Citizens, services, and new towns

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Virginia Tech

"Citizens, Services and New Towns" is a study of two new towns, Reston, Virginia and Columbia, Maryland, their private governmental structures and their service delivery mechanisms.

Because of the relative success of Reston and Columbia and the 1970 Housing Act, new towns are springing up across the country. There has been much concern for their physical planning and impact on the environment, yet relatively little attention has been focused on the effects of a new town on existing local governments. Little attention also has been given to how the new town will provide its citizens with services and how they will be financed.

This study attempts to compare Reston and Columbia's servicing mechanisms, private governmental structures, and the local governmental context within which they operate, and to determine the more efficient, effective, and equitable service delivery system.

The Columbia service delivery system meets these criteria. It combines preservicing and debt financing with a municipal-like private government. It seems to be more responsive to citizen needs than that of Reston, which waits until population creates a demand for services.

Much of the data used to support the hypothesis was gathered during a research project done by Jean March and Linda Stenberg at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Additional information was gathered from interviews and from the existing literature.

Reston's private government has been unable to provide services beyond land maintenance. It is too limited financially and structurally to do otherwise. Columbia has been able to offer a wide range of services and amenities because of its debt-financing mechanism.