Central Planning

Hippodamus of Miletus was a Greek architect of the 5th century BC. He was the first practitioner of urban central planning. His first project was the city of Miletus, an ancient city on the western coast of Anatolia (in what is now the Aydin Province of Turkey), near the mouth of the Maeander River. The site was inhabited since the Bronze Age. It is first mentioned in Hittite records as Millawanda. In the time of Hittite king Mursili II (ca. 1320 BC), Millawanda became a bridgehead for the expansion of the Mycenean Greeks in Asia Minor. Miletus was an important center of philosophy and science, producing such men as Thales (who Aristotle called the founder of natural philosophy), Anaximander and Anaximenes. It was where Hecataeus invented geography. It was destroyed by the Persians in 494 BCE, after they had defeated the navy of the Ionian Greeks at Lade. Miletus was rebuilt on a promontory, north of the old town. The gridiron plan of the new town, designed by the Hippodamus, became the standard for urban planning. One photograph that accompanies this article shows a model of the rebuilt city; the other shows how it looks now. A cynic might say that the two photos are proof that good central planners can indeed reverse growth and recreate functioning wetlands. Most central planners would have you think that their profession was recently created and has newly invented “smart growth” and “sustainable development” and “livable cities.” The truth is that the problems that they would like you to think that only they can fix are the results of previous plans by central planners. They wring their hands and beat their breasts because those who live in suburbia must drive long distances to work, shop, recreate, and worship. Do they think we are so dumb that we do not know it was the zoning forced by central planners and their political supporters that prevented all those types of use in suburbia? Perhaps it is they who are too dumb to be in charge of the current “smart growth” experiment that will cause all the problems for the next generation of central planners. King County DDES is systematically removing all uses except housing and hobby farming (mostly horses) in the RA zones of rural King County and calling it growth management. King County staff routinely call the RA zones “residential area,” not “rural agricultural.” Homes on five-acre lots (the RA zone minimum) where people sleep and then commute to their job in the city is the definition of suburban sprawl. Rural to me (born in South Dakota) is where you can live and work on the same ground. If you don’t want an “economy” sullying where you sleep, buy a home in a subdivision with strong covenants instead of moving to the country and trying to change your neighbors uses. Smart growth proponents cry endlessly about expensive infrastructure outside the Urban Growth Line while forcing the sales tax dollars of rural residents into the cities so they can afford their infrastructure. Meanwhile residents of unincorporated King County pay a property tax rate of 14.23585 compared to Kirkland at 9.99742 or Mercer Island at 8.60698 or Medina at 7.91028 or even Seattle at 12.18121. The following quote is from an article “Smart Growth, Open Space & Farm Land” by Smart Growth America, a coalition of major Smart Growth organizations. “Cost of Community Services (COCS) studies conducted in more than 83 communities show that owners of farm, forest and open lands pay more in local tax revenues than it costs local government to provide services to their properties. Residential land uses, in contrast, are a net drain on municipal coffers: It costs local governments more to provide services to homeowners than residential landowners pay in property taxes.” It turns out that “saving farms and forests” is just a Machiavellian scheme to reduce the taxes of city folks. We couldn’t possibly provide rural folks some of the services for which they are taxed!

July 26, 2010