Sustainable Development’s Hazy Definition in Rhode Island


Over the next few years, Rhode Island is expected to serve as a statewide platform for “sustainable development” initiatives that combine economic development, land use, housing, and transportation, according to a recent press release from Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s office.

The state Division of Planning will take charge of the effort as it was the recipient of a $1.9 million “Sustainable Regional Planning Grant (SCRPG) from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Division of Planning is expected to coordinate its efforts with various non-profit groups and other government agencies at the state and local level. The Department of Transportation, Rhode Island Housing and Grow Smart Rhode Island are among the key players.

Although the term “sustainability development” lacks a precise definition, it is evident from the “Three Year Work Plan” for “A Sustainable Rhode Island” that environmentalism will figure prominently within Gov. Chafee’s plan. The initial phase of the project, officially titled “Land Use 2025,” will work to roll back suburban communities, which are viewed as an environmental menace. The relevant section is as follows:

This pattern of low­-density, large­-lot, single­-use and scattered sprawl development unnecessarily consumes vast natural resources, requires redundant taxpayer investments in facilities and infrastructure and is not sustainable. Land Use 2025 established an Urban Services Boundary (USB) that covers areas of the state with existing infrastructure resources and traditional population centers. It also built on the concept of growth centers – areas within and outside the USB that can be the target of denser development at rural, suburban and urban scales. The essential land­use question for Rhode Island is whether to continue to sprawl, or return to a more efficient pattern of land use in the USB and growth centers, inspired by traditional modes of development that have served the state well for over 300 years.

The Ocean State Current invited Gov. Chafee’s office to comment on the “Three Year Work Plan” and to offer up a precise definition of “Sustainable Development,” but did not receive a response. The concept was a central pill of “Agenda 21,” the 800-page global warming blueprint adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environmental Development (UNCED) at Rio de Janeiro in June 1992.

The language used in the U.N. document is “deliberately hazy,” Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, explained in an interview.

He cites the chapter on “Demographic Dynamics and Sustainability.”

 The growth of world population and production combined with unsustainable consumption patterns places increasingly severe stress on the life-supporting capacities of our planet. These interactive processes affect the use of land, water, air, energy and other resources…. Population policy should also recognize the role played by human beings in environmental and development concerns. There is a need to increase awareness of this issue among decision makers at all levels and to provide both better information on which to base national and international policies and a framework against which to interpret this information.

“The lack of any clear understanding of what is and is not sustainable bestows a huge amount of discretionary power in the hands of regulators and other government officials acting in accord with a term whose meaning is withheld from the public,” Cohen warns.

The Federal Register of August 24, 1988, describes the terms and conditions of the HUD grant that is now driving policy in Rhode Island. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  is authorized to build and expand upon existing environmental programs that further the goals of Agenda 21 at the federal, state, and local level.


The featured image for this post comes from a map provided in Land Use 2025, showing the intended condensing of development into an urban corridor within an “urban services boundary,” represented as the black line.

  • Gary Morse

    The Governor is again showing two faces.

    In March 2011, The Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation hosted a community outreach forum. Governor Chafee told the audience, "The greatest inhibitor to economic growth is high property taxes. . .our goal here is to do what we can to help out the property tax”.

    The problem with this sustainable development is that it is both anti environment, and it has the consequence of raising already high property taxes.

    The experience to date is that developers are seizing on this to build out every square inch of available space in communities that have little space left on the premise that it is for "affordable housing".

    They put up cluster housing that pays little in property taxes putting a strain on already stretched municipal budgets. And filling every square in of space with high density housing is hardly "pro-environment".

    This is about extension of government control over every facet of our lives on the excuse that crowd control is now the solution looking for a problem.

    The world is now upside down with upside down leadership.

    • Couldn't agree with you more. Scary stuff.

    • Sustainable development is a tentacle of the United Nations agenda 21 program, a socialist program designed to strip away our private property rights and further their Agender to enslave the population of the world, especially the developed nations, into a one world government with United Nations dictating to all countries supported by the international banking community.__It is simply greed and power by very evil people ,

  • There is no doubt why they had won the project for their proposal is pretty impressive. If I'm not mistaken the name of the plan is "A Sustainable Rhode Island".

  • I see that this Cunard is now showing up in RI. We have been dealing with this for some time in Mass. The terms 'Green Communities' and 'Sustainable Development' are good-sounding catch words but they have ominous implications. We have had a number of seminars from Hal Shurtleff of JBS and Dave Kopaz of MARA around the state, delivering the other side of Agenda 21 story ie eventual loss of private property ownership, stack and pack ghetto cluster housing, etc etc.
    Good luck in RI in fighting this UN imposed plan.New World Order return to serfdom.
    Yes, Anti legacy us constitution and Bill of Rights _+ rule of law..
    This is anti private property and Marxism & socialism on steroids.
    We are not surprised that the idiot Chafee is once again emulating aka community organizer aka Obama in yet another scam and wealth seizure & redistribution agenda. Yes, an invention of more taxes. This UN Agenda 21 cold war eastern Europe model of poverty and big brother ghetto control nonsense must be challenged and halted. We must make a choice of the above + EBT cards destroying individual responsibility & free cell phones or return to personal responsibility, independence freedom & Liberty.