Having come to the conclusion that the next city manager of Charlotte absolutely, positively must be an outside hire, here is a suggestion on the kinds of thing he or she should be conversant in: The growing wave of pro-sprawl literature and analysis.

Anyone locked in the tired old, Sierra Clubish “sprawl” is bad, growth is bad mantra is at least 20 years behind the curve in city planning and management. In fact, there is an emerging view that all “planning and management” can achieve is sub-optimal outcomes for city residents.

The new city manager need not be completely converted to these views — oh what a dream that would be — but they should at least recognize that there is an alternative viewpoint out there along with a great deal of evidence the high-density, “sprawl busting” path that Charlotte has thrown itself down in the last five to 10 years might just be a very, very expensive and bad idea.

Anyway, here is a new Reason interview with William T. Bogart, dean of academic affairs at York College in Pennsylvania, and author of Don’t Call It Sprawl: Metropolitan Structure in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge University Press).

A snippet:

reason: Of course, it’s all the rage in some cities to do a 20-year forecast — which never matches where the development ends up appearing.

Bogart: The real urban planning is sewers and highways. That part of urban planning is, to a large extent, competent civil engineering. So you have to do that. What I’m objecting to in these 20-year plans is the planner saying, “The apartments are going to be over here, the houses are going to be over here, and the stores are going to be over here.” And then 10 years later, when someone wants to build apartments where the store was going to be, or worse try to redevelop a store into apartments, they have to move heaven and earth to make it possible. If the infrastructure’s there, and if people want to do it, then why not let them?

Why not indeed? Read the whole thing here.