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ORLANDO-When George D. Livingston talks, people listen, especially in Florida development circles and throughout the industry. He seldom gets on a soap box. But this time he did, in an exclusive interview with GlobeSt.com. on the pitfalls of the ‘smart growth’ concept being embraced in many communities across the country.

“When urban planners and environmentalist begin to agree on any issue, it’s time to take notice,” Livingston says. “This year’s installment of ‘government knows what’s best for us’ comes in the form of slickly-titled ‘smart growth,’ a euphemism intended to ward off the dreaded ‘urban sprawl.’”

Translated into practical language, the president of Realvest Partners Inc. says “smart growth means no growth to most radicals of today’s generation of elitists and slow growth for their more practical, but equally fallacious allies in city and country planning departments.”

What the smart-growth phrase means to the rest of the populace is “increased housing costs, increased costs of living, few job opportunities, higher land prices, and significantly-reduced growth.”

Livingston argues smart growth “ignores the demand side of the economic equation, which is bad enough, but it also ignores free choice as a democratic principle.”

Conversely, economic growth, “which is absolutely necessary if the American promise is to be fulfilled, produces axiomatic population growth,” he says.

As people move into an area, “they have a right to decent, affordable housing.” But planning policies “that hinder this process, no matter how smartly packaged they might be, are onerous and un-American.”

High housing costs, both in multifamily and single-family units, “feed local inflation and results in a lower standard of living for all,” Livingston says. Higher land costs “slow job growth as companies reconsider locating facilities here or put off plans to expand existing facilities.”

Smart growth ignores human choice as well, the developer maintains. “Not all of us want to live at urban densities, or close to Downtown, including our omniscient planners and elected officials who often own just the sort of housing they work so hard to prohibit.”

When development is denied, a parcel’s value decreases substantially, “resulting in a real and a palpable economic loss for the owners of that land,” Livingston says. “When such losses are egregious enough, they constitute a ‘taking,’” according to the United States and Florida Constitutions.

“Expensive litigation and financial settlement often follow,” says Livingston who served six years on the Orange County Planning and Zoning Commission and as the governor’s appointee to the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council.

“And here is where the most absurd cycle is expressed,” he says. “It is the taxpayers who foot the bill all around the table.”

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