John Echeverria's criticisms of the Virginia legislature's attempts to save land by buying it was undermined by his failure to appreciate that at the heart of sprawl lie our individual behaviors and preferences ["Double-Dip Conservation," Close to Home, Jan. 2]. We live as if there is such a thing as a free lunch, spreading beyond our capacity to equitably finance the services upon which distant, racially and economically segregated settlements are predicated.

Mr. Echeverria argued that value is created by public investments, so a second public expense to take land out of circulation amounts to double taxation. This is a red herring. Value is created when more demand exists than supply can meet. While public investments can increase a place's desirability and thereby increase demand beyond the capacity of supply, taking remaining land out of circulation to prevent unwanted uses is pragmatic. The issue is not that the public may pay twice but that in failing to save land, the combination of the market, consumer preferences and bad policies will result in more wasteful, low-density, single-use development on the fringe.

Other parts of the country have been successful in preserving both heritage and livability by taking precious land off the table. Sooner or later, we are going to have to recognize that our region has been the stepchild of the pro-growth property rights gang in the Virginia and Maryland legislatures who have made it difficult to enact the kinds of statewide land-use policies we need.

Removing land from the equation is the only solution that requires us to change our wasteful behaviors.



The writer is a manager for the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp.