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Taking a Closer Look

Stopping Sprawl by Growing Smarter

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What do abandoned buildings, clogged highways, and new mega-malls in farm fields have in common? According to a growing list of national experts, all of these seemingly unrelated phenomenon are the direct result of sprawl.

Planning and greenspace advocates have long lamented the sprawling development that gobbles up huge tracts of prime farmland and forests while spawning dawn to dusk traffic congestion. But now they are being joined by low-income housing advocates, social service organizations, church leaders, and others concerned about urban decay and poverty.

In announcing a new legislative initiative to curb sprawl, Maryland Governor Paris Glendenning declared that, “inner city disinvestment and suburban sprawl are two sides of the same coin … by curbing sprawl, Maryland can save farmland and forests while simultaneously revitalizing our older suburbs and urban centers.”

While it is too soon to predict how Maryland’s “Neighborhood Conservation and Smart Growth Initiative” will fare with state lawmakers, the initiative is significant because it addresses an issue of growing national significance and it attempts to remedy several of the major problems caused by sprawl. …

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photo of Ed McMahonEd McMahon is one of the country’s most incisive analysts of planning and land use issues and trends. He holds the Charles Fraser Chair on Sustainable Development and is a Senior Resident Fellow at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, DC. McMahon is a frequent speaker at conferences on planning and land development.

Over the past 21 years, we’ve been pleased to have published more than two dozen articles by McMahon in the Planning Commissioners Journal, and now on

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