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Statewide Coalition Working to Promote 'Smart Growth'

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CHAPEL HILL — "Good morning, North Carolina Smart Growth Alliance."

It is the first day of business for the North Carolina Smart Growth Alliance.

Starting with one employee, and one small office, the statewide coalition hopes to do big things.

Their mission statement: "To inspire, create and promote a shared vision of growth, which sustains the character of our communities, the health of our environment, the strength of our economy. We accomplish this mission through education, communication and consensus building."

North Carolina's population grew by one million during the last decade, paving the way for new development. Only four other states lost more farm and forest land to development from 1992 to 1997.

As a result, executive director Rich Bell says the alliance wants communities to move away from massive road building and massive housing developments. Instead, they want developers to build compact neighborhoods that are pedestrian-friendly and emphasize mass transit.

Chapel Hill's Southern Village is an example of a smart growth community: homes closer together, clearing the way for mass transit, sidewalks on both sides of the street to get people walking, and in the middle something to walk to, a multi-use building with office and commercial space.

The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation created the alliance and is paying for it. The foundation has pulled diverse groups together that all have a stake in smart growth.

"(Those groups include) people from the financial community, the development community, Brownfield developers, environmentalists, planners, low income and minority community representatives," says Bell.

Smart Growth cannot solve all of North Carolina's growing pains, but, it could ease the pain if more developers think smart. The new alliance plans to lobby the General Assembly to help promote smart growth statewide.

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Mark Roberts, Reporter
Gil Hollingsworth, Photographer
Kelly Gardner, Web Editor

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