newsletter archive
Sprawl Watch 
    Volume 2, Number 6 – April 20, 2000

Addition to Sprawl Watch Web site: 
A new site-value taxation resource bibliography is available. Site-value taxation levies a tax on real estate that is commensurate with the site's potential value, regardless of what buildings may occupy the site, please link to: or   

= = = State and Local News= = = = 
Takings Claims 
The California Research Bureau, a branch of the California State Library, has recently produced an interesting report on an empirical study attempting to document the effects of the expanding number of takings claims on land use planning and regulation in California.  The report is entitled Have the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5th Amendment Takings Decisions Changed Land Use Planning in California? The author is Dan Pollack.  Based largely on an extensive survey of municipal and county planning officials, the report concludes that takings litigation is having a number of significant effects on both substantive and procedural aspects of land use decision-making. Hard copies of the report can be obtained by contacting (Environmental Policy Project, 4/20) 

A proposal to build the largest development ever in the Coachella Valley, 
near the Joshua Tree National Park, would drastically alter the rural area. 
The plans call for a 7,000-home city and high-tech center on a large, empty 
track along the park's southwestern corner.  Concerns are rising about the 
impact of creeping urbanization on a popular national park.  The large 
development also would cut the national park off from a large nature preserve 
established more than a decade ago for the endangered Coachella Valley
fringed-toed lizard.  (The Los Angeles Times, 4/20/00)

New Jersey 
Leadership Award
New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman has been named recipient of the American Planning  Association (APA) Distinguished Leadership Award for an Elected Official.  Nominated by the New  Jersey Commerce and Economic Growth Commission's Office of Sustainable Business for her commitment to a wide variety of planning initiatives, Gov. Whitman's role as spokesperson for smart growth issues is gaining local and national recognition. 

North Carolina 
Arrested Development
N.C. Superior Court Judge Ben Tennille ruled in a lawsuit filed by a group of city residents that Charlotte's process for approving most development projects violates state law. The ruling forces the city to revamp the way it makes about 80 percent of its zoning decisions. 

When Durham's leaders approved a long-term blueprint in 1995 for the county's urban growth, they signed off on a broad vision for the future: protecting trees, building compact neighborhoods, lowering dependency on cars. What got left out was how. Now, the City Council and county commissioners are considering spending more than $250,000 for a consultant to answer that question.

North Dakota 
Tax Incentives
Downtown Grand Forks will get a tax-incentive district called a renaissance zone under a plan approved by a subcommittee of the Grand Forks City Council. The renaissance zone is a newly created state program that has two main parts: A 20-block district where property owners can qualify for property tax  breaks and where business operators can qualify for income tax breaks and an investment fund corporation that provides tax credits for investors and capital for projects within the district. 

Regional Planning 
Six Lehigh County townships will meet to explore regional land-use planning a tool that can help municipalities control sprawl. Supervisors representing Lowhill, Lynn, Weisenberg, North Whitehall, Washington and Heidelberg townships will meet to get more information about developing a comprehensive regional land-use plan. 

A band of Loudoun County farmers and landowners driving a tractor, three pickups and a Buick formed a convoy and drove around the county government building April 17 to protest local efforts to slow growth in the booming Washington suburbs.  The protesters stretched banners across hay bales to promote their Web site, which is under construction.  The protesters sought to oppose efforts by the new Board of County Supervisors to slow growth. (The Washington Post, 4/18/00)

Affordable Housing 
Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County has succeeded where other cities'
affordable-housing programs have failed or stagnated. The reasons for its success are deep-seated, say observers. 1). On three occasions, Seattle residents have voted to tax themselves more heavily to fund low-income housing. 2). After years of resistance, middle-class neighborhoods are now showing a willingness to accept low-income housing. 3). Seattle has an extraordinary number of nonprofit developers, which it has allowed to lead the way in creating affordable housing. As a result, the Seattle consortium has increased the number of subsidized housing units it oversees from fewer than 2,000 to more than 11,000 since 1988. 

= = =Report Releases= = = 
The Sierra Club released a new, national report entitled, Sprawl Costs Us All: How Your Taxes Fuel Suburban Sprawl. The report demonstrates that suburban sprawl is not only hurting the environment, it is draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes. The report breaks the subsidies that encourage sprawl  into several broad categories and offers analysis, examples and figures from across the United States. 

National Association of Home Builders responds to Sierra Club Report on the Costs of Sprawl.

= = =National= = = 
Post Office Relocation 
A new Web site ( has been erected to help generate support for the Post Office Community Partnership Act (H.R. 670/S.556), introduced and supported by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).  The bill would require the Postal Service to think twice about relocating or closing  facilities.  (APA's Planning Magazine, 4/00). 

Public Health 
Federal public health officials are set to launch an intitiative this spring to encourage walking.  They see it as a logical way to increase daily exercise for legions of American children who have become heavier and more sedentary, therefore are at greater risk for future heart disease, diabetes and other problems. 

One reason fewer children walk to and from school is parents' concern about their safety. Roads are busier. Sidewalks are often unavailable. Sprawl has put schools at a distance. Time-pressed parents find it easier to drive to school than to walk alongside their children.

Farmland Protection 
 States earmarked 58 percent more funds to protect farmland this year than last, continuing a trend in which publicly funded farmland protection programs are increasingly used as a buffer against unplanned growth. 

According to statistics released by American Farmland Trust, state Purchase of Agricultural
Conservation Easement (PACE) programs expanded by 17 percent in acres protected and 58 percent in available funds since February 1999.  PACE programs compensate land owners for the development value of their land while permanently protecting the land for agriculture.

Sprawl Watch 
Volume 2, Number 5 – April 4, 2000 

= = = State and Local News= = = =
Public Transportation
The Metroplan board of directors urged its staff to research ways to push up plans for a regional rail system.  Metro 2020, a list of transportation projects and goals Metroplan adopted five years ago, called for the construction of a light rail by 2025, when the central Arkansas population is expected to reach 750,000. Proponets of regional rail, say central Arkansas will struggle if local leaders don't begin making rail plans now arguing that building more roads and adding lanes to freeways isn't solving traffic congestion problems, which grow worse each year. (Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 3/30/00)

County Planning
Newscastle, Silt, Glenwood and Carbondale mayors told Garfield County Commissioners that they want to be in the county planning loop for all major developments between municipalities.  The mayors agree that they should try and preserve the existing tax base and center commercial development around the existing municipalities.  The county has been circulating draft zoning amendments, which would allow municipalities within two miles of a proposed development to make comments about the plan, before it would go to the county planning commission.

Land Preservation
Douglas County, the fastest growing county in the country recently purchased the 21,000 acre Greenland Ranch with help from The Conservation Fund, a national conservation organization.  The sale is essentially saving the largest remaining tract of open space along the Front Range from the urban sprawl that has gripped the metro area.

Rural Sprawl
A recent cover story in the “Great Lakes Bulletin”, the magazine of the Michigan Land Institute, finds causes and solutions to runaway development in rural regions.  According to the report sprawl is the direct result of minutely detailed zoning plans that are heavily subsidized by taxpayer dollars.  The Institute’s research focused on Garfield Township, which borders Traverse City and is the fastest growing region in scenic northern Michigan.  For a copy of the article and related sidebars, see

New Jersey
Suburban School Funding
Suburban school districts, including many in Bergen and Passaic counties, would receive a huge boost in state support for expanding and renovating classrooms and buildings under a proposal unveiled by Sen. William L. Gormley, (R ). Lawmakers and Governor Whitman decided that if the state is going to support the urban districts, it had to do more to help the rest of the schools in the state as well. A plan sponsored by Gormley that advanced in the last legislative session would have provided 100 percent funding for construction costs in the urban districts and varying amounts of support for other schools.

Farmland Protection
Members of Ohio's House of Representatives took an important step toward protecting the state's farmland by passing a resolution to place a $400 million bond initiative on the November ballot. The initiative, which would support local efforts to preserve natural resources and revitalize urban areas, includes badly needed funding for the Ohio Department of Agriculture's Office of Farmland Preservation to administer voluntary agricultural conservation easements for Ohio farmers.

Farmland Preservation Legislation
U.S. Rep. Joseph Pitts in an effort to stop high taxes from crippling family farmers or force farmers to sell their land for housing or commercial development proposes anti-sprawl bills.  One, the Open Space Preservation Act, would eliminate the 20 percent capital gains tax that a farmer must pay when he sells his property. The other, the Farmland Preservation Act, would exempt farm children from paying federal inheritance tax sometimes as high as 55 percent on their parent's farm. Both laws would apply only to farms that are preserved permanently. (“Lancaster New Era”, 3/27)

Pennsylvania Public Transportation Ridership Up
As a result of sharply rising gasoline prices, 13,000 more people rode South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) trains and buses between October and February.  The 2 percent increase in ridership reflects a trend seen in public-transit systems nationwide since fuel prices began climbing.

Unplanned Growth Focus of Democratic Campaigns
The impact of suburban sprawl on once-rural southeastern Berks County is the focus of campaigns by Democrats seeking the nomination for state representative in the 130th District. The campaigns -- cite unplanned growth, high taxes and overcrowded schools as the region's major problems.

= = =Report Releases= = =
The Trust for Public Land released its new report, “Community Choices: Thinking Through Land Conservation, Development, and Property Taxes in Massachusetts.” The report disproves the long-accepted myth that new residential development strengthens local economies by bringing in property tax revenues.  The report finds that in many cases development results in a net revenue loss for towns, due to increased infrastructure and service costs.

= = = National = = =
Scenic America, a national scenic conservation organization, is now accepting nominations for its 2000 Last Chance Landscapes program. These endangered landscapes are places of beauty or distinctive community character with both a pending threat and a potential solution.  Nominations are due on June 15, 2000.

A Last Chance Landscape can be a scenic vista, a distinct region, an urban
neighborhood, or some other place people cherish and want to preserve.  Scenic America will judge nominations on the scenic quality and/or distinct character of the area, the extent and urgency of the threat, and the opportunities to save the landscape. Last Chance Landscape nomination forms are available at Scenic America's website ( .

The Senate Great Lakes Task Force, Liveable Communities Task Force, and House Sustainable Development Task Force on Friday, April 7, will host a briefing on the General Services Administration's (GSA) newly-established Center for Urban Development and Livability.  The center seeks to enhance the federal government's role in creating more livable communities through building location and design. The briefing will begin at 3:30 pm in room 2168 of the Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC.