A Placemaking Journal

Planning & Zoning: The Musical

When was the last time you heard someone make the case for the “soulfulness” of zoning? Or capture the essence of “third place” theory in a song?

Unless you’ve been listening to singer/songwriter Melanie Hammet, you probably haven’t experienced the connection, at least not quite in this way and certainly not at this level of sophistication. See her in solo performance here:

Hammet, who lives in the Atlanta Metro town of Pine Lake, Georgia, is a musician first. Which helps mightily when it comes to getting through the novelty veneer of the tunes collected in her “Edifice Complex” album and into the music itself. Other alt/folk/country/rock/whatever artists should sound so good. And where else are you going to hear auto-dependent sprawl described so aptly in lyrics like: “I drive to all my car’s favorite places”?

It also helps that Hammet knows a thing or two about planning and zoning. Now in her second term as a Pine Lake city council person, she found herself leading a coding rewrite effort and making the connection with “the emotion of land use.” A stint as an artist in residence at the Seaside Institute’s Escape to Create program gave her the time and the inspiration for the “Edifice Complex” songs. Now, she’s becoming one of New Urbanism’s most articulate spokespeople, especially when it comes to expanding the discussion of urban planning beyond core wonks.

Listen to her explain why linking music and zoning is not a round-peg-in-a-square hole thing here. And get ready to hear more from Hammet, who may be just what Smart Growth needs to take its message to a broader audience.

Info about how to get her “Edifice Complex” CD and how to book her for engagements can be found on her website.

— Ben Brown

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