Regional Mayors and County Officials Map Out "Smart Growth"

A summit of area mayors and county officials in Pearland provided a forum to discuss future economic development plans for the region. Houston Public Radio Business Reporter Ed Mayberry has more.

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Unplanned growth threatens the quality of life in Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery and Galveston Counties, but counties have little authority under state law to respond. Predicting that the Houston region will add another 3.5 million people to the 5 million, an Economic Action Summit in Pearland is looking at smart growth, as David Crossley of the Gulf Coast Institute explains.

"What do we actually want this region and out towns and cities to feel like in 30 or 50 years, and then what do we have to do in order to get to that place? What kind of investments do we have to make, what kind of plans?" Ed: "What are the factors that you have to consider, what are the realities?" "Maybe the biggest reality is that we have of a 144 towns and cities that are incorporated places inside these eight counties, with a sort of bare majority of the people living in the towns and cities, and the minority living in the other places where there are no mayors, there are no rules, there are no...and so how do we deal with that in the future if we want to preserve green space, if we want clean air, we want good water, particularly with the counties, as I say, not having the authority to do any planning."

Congressman Nick Lampson says his 22nd Congressional District is the seventh fastest-growing the nation.

"Economic development, we want to make sure that we do technology transfer. We're coming up with many, many ideas, and if we come up with the ideas but then lose those ideas for development to other places in the country or in the world, then we don't benefit from it. We have been, for example, the energy capital of the world, if you will, and as we change or diversify, expand our energy sources, we ought to be the ones leading that process for the whole world. And that means there will be new jobs to be created. There will be new companies to sprout up. That will grow our economy, strengthen our families, strengthen education, and make it better for growth into our future."

Lampson plans follow-up sessions to further develop ideas developed at the summit. He says planning needs to be long-range.

"As we have world-changing events like the deepening and widening of the Panama Canal, which will have an impact on every port, which will have an impact on every highway and railway in the United States. Planning now will give us tremendous opportunities and a much higher quality of life for the future."

Lampson says smart growth means providing a range of housing choices, and a variety of transportation and energy choices considered. Ed Mayberry, Houston Public Radio News.

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