WASHINGTON, DC-Americans are ambivalent about “smart growth” tactics such as paying more in taxes for preserving open land and living in denser communities, such as high-rise buildings or homes on smaller lots, according to a new survey by the National Association of Realtors. It’s another sign how difficult it is to achieve a consensus about how to regulate development.

“Density should be part of comprehensive planning but it’s difficult to sell,” says Ron Myles, who runs several commercial real estate businesses and partnerships in Denver. Myles chairs the association’s smart growth initiative.

Widely seen as a residential issue, it may have broader consequences for commercial real estate, Myles says.

“Anything that attempts to control or stop or limit growth has a direct bearing on the success of commercial projects,” he says. “If the infrastructure isn’t available to service industrial, office and other kinds of development, it puts a crimp in all areas.”The association surveyed 1,000 Americans across the nation as part of its initiative to promote a solution on sprawl. It found several signs that people disagree with smart growth principles.

About 82% said they support preserving open space, but that support drops to 53% when asked if they support raising taxes to pay for the land. Similarly, 73% said they would not consider buying a house on a smaller lot for the sake of easing sprawl.

Superior design could persuade more people to live in higher-density communities, the survey found. Respondents agreed, by majorities of between 63% and 67%, that the presence of shared open spaces, many large trees or if homes were built attractively and in different styles would make high-density communities more acceptable.

However, respondents remained firmly opposed to some principles of smart growth. By majorities of 84% to 91%, respondents disapproved of developing property at higher densities or mixing commercial and residential buildings in the same neighborhoods.

The survey found that Americans like the schools and parks in their neighborhoods, but most are dissatisfied with how their communities are handling transportation. Only 43% rated the handling of traffic and congestion in positive terms.

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