Opinion » Maxed Out

Balancing 'open for business' with 'more'



Remember when you were a kid? I mean a younger kid, not a faux-functioning adult kid like most of us are today. One of the jobs we all had as kids was to push the envelop, test the limits. We tested our own limits all the time: strength, endurance, willpower, sneakiness, ability to fabricate believable stories to explain things best left unexplained, seeing how obnoxious we could be before someone beat the snot out of us.

And we tested our parents' limits. We drove them to distraction needling our siblings, made them wish they'd stayed childless with our sloth and truculence, stayed out later than we were supposed to, thought we were successfully sneaking their booze when they easily detected the water we'd replaced it with, shenanigans like that.

Eventually, most of us outgrew it, accepted the limitations of what passed for polite society — or found/forged a social structure more in keeping with our antisocial ways — and got on with the business of being as responsible as we could... or needed to be, given the situation we found ourselves in.

The rest of us became developers.

Okay, that's an unfair, comic generalization. Truth be told, I hold many developers in high esteem. Without them we might all be living in caves or mean sod huts. Ironically though, developers and many business leaders share the same twist in their DNA common to union leaders. They all want more. More of everything, in both the Gomperian and Seinfeldian sense. More density, more tax breaks, more freedom to do business as they please — which means less regulation and government interference, for example, planning, zoning, safety and environmental — more profit and more grateful empathy from everyone for their bold risk taking and misunderstood plight.

More, more, more.

Without scouring the annals of development, I think it's safe to say very few, if any, planning departments have ever heard a developer say, "You know, I really don't think I need approval for this much square footage. I'd really rather build a smaller development."

By contrast, developers coming back to the table to ask for more is as predictable as little Oliver asking for another bowl of gruel. You know it's going to happen and you're never surprised when it does.

And so it goes, somewhere over the Rainbow. Same old, same old. "We need a bigger gas station/convenience store." "We need more space to make our commercial project viable." "We need more space for storage." "We need more." "More."

For too many years, we heard the same cry from local government. "We need more tax revenue to keep services at current levels, for the buildup to the Olympics, to make up for the windfall we lost when condos went back to being taxed the way they originally were, for whatever." The relentless cry for more got us to the place we were last November when so many of said so resoundingly, "Enough! Time to do things a different way and figure out how to do what you need to do with what you've got."

Add a comment