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2002 National Awards for Smart Growth Achievement, Washington, D.C.

11/18/2002
Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the
2002 National Awards for Smart Growth Achievement
Washington, D.C.

November 18, 2002


Thank you Tom (Gibson) for that introduction.

It = s an honor to be here today for the 2002 National Awards for Smart Growth Achievement. I want to thank Susan (Henshaw Jones) and the National Building Museum for hosting the awards ceremony.

It = s appropriate that we are honoring innovative smart growth efforts here at the National Building Museum, which has, for almost twenty years, provided an important forum for issues such as managing growth, revitalizing urban centers, and promoting environmentally sustainable building practices.

America has never lacked in the area of ingenuity and design B from log cabins to green buildings B our nation has a rich and diverse landscape of built works.

Over the past decade, we have begun applying that ingenuity and design not only to the actual buildings, but to the overall communities. Using Smart Growth principles, transportation, construction, and community development are approached in a way that best serves the community economically and environmentally.

The driving force of Smart Growth is to provide all Americans with a greater quality of life by developing healthy communities with flourishing economies, open space for parks and recreation, and convenient transportation choices.

All across the country there is impressive support for smart growth initiatives. Since 1998 voters across America have passed over 500 referenda supporting more than $20 billion in open space funding. Two weeks ago, voters in 79 communities in 22 states passed ballot measures to support $2.6 billion in new funding to protect land for parks and open space. Given what is at stake B our quality of life B it is no surprise that Americans are eager for smart growth programs in their communities.

Smart Growth is emblematic of some of the core principles this Administration supports B building partnerships, local control, and innovation. We recognize that the environmental challenges we face in the 21st century are different from those we encountered thirty years ago when EPA was established. Meeting these new challenges requires a broader set of tools and the motivation to try new ideas.

We want to move away from the command and control approach of the past where the solution was often a new regulation from Washington, and instead empower communities to make choices and develop initiatives that address their environmental issues. After all, it only makes sense that those closest to the problem are most often going to have the best solution.

Smart Growth gives communities the opportunity to take an active role in charting a course for their future environmental health. It emphasizes building partnerships and cooperation to achieve results. EPA is committed to helping communities achieve their Smart Growth goals by working in partnership with state and local governments, tribes, businesses, planners, and preservationists.

Working together we can ensure that local land-use planners have the information and tools they need to preserve open space, save money on roads and sewers, keep homes affordable, provide transportation options, and make our cities and town centers thrive.

As part of our commitment to Smart Growth, I announced the creation of the National Awards for Smart Growth Achievement, earlier this year, as a way to promote smart growth success stories around the country and recognize communities that have demonstrated innovation and success in applying smart growth principles.

EPA received over 100 applications. I want to thank all of the state, local, and regional governments for submitting applications and for the good work that they are doing to improve their communities. The high quality of the applications is a good sign for the future of smart growth.

Our four award winners are true examples for other communities around the country to learn from. At this time I would like to recognize each award winner and share some details about each project.

In the category of Built Projects, the winner is Breckenridge, Colorado for the Wellington Neighborhood. The Wellington Neighborhood is a residential development that was built upon a reclaimed brownfield site. It provides badly needed affordable housing in an area where the median home price is around eight hundred thousand dollars. Free public transportation provides a vital link between Wellington and the nearby downtown and ski areas, giving Wellington residents convenient access to jobs, schools, and other amenities.

The Policies and Regulations award goes to the San Mateo California City/County Association of Governments for their innovative Transit-Oriented Development Incentive Program. This program uses transportation funding to help municipalities that are building housing near rail transit stations.

Not only does this program spur construction of badly needed housing in Silicon Valley, it also creates environmental benefits by giving people the option of commuting and running errands by rail. This program directly links land use with efficient use of the existing transportation system.

The award for Public Education and Outreach goes to the State of Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs for their Community Preservation Initiative. As a former governor, I know first hand how important leadership on growth issues can be at the state level. The Community Preservation Initiative is a statewide program that emphasizes education, not regulation.

In addition to many other education activities, the Initiative created buildout maps for each of the state = s 351 communities, to show how existing plans would look if actually built. Putting this information in the hands of the people of Massachusetts helps them make more informed decisions about growth.

Finally, the winner of the Overall Excellence in Smart Growth award is Arlington County, Virginia for Smart Growth in the Rosslyn-Ballston Metro Corridor. Their approach in this corridor of 5 Metro stops focuses growth within a walkable radius of the stations, and preserves established neighborhoods and natural areas.

The transit successes and corresponding environmental performance are impressive. Metro ridership doubled in the corridor between 1991 and 2002. Nearly 50% of corridor residents use transit to commute. By one estimate, if the development in the two square mile corridor were built at typical suburban densities, it would consume 14 square miles of open space.

These stories are truly inspiring and impressive examples of the impact smart growth can have on community vitality and improved quality of life. To all the award winners, I offer Congratulations.

Smart growth is not A anti-growth @ or even A slow growth @ . It is about how and where growth should occur in a way that is best for the economy, the community, and the environment. EPA is committed to supporting Smart Growth efforts, and we look forward to continuing to work with today = s award winners and other communities to achieve a landscape of smarter growth throughout the nation.

Thank you.