“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail”
– Abraham Maslow
Ed McMahon provides an oracle pleasure fest, riddled with personal anecdotes, philosophical quotes and rhetorical questions. This Ed McMahon is not your late-night sidekick version, but rather, the Charles Fraser Senior Resident Fellow of the Urban Land Institute, having written 25 books and over 150 articles on sustainable planning and development, preservation and conservation. Mr. McMahon’s best feature is his ability to tell a story that connects his audience, as he reinforces the idea that our solutions to building and maintaining “place” lay in our ability to come together. In Beaufort County, SC, this point is well taken.
In the world of Planning, it seems that Jane Jacobs, a self-taught pioneer of planning and development, is still alive. As the fundamentals of her planning philosophies drive the modern movements of new urbanism and sustainable development, present day planning heroes like Ed Mcmahon, thankfully, haven’t missed her message. Jacobs’ main themes included creating a city center that is walkable (as opposed to an auto-centric model), providing many different avenues from place to place to help foster connectivity (as opposed to the suburban cul-de-sac debacles), and building with regards to place. For instance, while building in New England, a saltbox style structure may be better appreciated than an adobe style structure, which would be more suited to a place like New Mexico.
These philosophies require the public to be involved, as well as the city planners to reach out to the public prior to zoning and development. Just as LEED encourages the use of commisioners throughout every stage of the design process, the mid-century ideas of Jacobs demand early planning and collaboration. This collaborative effort ensures that the general public, together with the future business owners and developers, work towards a plan to encourage success for all within the community. Hence, a win-win situation for everyone; the business owners have increased (foot) traffic and spending, and the community has attractive public spaces to congregate, come together, and ultimately, support the local economy. This creates a better quality of life for everyone involved, which in turn, increases a sense of place that is more likely to be preserved and protected for future generations.
Once again, I must commend the Beaufort County Planning Department, most notably Tony Criscitiello, for embracing these philosophies and bringing some of the most well respected authorities on the subject to Bluffton to share their knowledge with us last Wednesday night. Hopefully, we as a community are able to implement these lessons to benefit our future, both financially and spiritually, as stewards of this gorgeous landscape.