Did Cul-de-sacs Cause Angry Town Hall Meetings?

Did Cul-de-sacs Cause Angry Town Hall Meetings?

The Congress for the New Urbanism, www.cnu.org, founded in 1973, is one of the biggest and most influential proponents of the New Urbanism philosophy behind the White Flint Sector Plan: communities should be walkable, sustainable, compact, transit-oriented and strategic. Their video, Built to Last, which will be shown at the White Flint Town Hall on Sept. 23 explains how many of our societal problems can be laid at the feet of that most suburban design feature, the cul-de-sac. http://www.cnu.org/cnu17/node/2853.

Now, somewhat in jest, but with more than a little grain of truth, a CNU blogger has added yet another ill attributable to the cul-de-sac: the recent hostility at American “town hall” meetings.

Suburban sprawl has many documented negatives, but this may be the most insidious: complete alienation, not just from each other, but from the very *idea* of community of any scale. We are eons removed from what a “Town Hall” really was: People from all walks of life gathering to consider important civic issues, disagree respectfully but come away enriched, then go about their business as individuals and a community. Everyone saw everyone else at the post office, the butcher, the county fair, everyone bought each other’s goods. Town Hall meetings were a manifestation of civic identity and shared destiny.

Exclusionary zoning has led to a community-less society – we all know that. But it is not far-fetched to assert that, as a natural extension, it has led to an abnegation of e pluribus unum at the national scale. Why does this lead to derangement over a policy proposal? Not just because of the distance between the haves and have-nots, that’s not news. Maybe it is because that gap is very defensible behind the gates, so they defend their comfort with everything they’ve got. Militarization of defensible space.

You can read the blog entry and comments at:


Can Americans still come together and debate important community issues civilly and rationally? In this wealthiest, highest-educated, and most active of counties? A recent town hall meeting by County Councilmember Roger Berliner seems to indicate so.

Come and see at Wednesday’s White Flint Town Hall. More information: www.townhall.whiteflint.org.

Barnaby Zall

Barnaby Zall


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