The developers responsible for the planned communities are optimistic, despite high gas prices and the collapsed housing market. According to John Salem, the mayor of Kingman, “It’s gorgeous here, we don’t have any natural disasters, no forest fires, no hurricanes, tornadoes or floods, good schools, lots of cheap land, the cost of living’s down, we have proximity to the Colorado River, to Flagstaff, to Las Vegas, to Phoenix.” In addition to this, hydrology studies by the principal developers in the region have concluded that the local aquifers could support high population growth for the next 100 years.
Despite this confidence in building new houses in Kingman, I find it surprising that these types of developments are still being promoted with such fervor. Given the state of the economy, rising fuel prices and growing concern about global climate change, building 80,000 homes in the middle of the desert, two hours away from the closest metropolitan area (one hour once the bridge is completed in 2010) on top of a reserve of water that is estimated to last 100 years at best sounds like an economic and environmental disaster waiting to happen.
At a time when consumer preference appears to indicate a shift back to more urban environs, investors should consider more realistic options. To borrow a concept from environmental writer Bill McKibben, we need to look for durable solutions--such as investing in public transportation infrastructure, urban infill and brownfields remediation--rather than continuing to push development into geographic regions that can be considered "marginally sustainable" at best.