One person’s stop light is another’s ouch.
Such are growing pains in the developing Northland. Platte County is among the most vibrantly growing counties in Missouri.
We expect new houses and new businesses. Our position on the edge of a major metropolitan city, plus being laced with interstate highways and hosting an international airport, makes it so.
Growth brings prosperity for some, but for others it brings growing pains.
I’ve no illusions that anyone is going to halt or reverse growth in our lifetime. But I think it should be noted for future generations that some recognized there are costs involved.
Planners have been discussing urban sprawl for years. But their concerns get lost in the economics of growth, and the fact that the average citizen feels so powerless about all that is occurring in the modern world.
Convenience can be a loss to growth.
Sometimes when I’m sitting at stoplights near the Missouri 92 and Interstate 29 intersection in Platte City I remember when a driver could easily enter or exit town there without stoplights or delays. Now, traffic can be crunched there.
Time is lost. Gas is burned as a car sits at idle waiting for a green light.
The upside is new jobs are available on the city’s east side. Additional fast foods and goods are available. I suppose another upside is that recent arrivals and those who will move here in the future will not have a memory of a smaller, more livable town.
Thus there is no pain for them from growth.
A pro-growth person once took me to task for questioning development as being progress. He pointed out that those who will come in the future don’t have a voice in what is happening today. His point was that he was creating jobs, goods and services for them.
That is true, but they are also being saddled with streets to repair, neighborhoods to police, highways that need to be rebuilt to stand the strain of heavy traffic. They will also never know the simple joys of life in a small town.
The Platte City Board of Aldermen has a long-range plan for consideration to manage traffic and growth along Missouri 92. They are looking at concepts to develop and redevelop the highway and land within a quarter mile.
This is positive, a necessity actually.
Growth is coming in all directions from that highway. No one wants it to be a long, impassable choke point for traffic. But living with the delays and constrictions marked by orange construction cones is not pleasant either. Growth has costs.
What’s the alternative?
Well, there is redevelopment, at least within the Kansas City metro area. Platte County remained so rural beyond the post-World War II era, there are no large areas for redevelopment. Only small pockets exist here and there in our small towns.
But within Kansas City are large areas and streets built in the late 1800s or early 1900s with the dream that they represented prosperity that would never fade. They faded badly.
Social problems and consumer tastes have left them neglected. Maybe the pendulum will swing and redevelopment will arrive in truly blighted neighborhoods, but for now, open land in places like Platte County are the places where developers are spending dollars.
And that growth places new strains on services for long-established residents.
New growth cannot pay all the bills for the old, either.
Kansas City is preparing to go to voters with a proposed bond issue to repair streets, curbs, sidewalks and other improvements necessary to maintain value in neighborhoods. A property tax increase may be needed to help pay the costs.
Fleeing the big city to escape such issues will likely put you in a town where getting bigger is a prime goal.
Future generations are going to question more what is lost when growth based on expanding cities into farm land is viewed as inevitable. In our time, we can only hope the planners and decision makers make choices that benefit the greater good. But that doesn’t mean we have to pretend there are no losses, too.
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.