Healthier, smarter growth

For years, county leaders here have considered sound urban planning mainly as a political issue -- an issue tainted by the specter of intruding on personal property rights and free enterprise. As a result, they have regularly rejected calls for comprehensive land-use planning for the unincorporated areas of the county. But as it turns out, the lack of urban planning in suburbia -- here and elsewhere -- is now being acknowledged as a critical public health issue.

Unguided sprawl, public health experts have learned, almost invariably leads to poorer health, isolation, depression, reduced longevity and stunted essential personal growth in children. And that premise is being validated across the country.

Such cautionary findings should prompt the County Commission to make comprehensive land-use planning in the unincorporated areas of the county an integral element of its public responsibility as it embarks on the regional growth planning.