More Legos for Smart Growth

The latest in anti-sprawl silliness comes to us from Maryland. From the Baltimore Sun:

Can a thousand or so adult Marylanders playing with Legos save the state from more suburban sprawl? With a recent poll showing many residents upset about the pace of growth in their communities, sprawl critics are joining with their frequent foes, developers, and with University of Maryland researchers for a bit of game-playing aimed at turning public discontent into a broad consensus on how – and where – the state should grow over the next 25 years. Public officials, home builders, merchants and civic activists will be invited to participate in one of four “visioning” exercises to be held around the state in May and June. The participants, more than 1,000 in all, will be asked to pick locations for future jobs and housing in their region by placing the popular children’s toy plastic building blocks on a map.

From my experience in similar visioning exercises, only the most vocal community members –including lots of NIMBY types– show up for these events, so it’s easy to skew the outcome to fit what the planners desire to implement (smart growth). And I’m wondering how the outcome of an exercise with input from 1,000 Maryland residents (if that’s the ultimate turnout) can represent a “broad consensus” in a state with a population of 5.5 million. This seems to me to be a self-serving exercise on the part of smart growth advocates designed to give a public stamp of approval on a policy blueprint that, to a large extent, they’ve already decided in advance. Check out this post from last year for my take on a similar effort in the DC metro area.