the leeway to innovate? Don't get me wrong...I share a certain degree of visceral repulsion at the sight of [insert big-box store with massive empty parking lot here] just like the next guy. But I'm not going there to satisfy my soul's deepest longings; it would be silly to harbor an expectation that a trip to the local big box retailer or fast-food strip is going to satisfy any aesthetic appetites I may have. Function trumps form there. I can satisfy urban aesthetic needs with a trip to the city park or downtown arts district. And the idea of allowing regulators to decide what constitutes "beauty" or "places worth loving" is frightening indeed. Would you trust your local politician or city bureaucrat to decorate your home's interior? I'd suspect the answer for many is no. So it's indeed puzzling that so many people want to give them such power on a grand scale. I may be wrong, but isn't beauty in the eye of the beholder?

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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