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MINNEAPOLIS- The Minnesota chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks brought in a well-known smart growth opponent Tuesday to ignite interest in the issue among its 600 members. Smart growth, whose advocates oppose suburban sprawl and want higher density development in suburban areas, is an issue that is taking center stage in the Minnesota Legislature this year.

Gov. Jesse Ventura has been a big backer of the proposed light rail system that would connect Downtown Minneapolis, Downtown St. Paul and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. In the upcoming legislative session, Ventura may include his light rail proposal as part of a comprehensive “smart growth” plan under development by the Metropolitan Council, a state agency that oversees public transportation and planning for the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Meanwhile, the local chapter of the NAIOP is gearing up for the fight. In fact, the group’s board will vote today its task force’s recommendations on smart growth.

Self-described “former tree hugger” John Charles is on a national crusade to fight the smart growth movement among city planners that has grown in response to concerns over urban sprawl and traffic congestion.

Smart growth proponents advocate higher population densities, reducing traffic congestion by building light rail transit systems and increasing control over development outside metropolitan areas.

Charles argues this approach simply doesn’t work because it relies too heavily on government controls and subsidies and not enough on market forces.

While Minnesota’s industrial developers may not be as avid a smart growth opponent as John Charles, it has concerns about smart growth’s impact on not only workers at its office buildings, but truckers who are the vital links to its industrial properties, as well as about the impact some of the smart growth planning and zoning recommendations might have on new development.

“You can’t believe some of the things coming up for a vote in Colorado and Arizona,” Dave Jellison of Liberty Property Group and a member of the local NAIOP’s smart growth task force said in introducing Charles to his fellow members. “Al Gore has made it a national issue. If he were to do everything he wants, it would make for very interesting times for us.”

Charles, who is environmental policy director for the Cascade Policy Institute, a free market think tank in Portland, OR focused his attack on smart growth by taking a look at his hometown Portland, which he dubs the poster city for smart growth. “We’ve been doing smart growth in Oregon for nearly 20 years,” Charles says, but it doesn’t work for the same reason the Soviet Union didn’t work.

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