We The People: It’s More than One of Them

competitive_strategies.gifGriff and Tracy have been hinting that my recent postings are perhaps a bit lacking in substance. In fact, on Friday night in Bridge Square, Griff actually threatened to bring back the pictures of the ducklings if I didn’t raise the bar a bit.

Well, I will continue to insist that Jerry Garcia was a genius, although perhaps also an acquired taste. However, I can’t risk the return to the ducklings.

Tracy’s recent post, We The People: What One of Them Wants Northfield to Be, was of great interest to me. She emphasized her goal of cradle-to-grave livability and her value of the collective wisdom of the last 5,000 years, I believe in contrast to the conventional wisdom of the last 50 years.

Although Tracy and I generally disagree about art, we’re often on the same page for community planning. It was not a surprise to me that we share values and goals on this topic. However, I was genuinely surprised that we arrived at the same place coming from such different angles.

Tracy seemed to be thinking about what Northfield “should” be. Perhaps I’m more limited in my thinking; I’m only contemplating what Northfield “could” be. While Tracy envisions a full quality of life, I’m just chasing a bit of economic development. I’m going to blame it all on Michael Porter.

I read Michael Porter’s Competitive Strategy in business school. I found his ideas so interesting that I later read his Competitive Advantage for pleasure.

Porter argues that you can compete on cost or you can compete on differentiation. I would express this idea as you can either be the low cost supplier or the high quality provider. I would further extend this idea from businesses selling products to communities pursuing economic development.

In her recent posting, Tracy mentions “big boxes”. In Porter’s analysis, they would be the low cost suppliers. They are based on the cheap model: cheap gas, cheap parking, and cheap wages.

I don’t think I’m taking her argument too far if I suggest that following this low cost model might lead one to propose a concept of a business park, or a housing development, or a retail mall in the middle of a cornfield. Such an approach is firmly based on cheap gas, cheap parking, and cheap wages.

However, it’s not all cheap. There are some substantial costs. Pursuing this model requires a considerable investment in infrastructure. In fact, Tracy warns of spending millions more to extend infrastructure and services to outlying areas.

I think Tracy and I share a vision of a different model for economic growth, perhaps more in line with Porter’s high quality provider. This model would focus on maximizing leverage from your assets, not just your existing infrastructure, like water and sewer, and roads and communications, but such quality assets as an authentic downtown and a scenic river.

As our recent long waltz with ID Insight proved, those companies that Tracy desires, with 10 to 50 high-paying jobs, don’t want to locate in a cornfield in the middle of nowhere. These sought after companies seem to be attracted not by the low cost supplier but by the high quality provider.

To be perceived by these desirable companies as the high quality provider, we must maximize the leverage from our assets. Connections to our authentic downtown and scenic river that are not based on cheap gas, some of which in fact don’t require gas at all, are one way to leverage economic growth from these assets. In this context, such connections are not luxurious amenities but shrewd investments.

These concepts are not impractical dreams of sandal-wearing hippies. A recent newspaper headline read something like “Gas Prices to Remain High, at least for the Near Future”. Attention Northfield Police Department, I know who’s smoking the heroin, and it’s not the Deadheads.

Gas is like gold. There is a limited, in fact diminishing, supply. The price is, and will be, high, now, in the near future, and forever, at least until we use it all up; then it will be unattainable at any price. Therefore, non-gas-dependent transportation options are part of smart planning for future economic growth.

I do not believe that Northfield can compete as the low cost supplier. The price of land in town does not compare favorably with surrounding communities. We are not located on a freeway. We do not have, nor is it our goal to create, a low cost workforce.

There are probably dozens of communities in southeastern Minnesota with cornfields. Most, if not all, probably have cheaper land, a closer freeway, and a lower cost workforce. But how many of them have an authentic downtown, a scenic river, and a college for every 9,000 residents?

I believe that Northfield’s competitive advantage is as the high quality provider. Connecting our homes and business to the authentic downtown and scenic river strengthens our image as the high quality provider. Making room in our leadership structures for the colleges and the retailers, long experienced in competing through differentiation, supports the strategy of providing high quality. Maximizing leverage from existing infrastructure helps establish our abilities as the high quality provider.

Northfield has arrived at a critical point in decision-making about which strategy for economic development our community will pursue. It is time to tell our community’s leaders which strategy you believe will provide the desired results.

41 thoughts on “We The People: It’s More than One of Them”

  1. Nice post Ross. While getting up to speed on development issues I have become somewhat jaded about the ability of big city politicians to use real planning. Luckily, Dundas and Northfield are still small (well, one of us is). My post, “ Paying attention so you don’t have to pay the piper.” suggests that we should be looking at the “Total Cost of Ownership” on new developments (in planning terms this is called the “Cost of Community Services“). It appears that lots of small towns are finding that when they really look at the bottom line, and really measure all the costs, growth (that holy grail of the politicians) is a fool’s gold, and the pursuit of growth to the exclusion of all else is a fool’s errand.

    Dundas is struggling with the fact that we have had a complete change of staff and a good size turnover in the city council. Now, as the new city administrator tries to recover financial information, we are finding that TIFs are not understood by many of the people involved, that cash flow is not well mapped out and that infrastructure limits are often not well documented. I am hoping that we can apply envelope #1 (blame in on the previous administration) if we uncover any unpleasantness.

    Your call for quality over quantity is a very good response indeed, but without total planning it too will fail. Total planning means every proposal is measured against the whole cities entire infrastructure needs (not just the easy ones like sewer and water), every TIF is explained in a simple honest “truth in lending“-like form, and every proposal denied is well documented to be based on hard analysis not just “not in my backyard“. I believe in the voters, give them real information and they may surprise us by asking for more taxes rather than giving up some quality of life by inviting in unwelcome development.

    As an experienced analyst, I am learning what questions to ask, I know how to ask them, but I cannot figure out how to break the news to the people that (1) you have built up a large deficit in your infrastructure and (2) you cannot get out of that problem by inviting more people to move in (a pyramid scheme).

    You and I have had some interesting starter discussions, recently I posted that I was joining the chorus of people calling for a regional authority (at the end of the “Dundas, Northfield and Bridgewater plan (?) a trail” post). Let’s continue our dialogs (though the expiration of Dundas’s moratorium, 14 Aug 2007, is coming up fast!).

    Of course, David L. has already raised this point, but it bears repeating. Building a quality city makes it harder for low wage earners to live locally, which is patently unjust. And Northfield has a long history of having a very vocal contingent who pay attention to that issue. David L. just happens to be the one who reminds us the most often.

  2. Ross said:

    “Griff and Tracy have been hinting that my recent postings are perhaps a bit lacking in substance.”

    and……

    In fact,— Griff actually threatened to bring back the —– if I didn’t raise the bar a bit.

    Forgive my Ludite perspective and maybe there’s a significant difference between Postings and subsequent Comment… but I’d speculate that the “lack of substance” is often across-the-board… and the plethora of tit-for-tat Comments often drives the discussion of the initial Posting to new levels of mediocrity. Besides that, if we’re talking Postings w/Substance, does that include, Faux News, Construction Trailers Parked on Private Property, Sweet Lou’s hiring ad in the NN classified section, Watch out Dan Rather, Helpful Fed Ex Drivers… etc.?

    I agree w/Bruce Morlan’s comment this latest from Ross is good – and that’s because it is likely to bring out some thoughtful and informed perspectives… making the discussion arguably of some value in providing needed public influence to the leadership. Will it [leadership] react?

    Two closing remarks before I sit down to write thoughtfully on This new thread…

    1) Leadership? That’s a dicy one. Before you run you’re not a leader – you’re either merely a lurking disgruntled and jaded harborer of misguided perspective… or you got some substance to your views and you’ve taken the time and effort to develop them… or somewhere in between.

    Once you’ve entered the race… and that’s often a race tilting one or more wannabe leaders against each other, all with questionable skills. and then comes the often fatal flaw in the system.

    No matter what leadership skills or not, might be included – regardless of merit… someone will win. Schazaam! A Leader! So, perhaps “so much” for influencing the leaders?

    2) Ross also mentioned… “that Jerry Garcia was a genius, although perhaps also an acquired taste. ”

    Frankly, for me love, of ice cream is not an acquired taste… but an instinctual one… but talking about B and J’s Jerry Gracia seems to have no more merit than talking about rock stars!

    On to comment!

    vs

  3. Okay, I’m back after a seven- or ten-day hiatus, and I’m very pleased to see the ongoing discussion of what Northfield “could” or “should” or “wannabe”.

    Now I have to pick on Dave a little, partly because I know he can handle it and partly because he’s done what I’ve done in crawling out on a limb.

    I agree with Dave that a potential downside of, in Ross’s term, being the high quality provider is that people making lower wages will find it difficult if not impossible to live here. I disagree that it’s “patently unjust”. (Dave, you should know better. It might not be FAIR, but there’s no inherent injustice about it. I’ll bet you’re a middle child.)

    My real point is that, as I’ve researched and reflected on a myriad of planning techniques, studies, and analyses, I’ve come to the conclusion that this lack of lower-cost housing options might be the only clear downside to the vision Ross and I are espousing.

    Which is why I think it’s both necessary and warranted for the City to mess around with the Holy Free Market and develop some incentives, programs, or other creative alternatives for developing these options. Even now, there’s strong indication that it probably won’t happen any other way, and if it doesn’t, we’ll lack the age-and-wage diversity that is part of the fabric of a strong, vibrant, and cohesive community.

    You can’t have it both ways. If lower-cost housing options are important for Northfield to have, the gub’ment has to interfere with the free market. If an unrestricted free market is most important, then we won’t have lower-cost housing options in Northfield, and there’s no moral or ethical problem with that because the market has spoken.

  4. As for relying on the free-market (ahem, sorry Tracy), I have been espousing free-markets since before you were born, and there is nothing free-market about development in modern society. By the time we play the tax-subsidy and TIF games, then sleaze around re-zoning and making compromises in the name of growth, we have corrupted the free-market in a way that prevents it from providing the safety we were hoping for. I have hinted before, and will do so again here, that until we really open the market place it will not protect us. Low-visibility deals to buy land (as appears to have been done in Bridgewater, twice at least) before going public with the associated development plans seem to get us into serious trouble. Suddenly we find ourselves confronted by a rolling development behemoth with way too much momentum (“look at how much they’ve invested, we can’t tell them no!”) to be slowed up by the facts. That is why Ross and I are trying to guide our respective planning commissions to think outside the box about things like the total cost of development rather than focusing on just the one aspect most people think of (“more tax base”).

  5. Many thanks to Ross Currier for putting forward the concept of low cost supplier vs. high quality provider. This makes sense to me.

    Speaking of development, remember there is a public hearing on the proposal for an ethanol plant in Hampton Township (just over the line from Randolph Township) on Aug. 8, as I recall. An earlier report quoted one of the township supervisors as saying they could use the $15,000/yr in taxes they anticipate from the project. I wonder if they are considering the downside.

  6. Bruce is right again on the purity of the “free market”…….. ain’t nothing like purity around, as far as I can see.
    Is it “free market” when a landowner comes to a planning commission, requesting a zoning change, every time he has a new potential client? I guess that’s “free”, but is it good? Just one example of why a totally free market may not be in the best interests of having a thoughtfully developed community.
    And shouldn’t a “free market” either prove or lose its worth on a specific proposal by the govt unit doing a cost benefit analysis? And I mean benefit to the community. And might not then that cost benefit analysis have to be weighed as to other benefits besides only $$$ to the community.
    Truly beneficial development needs a thoughtful, in depth process… not just “we’ll be sued” or”how can we say no?”
    Evaluation, and regulation……not just authorization.

  7. Well, as someone planning to move to Northfield in the nearish future… I mostly agree. I think, though, that a community can do something that individual businesses usually can’t, which is to try to provide both. There are times when I want a really excellent meal, even if it’s pricey. There are times when I want lunch, in ten minutes, for fairly cheap. Thus, there’s room for both McDonalds and W. C. Frost & Company in my world.

    A town with some fairly generic things (such as a Mickey D’s and a couple of other generic, mass-produced, chain type things) and also a variety of high-quality things is a more welcoming environment… And the same thing may apply to a workforce. Sometimes you want a handful of brilliant and driven artists, but sometimes all you need is someone who can push a broom around a bit.

    I guess, I’m all for having nice stuff and cool people, but be wary of driving away the people who have some sorta cheap stuff that’s good enough most of the time; they’re useful, too, and help support diversity. And diversity is good too.

  8. Thanks for the post, Peter. I like how you think that it should not be and either or option. Diversity IS good. To find that balance we need good planning. The development south of Timberlane would be a really good example of poor planning and imbalance!

    One thing that Tracy talked about in her vision was the need for more business to help pay infastructure taxes. Does the City of Northfield have an idea of what the balance needs to be between individual property and business taxes?

  9. Thinking of maximizing our assets, Ross’s statement, “But how many of them have an authentic downtown, a scenic river, and a college for every 9,000 residents?” brought back a memory. There used to be a little ski shop on the northwest corner where the Cannon intersects with 2nd Street. They also offered canoe rentals.

    That memory led me to a “what if?” (This time I am serious.) What if there was a shop on the corner of Hwy 3 and 2nd Street (where the lovely construction trailer is parked) that rented canoes/kayaks, cross country skis, maybe even paddle boats? There is a nice landing there, though some stairs might need to be put in to launch. The shop could offer pick up by the Waterford bridge, so you would not have to worry about how to get back.

    Maybe it could even be a stop on the Mill Town bike trail. (Would you be interested in re-locating, Mike?) What about bike rental? Tandems, 3-wheelers…

    Bait and fishing poles could be available too. Hey, maybe the shop could rent waders and give fly fishing lessons. They could even offer tools, suppplies, and lessons on making lures.

    It would be a great joint location with the Chamber of Commerce.

    Anyone interested? Could the city have a municipal outdoors shop too or instead of the Muni?

  10. Christine, that store was Sundance Outfitters. We bought skis and camping equipment there in the 70s. But Mendota Homes owns the property now and plans a second residential unit there. So it might be tough to make your vision happen, at least at that location.

    But as for diversity, I like the fact that Nfld is not 100% a college town. Yeah, we’re Bobos in Paradise
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobos_in_Paradise
    but there’s been enough of a working class population here to keep things balanced.

    I like Target and a vibrant downtown; Malt o Meal and SpeechGear; DJJD and ArtSwirl; NASCAR night and CVRO on Bridge Square; the Rueb and the Cow.

    So Peter’s post resonates with me. And although I support the direction of the Comp Plan, I know that it could exacerbate the problem of a lack of workforce housing that we have.

    We just need to realize, as I’m starting to, that workforce housing is as important to our future vitality as a commununity as my beloved fiber-to-the-premise infrastructure.

  11. Peter:

    Good to have some new voices in this discussion. I hope you do end up moving to Northfield, we could always use another set of hands to help with the heavy lifting.

    I didn’t mean to imply that I would keep low cost suppliers of mass merchandise out of Northfield. My intended focus was on what kinds of investments of limited resources would produce the highest returns to the community.

    I will say that a number of authors, including Michael Shuman in “The Small-Mart Revolution”, have suggested that the category killers are perhaps not the saviors of low income people. These writers have argued that although those mass retailers may offer a few items as loss leaders each week, overall their prices do not assure substantial savings for the typical shopping cart load. And as Paul Hawken, author of a number of books, has argued for years, often you get what you pay for in terms of quality.

    As for affordable or workforce housing, a number of things can help its creation. In addition to the subsidies that Tracy and Bruce have mentioned, access to existing infrastructure and allowing higher density can both make substantial contributions to lower costs of production. If community members make it a priority for our leaders, progress on the issue will begin.

    Thanks for commenting,

    Ross

  12. One of the things I found most attractive about Northfield, when
    we first moved here, almost five years ago, was the open areas
    between houses, up on the corners and here and there. Now,
    almost all of those spaces have been filled in or are being filled in. As a canary in the mine type, I am starting to feel the pinch.

    High density is hard on people. It is the single most reason for
    crime. People feel very uncomfortable and the air is always filled with the tension as density grows.

    If farmers cannot find buyers for their farms other than developers, it must be because there is no need for the farm. This is true all over the country. Taxpayers have paid for farmers not to grow corn and such for decades now. I suggest buying up some of the land for future generations, and I suggest sprawl is good. Just get better gas mileage, more local business, more telecommuting, and readily doable stuff like that.

    Bright

  13. Griff: I was actually envisioning the other side of the street–the empty lot where the Byzantine used to be.

    Your comment about the Comp Plan made me realize that I neeeded to educate myself on what our city government is doing. (I see this as another positive thing about LG.)

    These are from the Northfield Economic Development Authority:

    http://www.ci.northfield.mn.us/assets/f/FINAL-COMPLETE-Northfield-ED–plan_-7JUNE2006.pdf
    http://www.ci.northfield.mn.us/assets/2/2007-EDA-Work-Plan—for-web.pdf

    This is from the Planning Commmission:

    http://www.ci.northfield.mn.us/assets/f/Final-Draft—Northfield-Principles-6-26-07-.pdf

    There was another copy I found of the Comp Plan with pictures and graphs, but I cannot seem to find it now. Maybe Tracy or Ross can post that link. The pictures and graphs on it were very informational, and they helped all the wording to make sense. 🙂

    The documents can be long, which I think is why many of us do not read them. One question I have is if the plans from the Economic Development Authority and the Planning Commission are in agreement or not.

  14. Christine, I’m not sure where you might have seen the plan and pictures you’re referring to – it may have been in the Resources section of NorthfieldPlan.org.

    In answer to your question about whether the Ec. Dev. Plan and Comprehensive Plan are in agreement, I believe they are. I was serving on the EDA during the time that TIP Strategies was doing the Ec. Dev. Plan, and almost all of their analysis supports the direction that I believe our Comp Plan is taking.

    The only specific detail I remember that *might* be indicative of different priorities, rather than disagreement, is the idea of setting aside a quantity of land specifically for business development. That’s been the recommendation that’s gotten the most attention and the most action, probably because it’s the most conventionally understood. But there was a TON of analysis that went into, and recommendations that came out of, the ED plan that are consistent with the Comp Plan, e.g. strengthening downtown, better usage and stewardship of the Cannon River, more compact development, better neighborhood connections, and on and on, all involving playing to Northfield’s strengths.

  15. Bright: “High density is hard on people. It is the single most reason for crime. People feel very uncomfortable and the air is always filled with the tension as density grows.” Your comment made me realize how important pictures can be.

    In the Comp Plan with the pictures (the one I cannot find the link to now) it showed row houses like Georgetown. These images change the usual connotation of the words “high density.” It is not like the Projects in Chicago. I think the success of this vision will be integration and diversity in neighborhoods. Providing enough green space in the form of parks would need to be part of the plan. Apple Valley has made an attempt to incorporate row houses, but it seems to be separate from single family home developments, which make it less appealing.

  16. Okay. Am I going nuts? There was a flashy document, like the one from the Economic Development Authority, somewhere on the city planning commission website. It had full color pictures and was lengthly. Did I dream this? When I went on the site this morning, it had been updated. Could it have been deleted overnight? Help! This is driving me crazy.

    Ross: Do you know what I am referring to?

  17. Bright,
    you said:
    “High density is hard on people. It is the single most reason for
    crime.”

    please back that statement up with some facts. I find it hard to believe.

    then you said:
    “sprawl is good.”

    sprawl is good for what or whom? developers, maybe, someone with lots of land to sell, yes. I suggest you read Suburban Nation. It contradicts your statments and provides some excellent examples to back it up.

  18. I don’t have proof from a study. I only know what I see and feel
    around me, as I have lived in so many different situations throughout my life. I don’t use studies, cuz I know how they can and are tweaked to make the conclusions fit the theories.

    And I don’t refer to the Projects at all. That was a very unique experiment where a few people caused many honest hard working people to suffer extensively. Never use extremes to prove a point, either.

    I don’t ask you all to prove your every statement, as I believe there is some truth in all, but the truth changes with time and none of us know how much.

    For me, sprawl is way cool and density is not. I love to see the sky, watch the weather and light move in and out and around.
    Sprawl gives people room to play, sing, holler and laugh, and work on projects (for lack of a better word) without bothering the neighbors. Sprawl is freedom to be. In sprawl you can have a horse,
    a goat and a dog and room to build a boxcar.

    We lived in an apt. where the man upstairs worked shift work, and
    we could hear him shaving and turning the water on and off fifty times a night, and doing weight lifting and dropping the weight on the floor, and then having his beer parties in the morning with
    his friends, and the smoke came throught the vents, and men were dropping off stolen cars with bodies in the trunk in the parking
    lot and dogs were roaming the streets all the time, and kids were breaking into the maintenance shed, and a police car was robbed, and that’s just stuff I saw and heard with my own eyes and ears. It was no low cost housing development. It was newer apts with a pool and fireplaces, and community house, and lots of parking and all that. I could give other real life examples with different takes, but I expect you have other things to do today.

    Oh, I should say that there were 12 units of 24 apartments, so like 300 apts on 20 acres or so.

    We had green space in the middle of four square apt. buildings., but you see you know the comings and goings of dozens of people, you hear what they are saying as they pass by your windows, your cars are outside, some in locations that are not well viewed, and so many conditions that lend themselves to being open to crime exist. I didn’t need to read a book to realize that.

    I realize I come from a very different background than many of you,
    and that is why I comment, so that you will see that some of us see things differently and if you ask, you will know why, and apply where applicable. I appreciate your efforts to make things better and only hope I can add something to that, if only by encouraging
    your own ideas where mine fall short.

    Bright

  19. Bright: You have seen where high density housing does not work. That does not mean that ALL high density housing is bad. There might be instances where it does work. There are architechtual elements and building codes that can correct some of the noise and ventilation problems you referred to. There can also be city ordinances that would correct the other problems. Proper planning and enforcement would need to be the keys.

  20. Christine: Could you give an instance, where, over the long term,
    high density housing does work well? Something other than the high rises on Lake Shore Drive where Oprah lives.

    Then, when you use the words, “ordinances, enforcement”, I believe even less that Hi D works well.

    And let me clarify, I do not at all assume that it is the residents of Hi D housing whom are the criminals.

    Bright

  21. Bright, the Lincoln Institute for Land Policy (an independent, nonpartistan think tank and research organization) has an excellent series called “Visualizing Density”, which illustrates various concepts with photos. I don’t know if it’s available without a subscription or not. Here’s an excerpt with visual:

    density-design-matters.jpg

    It really helps when there are photographs to help illustrate concepts.

  22. I see these developments, they look nice, but I wonder what the
    dweller’s frame of mind is, where is their garden to tend, their
    big floppy dog and three cats…what else can they do besides sit indoors, read a book, get online, and chat? These are things that are hard to study and quantify in a meaningful way, although I have seen it tried.

    Bright

  23. Well, in response to some of the posts about density, I think that density is in the eye of the beholders culture, but that aside, the FBI claims:

    Historically, the causes and origins of crime have been the subjects of investigation by many disciplines. Some factors that are known to affect the volume and type of crime occurring from place to place are:

    * Population density and degree of urbanization.
    * Variations in composition of the population, particularly youth concentration.
    * Stability of population with respect to residents’ mobility, commuting patterns, and transient factors.
    * Modes of transportation and highway system.
    * Economic conditions, including median income, poverty level, and job availability.
    * Cultural factors and educational, recreational, and religious characteristics.
    * Family conditions with respect to divorce and family cohesiveness.
    * Climate.
    * Effective strength of law enforcement agencies.
    * Administrative and investigative emphases of law enforcement.
    * Policies of other components of the criminal justice system (i.e., prosecutorial, judicial, correctional, and probational).
    * Citizens’ attitudes toward crime.
    * Crime reporting practices of the citizenry.

    On presumes they controlled to compare crimes per person rather than crimes per acre (which would, of course, be higher in dense regions, duh). Though I would not bet the farm on that.

    Tracy, your post with pictures suggests (correctly) that it’s not just the density, it’s how dense it feels, since we are talking about behavior, which is based on perceptions, not realities.

  24. Bruce wrote:On presumes they controlled to compare crimes per person rather than crimes per acre (which would, of course, be higher in dense regions, duh).

    As an aside:
    I was reminded me of a newscast I saw where the Duluth Police Dept had just make a major cocaine bust, and there was a shot of the police car with it’s door opened and all you could see was the side of the car and the DU and the H of Duluth. 🙂

    and again, OT, but funny.
    And, I like Bruce’s statement when he adds, “Though I would not bet the farm on that.”

    Bright

  25. Also, I would like to see more of the type of planning that
    looks into the future, for several, if not seven, generations.
    For instance, when a development is built, forecasts are made
    for the type of persons who will live there in the near future.
    But, what about later, say 50-100 years, if the housing is made to
    last that long, after the first three generations have passed on,
    the housing might be in need of costly repairs. Do we deconstruct
    these places, do we leave them to the less fortunate, are we planning to have less less fortunates?

    These are things I do not know and would be happy to hear about.

    Bright

  26. Christine:

    I refer all questions on the appearance and disappearance of .pdf documents and PowerPoint shows on the the City website to my colleague, Tracy Davis.

    😉

    Bruce:

    Having read many a history book, including a large number on the history of various cities, I wonder if summarizing density as contributing to crime is simplistic. At least in the history books that I have read, the density is often the result of people moving to the urban areas to find work. As there are often more of these people looking for jobs than there are jobs, this sometimes may result in people resorting to criminal means to put bread on the table.

    I guess that I’m suggesting that mere density does not result in crime. I’m also thinking that good or bad design of this density may not directly impact crime. I believe that there are underlying economic issues beneath the density that are more directly related to crime rates.

    Ross

  27. Brtight: Reply to #23
    I cannot help but use one of your own statements from #21 in reply. “I don’t have proof from a study. I only know what I see and feel around me, as I have lived in so many different situations throughout my life. I don’t use studies, cuz I know how they can and are tweaked to make the conclusions fit the theories.”

    In #21 you also said, “Sprawl is freedom to be. In sprawl you can have a horse,
    a goat and a dog and room to build a boxcar.” I think you might have a different definition of sprawl. I do not think that the city allows people to have horses or goats within the city limits. A permit would be required to build a boxcar on you property if you lived in the city, and I am not sure if they would even give you one. Are you thinking of country living? That would not be included in the city Comp Plan.

    Again, I say that I believe either/or thinking is not beneficial. When we talk about high density housing, I see that it would be intersperced and balanced by single family homes. One problem that we have is that it is not usually done that way. High density housing is usually grouped and set apart from single family developments. That does not mean that we cannot change that with proper planning.

    On another note, the issue of student housing does needs to be kept in mind when planning and zoning. That is another animal.

  28. What you say is true, Christine, and I think I have said before that
    some people like annonymous style housing. People like all sorts of things I don’t like and they have the right to it. I am just saying, yes, be very careful in the planning of it all.

    What I don’t understand is why people don’t see that there is tons of land in this country. The only thing lacking may be water, and that is most likely to be found in aquifers along the way. Why insist that so much more growth take place right here?

    Bright

  29. I don’t think there’s any chance of us not moving to Northfield unless the folks in our current neighborhood kill us before we get moved. (Distressingly plausible, in this part of Saint Paul.) 🙂

    I think the “cheap” stores tend to have things they really do sell cheaper, and other things that are more expensive that they hope you’ll buy anyway. There is an overall difference; a cart full of food at Byerly’s costs a noticable hunk of change more than a cart full of (probably not as good) food at Cub. On the other hand, in many areas, the more expensive products are worth it once you factor longevity in; cheap shoes that fall apart too soon don’t save you any money.

    Getting a stable and healthy community is hard, and many people have conflicting goals or desires for the community. A lot of emphasis is placed on growth as an end in itself. As Edward Abbey put it, “Growth for growth’s sake is the ideology of the cancer cell.” (A friend of mine has observed that “Goodness for goodness’s sake is the ideology of the Santa cell.” I don’t know whether that means anything, I just think it’s funny.)

    Some of what makes Northfield so attractive is hard to keep while growing it; we might, somewhere down the line, find that the best way to make Northfield healthier is to try to help nearby communities develop, rather than risk turning Northfield into yet another city complete with urban violence and, dare I bring it up, drug problems…

  30. Bright: In response to your post #35, I quote from the Land Use portion of the Comp Plan draft.
    http://www.ci.northfield.mn.us/assets/d/Draft-Chapter-4.pdf

    4.9 “When will we run out of land? Based on gross projections the City will
    need approximately 4,382 acres of land by 2010 (an increase of 286 acres
    from the 4,097 acres listed in Table 4.1). Based on the anticipated population
    forecast, historical land consumption rates and development patterns the City
    will run out of undeveloped land prior to the year 2010 as there are only 260
    acres of undeveloped land available, and 80 acres that are undeveloped
    including areas that have been preliminarily platted.”

    4.2 “Continued outward growth, extending utilities and the road network to
    areas of “vacant land” is not always fiscally responsible, nor will it work to
    preserve the small town character.”

    4.3 “Northfield’s growth has not come without costs
    related to transportation and utilities, and impacts on the rural
    landscape.”

    4.11 “The existing pattern of development has been to grow outward at the
    edge of the city or fringe areas ? especially for residential development. This
    continued outward pattern of development is compromising the rural
    character of the Community. This outward growth creates a disconnected
    development pattern that is auto-oriented, while increasing the demand for
    infrastructure and Community services.”

    There is also the enviornmental impact of urban sprawl. It can have a major impact on our ecosystem. Can anyone else address that?

  31. Just a couple of end notes…

    I was addressing another person’s questions when I talked about
    sprawl and Hi D. See comment #20.

    The pictures Tracy put up are not really comparable as they are shot from way different angles, to prove my point about how things are tweaked to make the theory work. See comment #24.

    I have visited at least three farms with Northfield addresses and
    haven’t really been addressing the Comp Plan at all.

    In “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who’s book I did not read, but whom I heard on Charlie Rose Show last night, “We are much better at discovery than design.”

    As for the environmental impact of sprawl, a lot of that can be worked out, as I previously mentioned, when all the elements are
    considered as a unified whole. The emotional impact of Hi D is
    another question, with equally negative impact as far as I am
    concerned. Also, we as humans are going to leave our footprints
    wherever we go, just like any animal will and does. I am against
    locking ourselves up in cages like we do the zoo animals so that
    we are safe or secure or environmentally correct. I am for freedom of movement and being careful to leave a small footprint. When we live in our place in Oklahoma, we are very careful about water,
    and utilities and all that, more because it’s a different way of life, we spend more time outdoors and less time inside. It is more convenient to be enviromentally concerned there than here in many ways. Poeple who live around us have been doing things right for
    many decades, out of necessity and efficiency, as money was tight.
    People writing books out on the east coast may not get that at all,
    or ignore it cuz it doesn’t fit their pet theory.

    Okay, I’m done, cuz I have to get going on my own work. Thanks for listening!

    Bright

  32. I deleted the duplicates, Christine.

    Peter wrote:

    Some of what makes Northfield so attractive is hard to keep while growing it; we might, somewhere down the line, find that the best way to make Northfield healthier is to try to help nearby communities develop…

    Peter, can you give some examples? We have this situation with Dundas adjacent to us, but I’m not sure what you mean by helping them develop.

  33. Bright, to your point about the Lincoln Institute photos I posted earlier – they weren’t “tweaked” or anything, although one appears closer-up than the other. They simply illustrate a mathematical fact: That each shows a neighborhood of the same density of 11.7 units per acre. Any “tweaking” you perceive is simply the effect of design, which is part of my point: Density is just a number. Whether the density of a given area is low, medium, or high, HOW it’s laid out (designed) is a critical component of how it feels and how it functions. There are some low-density areas that are poorly designed, don’t address basic human needs well, and have high crime rates. There are high-density areas that are clean, safe, and surrounded by greenspace. It’s all in the design.

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