Buzzword in politics and public policy as planners try to balance economic and population growth with quality of life issues, especially in the United States. Traditionally, local economic growth has meant suburban sprawl, and an increase in traffic congestion, air pollution, and a corresponding decrease in open space/wilderness areas. Smart growth focuses on using economic growth to enhance existing urban and town communities as vibrant centers of culture and commerce while preserving natural resources.

Components of smart growth may include community involvement in urban planning, transit-centered development, pedestrian and bicycle friendly development, neighborhoods zoned for mixed use, urban infill, and re-use or rehabilitation of "brownfields."

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