Ken Larsen's web site - "Urban Growth Machine" definition


Urban Growth Machine refers to a collection of business people in a community who lobby for growth.  They do so because they profit from growth.  The faster a community grows, the more money they will make.


The primary members of the growth machine are real estate developers, mortgage bankers, land owners, realtors, construction companies, and building suppliers.  They're entitled to make money, but if a community permits unrestrained growth, it could be in for a lot of trouble ... mostly in the form of heavy traffic and rising property taxes.  To see more negatives, read this.


Tactics of the Urban Growth Machine:


  1. To maximize the likelihood that new projects will be approved by town councils, growth machine people will sponsor their own candidates for town council and board seats. [Laguna Beach story]

  2. They will use Twitter to summon their minions to public forums where "approve or not approve" decisions are made.

  3. They will push for waiving of taxes for new business.  In 2016 this is happening with Wegmanns for Chapel Hill. (details)  This will raise taxes for the rest of us.

  4. They will push for projects like Light Rail.  This diverts money from basic needs like buses and schools to a far more expensive transportation solution that will serve fewer people.  (details)  Light Rail is a boondoggle that only serves developers.

  5. They will lobby state government to ensure that impact fees are small or non-existent.  The North Carolina Home Builders Association brags about this on their website.

  6. They promote the false idea that "growth is good because it will spread the tax base" ... thus lowering taxes.  Well, if there were any validity to that claim, then large metropolitan areas (such as New York City) would be cheaper to live in than rural areas.

  7. They denigrate opposition by characterizing them as NIMBYs - "Not in my backyard" - people who are against progress.  They spread the rumor that such people are "just a small number of people who oppose everything."



If you want to learn more, read the book "Better Not Bigger - How to Take Control of Urban Growth and Improve Your Community" by Eben Fodor (1999).  (my summary of the book)


If you think that all growth is good, consider what would happen if a town of 75,000 grew continuously.  At an annual growth rate of 1.5% it would reach 8 million people (the size of New York City) in 314 years.  If it grew at 6% per year, it would take only 81 years to reach 8 million people. 

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