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Two Perspectives on Sprawl

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Read excerpt from Brining Sprawl to a Crawl, by Eben Fodor

We are witnessing a dramatic and unprecedented transformation of our landscape. Urban development is consuming land at a rate of more than 340 acres an hour in this country. More farms, forest, natural areas and open space have succumbed to urban development in the last fifty years than in all previous history.

Thanks to the convenience of the automobile, and massive federal road-building campaigns, we have removed many of the spatial constraints that formed the compact urban development of our older communities. This freedom has allowed us to expand across the landscape in a sprawling mass of subdivisions, strip malls, and industrial parks.

Not everyone agrees that sprawl is bad. But the bottom line is that sprawling development consumes our limited supply of land and means less nature, less farmland, and less rural tranquility for all of us. The poorly planned, low density development associated with sprawl is also an added drain on taxpayers who must fund the new roads, sewer lines, and other costly public infrastructure this growth requires. …

Read excerpt from The Anti-Sprawl Mantra, by Wayne Lemmon 

Ever since publication of the landmark study, The Costs of Sprawl, in the mid-1970’s, planners have been chanting a sort of mantra, which sounds something like: “Sprawl is Bad! Must Fight Sprawl!” And without too much discerning thought, suburban growth in nearly all forms has frequently been equated to sprawl. When new subdivisions or major road projects are proposed, suburban growth is often portrayed as an evil, consuming force, which must be fought and stopped in its tracks wherever it rears its ugly head.

Anti-growth activists tell anyone who will listen that:

  • Growth and sprawl are expensive drains on capital budgets and tax dollars.
  • Growth and sprawl are inherently harmful to the environment.
  • Growth needs to be confined to developed areas already served by public facilities and mass transit.
  • Growth and sprawl consume land and spoil natural landscapes.

Against this pervasive prejudice in the land planning profession, I wish to offer a simple, contrarian message: It ain’t necessarily so!

This is not to say that the anti-growth activists are wrong. As frequently practiced and implemented, all of these alleged evils attributed to suburban growth can be found and do indeed occur. I’m simply suggesting that these unfortunate consequences do not always occur, and with good planning and proper taxing and land use policies, they don’t have to occur. …

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