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Make sure that when we change a place, the change agreed upon nurtures our growth as capable and responsible people.
Tony Hiss

The 5 Principles: Appropriateness


Appropriateness: If the Shoe Fits …

What does Community Heritage Group mean by "appropriate" development? Community "visioning" efforts often feature "best practices" from other towns. While it’s good to learn from example (and CHG includes stories from elsewhere in its programs), citizens should remember there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. When deciding if an activity is "appropriate," consider your history, town design, economy, demographics, natural resources, and other assets that can contribute to – or might be affected by – the proposed activity. Allow your resources to develop naturally ("organically" is a popular term), rather than imposing foreign concepts from the top down. As Benton MacKaye said, "The job is not to ‘plan,’ but to reveal," meaning that what gets added is less important than discovering and then imparting what’s already there.

For example: If one city succeeds at attracting more tourists by building an aquarium, it won’t take long for other towns to jump on the bandwagon, even when their geography and history have nothing to do with oceans or marine life. And, of course, there are so many aquariums today (precisely for the reason just noted) that they’re no longer novel, and some have struggled.

Bottom Line: Before adopting any community initiative, compare it against current resources: the town’s history, traditions and cultures, the built environment, and what’s worked before. Take advantage of existing structures before building new (just to build new); protect and make use of your own assets instead of importing fashionable ideas that have little or no connection to your place’s natural, built, or social environment.

APPROPRIATENESS AND COMMUNITY HERITAGE GROUP: A lot of town and regional planning begins and ends in classrooms and at conferences, where new trends usually capture the limelight. Not enough is learned by paying attention to what citizens value and what communities already offer.

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