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Growth: Battle Lines Are Drawn

March 01, 1987

Battle lines are indeed being drawn, as The Times so aptly put it ("Growth Debate Is Healthy," Feb. 22). A line is between two protagonists, growth and slow-growth advocates. And as The Times also put it, public disagreement is fine. Not only is this the democratic way but it can also help lead to useful decisions.

Developers and environmentalists declared a cease-fire recently to express their concerns. Encouragingly, both agreed "additional development will worsen traffic conditions" (long the environmentalists' point). A point some have tried to wave aside, crying for more freeways to relieve traffic.

Environmentalists aver that more freeways don't solve traffic problems. They cause them. Many perceive that the call for more freeways is to hide the developers' real aim: to provide access to their projected housing tracts. Slow-growth people see land developers yearning for profit off the land. Especially from open space. Unlimited housing is the name of its game.

But developers have a point. Slow-growthers block the door to the bank. They deny Orange County to future generations. Developers declare slow growth will plunge Orange County into a depression. And they say that slow growth is downright uneconomical.

As for the other side, many residents were drawn to Orange County for a new life style wafted by the gentle breezes of open space, clean air, parks, lions, coyotes, squirrels and all.

Now it happens that most Orange County folk fear their dreams of a new life style are being crushed by housing tracts galloping into open space. Selfish? Perhaps. But I'm hearing people saying: "The elevator's full, friend. One more in and we'll all crash."

An Orange County planner recently asked, "How much growth should be allowed?" One answer came from a Laguna Beach City Council member a few years back. He said, "Limit growth to the present capacity of the Orange County traffic system." I'd say that advice is a little late. But maybe it's a start.

TOM ALEXANDER

Laguna Beach

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