As the founder of a neighborhood association and former Planning Commissioner, I have been following Olympia’s “Missing Middle” proposal with great interest. While zoning changes can be scary, it is naïve to think the world around us is unchanging. We can assume a static future where familiar, lower-density built forms predominate, but only at the peril of uncontrolled sprawl. The question is not whether we should accept change, but rather how to prepare for the change that will occur.
As population grows (and it will), the impact of additional car trips alone resulting from encouraging development on the periphery will cause real impact on the quality of life in this region. Fear tempts us to believe that the sky will fall if we permit densification, yet ironically, we rarely question the “death-by-a-thousand-cars” that community livability will experience if we fail to concentrate growth towards the urban core.
Missing Middle is not a cavalier unzipping of development rules. It is a reasonable and metered response that not only helps address housing affordability, but also leverages public investments in infrastructure and services such as roadways, transit services, and utilities.
Growth is indeed coming. How the community chooses to deal with it is the real question at stake. I hope as individuals we can put aside our fears and see this situation for what it is. Moreover, I encourage decision-makers to show courage, vision, and leadership when our own hearts, and those of our neighbors, falter.