By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Smart Growth, a philosophy that has helped define redevelopment in Windsor, Petaluma and even Rohnert Park, is being tweaked a bit.
Fresh from a Smart Growth conference in Charlotte, N.C., Windsor Councilwoman Debora Fudge tweeted this week that the new guiding principle is “slow development,” given the current economy.
Fudge said the realization came from a two-hour talk given by architect Andres Duany, often described as the father of New Urbanism, which is synonymous with Smart Growth and its emphasis on designing walkable, dense, mixed-use neighborhoods.
“He said we were moving into a slow development phase, a new way of looking at development based on the new economy staying with us a long time,” Fudge said. “We can’t afford to optimize things anymore.”
Fudge said “optimization” essentially represents many of the demands made on developers, especially the environmental “gold” or “platinum” certifications that denote cutting-edge practices.
“When you want people to build in your city center, you’re asking them for higher density and affordable housing,” she said. “You can’t also demand platinum LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design). People will barely be able to afford to build.”
Duany has been warning that the current environmental movement has been captured by a high-tech ethos with expensive features such as triple-glazed windows, eight inches of insulation and green roofs.
He advocates “original green,” or a more simple economic approach.
Fudge said that she and Windsor Councilman Sam Salmon, as well as Rohnert Park counterpart Jake Mackenzie, were “sort of blown away” by Duany’s talk.
Salmon on Friday described Duany as “a brilliant man. He had me spellbound.”
But he said the “slow development” title of Duany’s talk “didn’t really fit with the presentation.”
“He has always taken on environmentalists for trying to green the center of the cities and restrict development,” Salmon said. “His argument is that the most beautiful places where people want to go on vacation is all concrete.”
So how does this apply to Windsor?
Fudge noted that the new fire station across from Windsor High School just received a coveted gold LEED certification.
“It cost us a lot. Had we started today, we couldn’t have been able to do that,” she said. “We shot for the stars and we made it. I’m not sure in this economy we would have gone that far.”
There are projects in the pipeline that could be impacted by the new way of thinking. They include the mixed-use Bell Village planned on the site of the former Windsorland trailer and mobile home park, and the Target store under consideration on farmland just west of Highway 101 and north of Shiloh Road.
“We’re not going to tear out the sidewalk we just put in because we may have the wrong-colored aggregate,” Salmon said of the pedestrian path on Old Redwood Highway, next to the Bell Village site.
“Maybe we don’t do swales,” he said of a feature intended to improve drainage and reduce water runoff.
Even a new grocery store that is being talked about near the Town Green could end up being one-story, instead of the signature two-story, mixed-use buildings in the area that include a residence on the top floor.
“We’re not going to be able to make the cities and communities we want, unless we realize the economy is in the bucket — is what he’s saying,” Salmon said.