One Bay offers only four possibilities
Tomorrow Matters! is working hard to get thousands of people to participate in the public phase of One Bay’s regional visioning project (“VoiceIt”), which will be kicked off at 5 locations simultaneously on June 2, then continued at smaller meetings and in an online survey throughout the next 6 weeks.
Because I’ve been working with the Tomorrow Matters! (TM!) committee hosting the event, I was allowed to attend a private preview of the four scenarios. I was disappointed to see that the survey form (against all my fabulous, free advice!) was basically just a series of multiple-choice questions asking participants to simply vote for one of the 4 scenarios. I complained about this to everyone I could corner, and I’ve suggested some questions that would encourage participants not just to rubber-stamp one scenario or another, but to provide meaningful input that can be used to shape the final vision. Dena Leavengood (TM! leader) is also suggesting better questions.
As I briefly explained in a previous post, the scenarios have been developed by the One Bay Tech Team which includes a lot of very well-intentioned expert planners, but also includes an awful lot of developers, and NO community activists, environmentalists, bicycle advocates, nor just plain folks. The Tech Team includes no environmental protection agencies besides water-based agencies — did they account for all the upland habitat and other green space besides the wetlands in the scenarios?
Let’s keep that process in mind as we review these 4 scenarios:
- Scenario A: Business as usual — a depiction of what Tampa Bay will look like if development is allowed to continue the way it has been going.
- Scenario B: A compilation of where the Reality Check invitees put their Legos during that 90-minute exercise.
- Scenario C: Combines the Reality Check results with an emphasis on compacting growth around transit corridors and walkable communities.
- Scenario D: Combines the Reality Check results with an increased focus on protecting water resources and wildlife habitat.
Note that Scenarios B, C, & D incorporate the Reality Check results as their starting point. Is that why Scenario D looks so sprawly? Are we expected to believe that protecting our natural resources (D) leads inevitably to more sprawl than transit-oriented development (C)? Why should we have to choose between Scenario C’s goal of promoting transit and Scenario D’s goal of protecting natural resources? Good planning should be able to accomplish both of these goals—and then some.
If we weren’t tied to the Reality Check “data” (a skewed sampling of opinions gathered under contrived conditions), could we come up with a future scenario that accomplishes more of what we want the future to look like? What if we started with professional planners and without special interests?
But whether One Bay offers you a thought-provoking survey form or not, it’s up to you to think outside the four corners of their scenarios and—no matter what questions are asked—tell them what you want to say. Write your ideas on their form in the margins if you have to, or hand in a piece of paper with your thoughts. Pretend every multiple choice question has a write-in blank for “other.”
If none of the 4 scenarios matches your vision, don’t just choose the closest one. Describe your ideal future scenario. Combine parts of the 4 scenarios, or take one scenario and change it, or just explain what’s important to you. Tell them what you like and dislike about all the scenarios. Point out any important elements that are not addressed by the scenarios. You might also step back and comment on the process and suggest ways we might come up with a better vision.
Finally, don’t hesitate to question the underlying assumptions, including the growth projections. Note this point in an Orlando Sentinel commentary about Florida’s recent over development and the vacant suburban slums left in its wake:
“If we didn’t build another house in the suburbs, we still would have too many of them 17 years from now.”
Aside from our local glut of newly built, empty condos & houses, we also have over 50,000 unbuilt homes already approved just in south Hillsborough County. 50,000 homes. Even if we didn’t rezone another farm field we could accommodate much of the growth projected for decades.
This is your turn to have a say in your region’s future. Don’t miss it. But don’t let them hand you a rubber stamp, and then claim that the public has spoken.