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Smart Growth Conference slated for May 17 in Jackson

What happens when business and community leaders share a common vision, but a difference in opinion on how to achieve it?

Organizers of the Smart Growth Conference hope to offer a road map amenable to all.

The Mississippi Association of Realtors (MAR), Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), Mississippi Economic Council (MEC), Mississippi Economic Development Council, Mississippi Municipal League and Home Builders Association of Mississippi will host the innovative conference May 17 at the Jackson Marriott from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“This is our very first one, and could possibly become an annual conference,” said MAR president Nancy Lane. “It’s an opportunity for all the players — Realtors, elected community leaders, state lawmakers, planning experts, builders and economic and real estate developers — to have input on challenges we each face while trying to ‘grow smart.’”

The critical connection between development and quality of life will be emphasized at the conference, with speakers and presenters ranging from representatives of local, state and national organizations, association leaders and industry specialists.

“More and more Mississippians are understanding that current development patterns dominated by sprawl are no longer in the long-term interest of our cities, small towns and rural communities or wilderness areas,” said MAR CEO Scott Brunner. “The battle against sprawl is not a battle against economic growth. It’s a fight for growth that’s done right.”

Bob McNamara, policy representative for the National Association of Realtors, and the first morning speaker, will reveal the basic guide to smart growth. State economist Phil Pepper will follow with an explanation of understanding the economic factors involved in the program. Brian W. Blaesser, partner and co-chair of the Land Use Group for Boston-based Robinson & Cole, LLP, will discuss how smart growth policies can be tailored through planning and implementation techniques.

Luncheon keynote speaker Gray Swoope, deputy director and COO of MDA, will present “Smart Growth as an Economic Development Tool,” followed by a panel discussion concerning downtown and neighborhood revitalization, and a lesson by Blaesser on intelligent planning processes for livable communities.

Afternoon sessions also cover infrastructure planning, impact fees and securing smart growth projects. MEC president Blake Wilson will lead the wrap-up question-and-answer session.

Overall, attendees will gain a greater understanding of key smart growth principles as they relate to quality of life, design, economics, environment, health, housing and transportation, said Lane.

“So many towns and organizations are trying to protect the picture of their community,” she said. “The natural tendency is to over-legislate. We need to develop a picture of what smart growth is. To me, it’s planned growth versus unleashed or restricted growth. You wouldn’t want to build a building without a plan. It’s the same with building a business or a community. By developing that big picture, everyone can work together to develop the plan rather than being at the mercy of the fears of a community.”

The registration fee of $89 includes lunch. The Mississippi Real Estate Commission has approved the conference for two hours elective continuing education credit. The event represents three elective credits for certified municipal officials.

“All it takes is a commitment to determine our state’s values and what development plans reflect those values,” said Brunner. “We hope people will join us in this mission to move Mississippi forward.”

To register, download a copy of the Smart Growth Conference brochure from the home page of msrealtors.org, complete the registration form and submit it with payment to MAR by May 12. For more information, call (800) 747-1103 or e-mail mar@msrealtors.org.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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