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Greenville, S.C., is a great city in a great state. The area across Caesar’s Head Mountain to Brevard, N.C., is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The people in South Carolina are hard-working, down-to-earth folks who appreciate their freedom and their private property rights.

Few of the folks know that back during the 1970s, South Carolina was one of a handful of states that yielded to the progressive push to require comprehensive land-use planning. Sens. “Scoop” Jackson and Morris Udall tried unsuccessfully to get Congress to adopt a National Comprehensive Planning Act. The same national initiative persuaded Oregon, Florida and South Carolina to adopt statewide legislation.

South Carolina’s law requires counties to develop a comprehensive land-use plan and to update it every 10 years.

Even fewer folks know that this comprehensive planning initiative that swept across the country during the 1970s was caused by the United Nations and promoted by an assortment of U.N.-accredited non-government organizations. The initiative culminated in the U.N. Conference on Human Settlements held in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1976.

This conference produced a 65-page report on land. The preamble to this report declares:

“Land … cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also a principal instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice. …

“Public control of land use is therefore indispensable.”

The United States officially agreed to and accepted this U.N. policy document when William K. Reilly, future EPA administrator, and Carla A. Hills, future U.S. trade representative, signed the document.

This idea of government control of land use was dressed up with a new name in Our Common Future, the report of the 1987 World Commission on Environment and Development. The new name given to government control of land use in this report is “sustainable development.”

Sustainable development was further defined at the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro with the adoption of Agenda 21 by delegates from 179 nations who attended the conference. George H.W. Bush signed the document.

When Greenville’s comprehensive land-use plan was updated in 1994, very few people had even heard about Agenda 21 and had no awareness that eight of the nine plan elements closely matched the eight program elements set forth in Chapter 7 of Agenda 21. This match was no accident. The Clinton administration created by executive order the President’s Council on Sustainable Development expressly for the purpose of implementing Agenda 21 throughout the federal, state and local governments – administratively. Tons of money was appropriated and distributed in the form of grants to local governments and non-government organizations to promote “visioning” processes that led to the development of comprehensive land-use plans.

In 2008, Greenville County once again set out to update its comprehensive land-use plan. Both the process and product are well-documented on the county’s website: “ Imagine Greenville County: Tomorrow’s Vision Today.”

Most communities that have developed similar comprehensive land-use plans in recent years make their plan legally binding. It is the mechanism through which sustainable development is enforced in many communities. The Greenville plan makes a point of assuring residents that the plan is not legally binding. It is offered as a guideline for future land use, but it is not legally binding.

It doesn’t have to be. Greenville County has a legally binding Official Zoning Map and has already adopted most of the available regulatory codes offered by the International Codes Council.

The comprehensive plan is the public relations tool used to sell the sustainable development idea to the community. People are told that the plan was developed from the ground up through citizen participation. The fact is, according to their reports, fewer than 350 people from a population of nearly 450,000 (.0008 percent) participated in the process.

The fact is that much, if not most, of the plan can be directly attributed to the recommendations in Chapter 7 of Agenda 21. The Chapter title is: “Promoting sustainable human settlement development.”

It is unlikely that many of the elected officials, or even those who participated in the development of the comprehensive plan, were aware that what they were led to consider was initiated by the United Nations. It is certain, however, that the county’s consultant, LandDesign, Inc., knew about Agenda 21 and sustainable development. On the firm’s website they boast:

“LandDesign and Audubon Lifestyles are united for change – embracing the International Sustainability Council’s Principles for Sustainability that promote sustainable solutions for life and business that are reliable, practical, efficient and economically viable.”

What’s dangerous about sustainable development and Agenda 21 is not that it comes from the U.N., but that it promotes government control over the decisions of free individuals. Government-planned communities and government-planned economies were tried extensively by the Soviet Union throughout most of the 20th century. The result was catastrophic. To promote the repetition of government-planned communities and government-planned economies in the United States and expect a different result, is the classic definition of insanity.

Let the free market, powered by free people, decide where to build, what to build and how to build it. Government’s only legitimate job is to see that it is built to adequate safety standards.

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