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Planning council urges "smart growth" in region

Posted by Ralph Ranalli July 19, 2007 11:19 AM


Traffic jams. Water shortages. McMansions on former fields and country roads.

That's the recipe for the future in Boston's western suburbs unless officials adopt so-called "smart growth" planning that steers development into town centers and around mass transit hubs, a study by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council has found.

The regional planning agency's "MetroFuture" plan forecasts a wave of growth in Greater Boston between now and 2030. Almost half a million more residents will arrive in the area if current trends continue, the plan says. Those people would produce 240,000 jobs and need more than 300,000 new housing units. Their arrival would also trigger growth that might pave over more than 150,000 acres of farms, forests, and other open space, Globe correspondent John Dyer reports in the online edition of today's Globe West.

To blunt the force of that wave, planners suggest building more apartments, town houses, and condominiums in town centers, above shops, and on lots about a quarter-acre in size. The plan also recommends converting industrial properties into studios and small businesses, and new conservation efforts to save water.

The plan describes two destinies for Boston's western suburbs, one where towns adopt the council's suggestions and one where they let today's trends continue unabated.

Under current trends in the western suburbs, the plan says, the new houses and businesses needed to keep up with population growth by 2030 would translate on average into a loss of more than 1,000 acres of open space per town and a gain on average of more than 1,600 housing units.

If western suburban towns adopt the council's suggestions, the plan forecasts the average town would lose less than 250 acres of open space and gain an average of 1,500 new housing units that would likely be built in tight clusters.

Read more about the recommendations in today's Globe West.

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