Panelists debate the fiscal costs and desirability of population growth

March 25, 2013 • United States, News

Panelists debate the fiscal costs and desirability of population growth


The conventional wisdom is that when people building and selling homes meet up with activists opposed to further population growth they don’t often find a lot of common ground.

At a forum hosted by Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population last week, there was at least agreement on one big question facing current residents and elected officials as they plan for the future.

“What do we want Charlottesville-Albemarle to be in 50 or 100 years?” asked Realtor Jim Duncan. “What do we want it to look like then?”

The audience of 25, mostly ASAP members, quickly voiced their agreement on the importance of that question.

“We don’t want to restrict growth, and I think saying ‘no growth’ is absurd,” Duncan said. “I think saying ‘unbridled growth’ is equally absurd. Somewhere in the middle, between those two extremes, there has to be some sort of solution.”

ASAP’s retiring President, Jack Marshall, revels in the opportunity to engage population control skeptics. His 11 years at the helm have culminated in ASAP’s publication of seven research studies on the impacts of population growth.

Marshall invited Duncan and Jay Willer, the former vice president of the Blue Ridge Home Builders Association, to debate the findings in ASAP’s most recent study on the fiscal costs and benefits of population growth.

Marshall knows well which statements will motivate his group’s members — and agitate even a panel of friends.

“ASAP’s job isn’t to answer all the questions, but to enrich the dialogue that has been dominated by the power elite that profits from growth,” Marshall said. “Part of the differences of opinion might be in the distance of our vision.”

“None of us would deny that growth is going to continue to occur in the short term,” said Marshall. “But if we extend our vision, as we should, if we really give a damn about our children’s children, and the folks who live here, growth cannot occur forever.”

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