Local attitudes: a determinate of development in the small town
Burke, Ronald Kenneth
Master of Architecture
Whether growing or declining, small towns located within or isolated from metropolitan areas are confronted with the pressures of urbanization which produce changes in their environment and their way of life. The attitudes of the people of these towns is a factor of their perception of the effects of change. The thesis of this work is that the attitudes of the local people significantly influence development in the small town. Through a case study, the work illustrates attitudes shaped by the forces of change and demonstrates how these attitudes can be taken into account in the planning process. Conroe, Texas, seat of Montgomery County, serves as the case study. As a part of the Houston metropolitan area, the town experiences changes which are more dramatic than those of the isolated rural town. This difference is given perspective through a statistical study of small towns and counties in Texas Although some social scientists would define the metropolitan small town as a sub-community of the metropolitan community, the leaders in Conroe identify their community as Montgomery County. The pressures of urbanization upon this community is essentially a confrontation between local and metropolitan forces. It is through the people's response to urban pressures in Conroe that attitudes which influence development are defined. The way the people of Conroe respond to urban pressures is a factor of two principal influences: (1) the stage of community growth, or rate of change, and (2) the territory or the physical community to which they respond. They assume a level of confidence and progressiveness based upon the current stage of growth, growth potential, and present and anticipated changes. Their concerns are limited to a physical territory whether downtown, city, or county. The desire to maintain local control makes them especially sensitive to changes within their territory. The research in Conroe reveals the need for a shift in planning emphasis. The proposed emphasis further distinguishes the isolated from the metropolitan small town. City and county leaders' efforts to plan for the impact of growth in their community must be founded upon an understanding of the difference between self-generated and imposed growth. Planning for growth as though it is generated from within the community cannot cope with imposed metropolitan growth. Planning emphasis should shift from growth control to adaptations for change. Anticipation of the changes introduced by metropolitan growth may be the surest way of maintaining the desired local control.