Wednesday, February 18, 2009

McMansions: Yes or No?

Recent national surveys have found that most Americans are both unhappy (and unhealthy) with the results of “sprawl,” a term which the Sierra Club defines as “poorly-planned development that destroys green space, increases traffic and air pollution, crowds schools and drives up taxes.”

We see examples of sprawl through the homogenous “McMansions” and planned communities that seem to pop up anywhere there is open space. Sprawl exists as the superstores and shopping centers that are needed to support these new homes and planned communities. Suburban sprawl gives little to no consideration for the environments around it. Sprawl affects the air we breathe and the water we drink and is responsible for the destruction of more than two million acres of parks, farms, and open space every year.

Sprawl affects not just our environment and nature, but also our own happiness. Suburban sprawl is pushed as being the American Dream. However, the American Dream is changing and a recent national poll found that three-quarters of those polled would prefer less development and more of a focus on “smart growth.” Even Hollywood, which has more often than not been a major outlet for selling the American Dream, has recently showed its discontent through films like WALL-E and Revolutionary Road.

Public Television is known for providing an alternative voice to pressing issues of public concern. On Saturday Feb. 21 at 6:30 p.m., MPT will air "Sprawl: A Tipping Point." This program, hosted by MPT’s Jeff Salkin, will take a local look at how Maryland’s natural environments are affected by sprawl and what we can do to curb the effects of it. The program will examine three specific communities affected by sprawl in Maryland: Terrapin Run in Allegany Country (the site of a controversial planned mountain community); south Baltimore’s Westport neighborhood, where an upcoming revitalization will use existing infrastructure; and Harford County, the future home of 25,000 additional households will move in upcoming years as a result of the military’s Base Realignment and Closure plan.

MPT wants to hear what you think. How do you define sprawl—and how does it define you. If you're like the 75% of Americans that are unhappy and dissatisfied with sprawl, we want to hear what you and your community are doing to counter sprawl. How do you define “smart growth”? What do you think are effective land use policies?

Jordan Weinberg
Institutional Advancement Intern


Nancy Spritz said...

I agree. There are so many older city and even county neighborhoods with personality and charm, but people move away from those just to have a bigger house in the suburbs, with a 3 car garage, on a court, off a boulevard or highway, within walking distance of absolutely nothing.

Renee said...

As a resident of Harford County, I have a positive and negative reaction to sprawl. I recently spoke with the HC Sheriff in reference to the B.R.A.C program being initiated and I feel this is positive for people like me, a soon to be college graduate in search of a job. At the same time, however, I feel like my community is already on the verge of being overcrowded and this will be the icing on the cake. Also with the increase in new homes and higher incomes, housing costs will rise which may force many people of low income out of my city which is definitely unfair to those citizens who have been here all their lives. While the government is attempting to increase our economy, our health (due to lack of trees and natural resources) and our individual pockets are at stake.