Several of East Feliciana Parish’s elected and appointed officials attended the Fourth Annual Louisiana Smart Growth Conference sponsored by Center for Planning Excellence in Baton Rouge August 27 through 28.
Slaughter Mayor Bobbie Bourgeois, Norwood Mayor Becky Bellue and her Assistant Christy Jelks, Planning Commission members Juanita Parks and Mike Salmon and I heard discussion on ways to strengthen existing communities based on quality of life factors.
Preeminent international planners spoke on Smart Growth principles for healthy, safe, livable, complete communities. Topics ranged from economics, health, architecture and landscape architecture, to roads, transportation, housing and law.
Smart Growth requires planning communities for people, not cars or trucks. In all probability our children will inherit the lifestyle we choose. In the community where we choose to live, do we really want to spend so many hours a day driving on a four-lane highway to a large paved parking lot, or two or three, for work and errands? Many people do live this lifestyle, as all over the United States lanes are added to highways. How valuable is our time and the place we spend it?
Small towns are excellent examples of Smart Growth. Typical suburban sprawl is the antithesis.
Street grids (like streets in town blocks or neighborhoods) with local shopping, doctors, dry cleaners, hair salons and more are preferable traffic movers to the congested highway lined with every conceivable commercial enterprise. Traffic is dispersed instead of funneled.
Rural living encourages a natural, healthy lifestyle.
Restoration and finding new uses for old buildings is preferred to leaving vacant buildings and adding bigger, better new ones at a farther distance.
Development of complete livable communities can also be cost effective.
Smart Growth encourages a community to define a sense of place: A Louisiana town should be recognizable as a Louisiana town. Planning for towns and parishes is needed to avoid becoming Anywhere, USA, that looks like Everywhere Else, USA.
East Feliciana Parish Master Plan work will soon begin in earnest. More details to come in the near future.