newsletter archive
Sprawl Watch
Volume 1, Number 1 -  April 19, 1999

= = =This Week's Content = = = 

In the States:    News from California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas. 

Nationwide:      The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The New York Times and Newsweek report on sprawl. 

New Releases:    New releases from American Rivers, American Farmland 
Trust, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Surface Transportation Policy Project. Foundations announce Funders' Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities. 

= = =State and Local News = = =

The Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning has proposed a new plan for the northern Santa Monica Mountains to guide growth in the region into the next decade.  The proposal is unprecedented in its environmental sensitivity, tightening control on suburban sprawl and discouraging new road construction.  The proposal also explicitly rejects any effort by developers to boost the number of homes they build by counting land under public streets as their own, a practice disclosed in a Los Angeles Time's analysis of the region's growth problems. (Los Angeles Times 3/17) 

In a five-part series the Oakland Tribune, Tri-Valley Herald, The Argus and The Daily Review, March 7-11, 1999 looked at alternatives to continued urban sprawl and worsening traffic congestion. The series can be found at Click on an individual newspaper and then click on special report. 

Colorado's state Legislature killed several legislative attempts to manage growth during the week of April 5.  SB 107 would have created urban growth boundaries and SB 211 (the "Responsible Growth Act") would have required large and fast-growing cities and counties to draft comprehensive plans.  An effort to put growth management on the ballot for 2000 is underway.  Link:

A 25-member panel created by the Florida state Legislature has sent its 64 page study of  transportation and land use issues to the state Legislature. The final report of the Transportation and Land Use Study Committee sends 40 broad recommendations on ways to improve growth planning.  Among the study's 40 recommendations: 
· Design communities with the idea of eliminating the need for long trips to shopping sites, and take a stronger look at "multimodal" transportation, including bicycles, pedestrian walkways and public transit. 
· Stop overemphasizing automobile mobility - and the sprawling road system it demands - at the expense of livable communities, instead fostering "smart growth" that balances both. 
· The report calls for revisions in concurrency regulations, which say the utilities must be in place before development can begin. Officials argued that the issues in the report were far too complex to create legislation this year and that while the panel was not asked to consider how to pay for its recommendations, that issue will have to be dealt with. (Tampa Tribune 3/9) 

The Illinois Department of Transportation just kicked off a new "smart growth" project in Northeast Illinois in conjunction with the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission, the Chicago Area Transportation Study, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Regional Transportation Authority, the City of Chicago and the Metropolitan Planning Council. 

According to a study released last week by American Farmland Trust and Northern Illinois University, residents on the suburban fringe of Chicago appear willing to dig deeply into their wallets to preserve what remains of the rural nature of their communities. Just this past Tuesday, survey results were further validated by the overwhelming passage of three open-space referenda in the same suburban area.  A complete news release on the survey, as well as the executive summary, survey results and related materials, are available at, or through

A colorful new report, "Visions: Choosing a Future for Growing Communities," illustrates the impact of development on four different areas of the Chicago region.  The report uses a new mapping technique to help citizens visualize their community's future.  Contact: Peter Morman, Environmental Law & Policy Center, 312/759-3400.  Elements of the report will be available at their website ( soon. 

New Jersey
State environmental officials shelved tough new rules aimed at controlling sprawl along the New Jersey coast.  The decision to setback the Whitman administration's vow to put teeth into the plan, a voluntary land-use plan designed to channel new development away from farms and rural areas and into developed areas.  The proposal, several years in the drafting, would have revamped building regulations in 880,000 acres along the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay.  Most new development would have been steered to more than 100 newly designated coastal population centers and away from environmentally sensitive land and farms. (Star Ledger 3/12) 

New Mexico
The New Mexico Heritage Preservation Alliance announced their List of the Most Endangered Places in New Mexico. Number four on the list: The New Mexico Night Sky (statewide).  The threat of urban expansion impacts the night sky.  As urban areas expand and change without consideration of the impact on the night sky, places where the heavens can be viewed grow fewer and more difficult to reach. 

New York
The Smart Growth Competitiveness Act (SGECA) now in the New York Legislature encourages local planning, keeps decision-making at the local level and restricts state funds to those local initiatives that meet smart growth standards.  The bills S.1367 and A. 1969 have bipartisan support. 

Leaders in the Portland metropolitan area are relying on Metro, Portland's regional planning agency, to help them meet federal standards to restore declining salmon and steelhead trout runs.  (Brent Hunsberger, The Oregonian, 4/9). 

In a setback for farmland protection, the Oregon Senate last week narrowly approved a bill that would require larger Oregon cities to maintain a 20-year land supply for business and industry.  Randy Tucker, a lobbyist for the land-use watchdog group 1000 Friends of Oregon, predicted the bill could cause cities to unnecessarily expand onto farmland because the land-supply requirement would be based partly on past development, whether or not similar growth is expected. The measure, Senate Bill 87, passed 16-13. 
The Oregonian 4/14/99

State Rep. David J. Steil (R., Bucks) recently introduced a package of state land-use changes that includes curative-amendment relief for municipalities if they participate in joint planning and zoning with neighboring municipalities. Also in Pennsylvania, the Department of Environmental Protection is focusing on land-use during Earth Week. (Philadelphia Inquirer 4/14). 

South Carolina
South Carolina State Home Builders are considering a challenge to comprehensive land-use plans that would restrict development.  The board of directors of the SC Home Builders Association has approved $5,000 for research to determine if the group successfully could challenge such restrictions in court. State law requires that all local governments with zoning ordinances develop a comprehensive land-use plan by May.  (State 3/28) 

Senate Bill 89, which would require cities to announce annexation plans three years ahead of time, was passed by the Senate March 25.  The bill now must be approved by the House of Representatives.  The bill was sponsored by Sen. Frank Madla, (D-San Antonio).  Another bill in the Texas House is House Bill 423, sponsored by Rep. Bob Turner, D-Voss, who represents Bandera County.  That measure would give added power to county commissioners over housing developments in unincorporated areas. (North Central (TX) News 4/14). 

= = =Nationwide = = =

Newsweek touted downtown living in its April 12 article At Home in the Big City

On April 12, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times tackled sprawl.  See: Land Use: Fertile Ground for Gore by Geneva Overholser (WP) and Gore Must Score Points with Cities, Suburbs for Shot at the Presidency, by Ronald Brownstein.  The New York Times ran New Recruits in the War on Sprawl, by Alan Ehrenhalt on April 13. 

= = =New Releases = = =
Foundations Launch Funders' Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities. The Network will serve as a new resource and focal point for foundations that are working to address the range of environmental, social, and economic problems that are exacerbated by suburban sprawl.  Contact: (305) 377-4484. 

"Saving Open Spaces: Public Support for Farmland Protection"  released by 
American Farmland Trust and Northern Illinois University. See Illinois above. 

Report Says Sprawl Poses New Risks In Urban Areas
Urban sprawl in cities such as Atlanta, Seattle and Chicago is polluting water and posing new risks to some of the country's rivers, according to an American Rivers report  released today (John Hughes, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer/others). 

The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Surface Transportation Policy Project release Once There Were Greenfields: How Urban Sprawl is Undermining America's Environment, Economy and Social Fabric.  To order your copy contact or contact NRDC directly at 212.727.4486