newsletter archive
Sprawl Watch
Volume 2, Number 15 - August 30, 2000

= = = State and Local News = = =
Santa Cruz, CA, will soon be home to the nation's first large-scale countywide program to subsidize electric bikes.  Santa Cruz County will begin a program to subsidize the purchase of electric bikes through discounts, rebates, and even interest free loans.  Although they have yet to take off in the United States, many think towns such as Santa Cruz-university towns experiencing rapid growth and increasingly congested roadways--are ideal locales for their success.,2107,500241372-500355675-502073338-0,00.html

Los Angeles County planning officials have voted to preserve some of the last vestiges of publicly accessible open space in the rapidly sprawling county.  The action will affect areas in the Santa Monica Mountains stretching from Los Angeles to the Ventura County line that have seen increasing suburban encroachment over the past decade.  The "North Area Plan" would protect many of the scenic vistas and sensitive watersheds in the area while allowing increased housing densities on some mountainous properties.

Denver's new light rail line is experiencing extremely high ridership since it opened up this summer.  The Regional Transportation District has estimated that ridership exceeded expectations by 32 percent.  Though some have criticized the numbers, most believe ridership should only continue as students return to school and summer vacation ends.

In a speech to the Maryland Association of Counties, Maryland Governor Parris Glendening, long a champion of smart growth, said he will begin linking state aid to how well counties limit sprawl and preserve open space.  Gov. Glendening, who is currently the Chairman of the National Governor's Association, plans to use his tenure as Chairman to encourage other states to adopt smart growth programs themselves.  Gov. Glendening suggested he will use the final two years of his administration to concentrate on his smart growth initiatives.

New Jersey
Although not currently known as a major skiing attraction, there are plans to quadruple the amount of skiers to Hamburg Mountain in North Jersey's Highland region.  Many people in the Highland area and throughout the state question whether this site lives up to the principles of smart growth that Gov. Whitman has espoused.

U.S. Reps. Joseph Hoeffel (D-PA) and Ron Klink (D-PA), running for reelection in the House and a U.S. Senate seat respectively, see sprawl, and its attendant affects on quality of life and rural economic vitality, as a key issue in their respective campaigns.  The two are cosponsoring major legislation, the Farmland Protection and Sprawl Reduction Act of 2000, to increase the tax incentive for farmers and ranchers to keep their land undeveloped.
For more information on this bill and other federal legislation introduced to promote smart growth and livable communities, please visit

South Carolina
Although the Palmetto State is becoming known for its beautiful beaches and exceptional historic preservation, many residents are noticing the consequences of its beauty and newfound popularity:  sprawl and traffic.  Low-density, auto-dependant development patterns on the outskirts of many of its historic towns have begun to overwhelm many of its rural and scenic roads presenting the state with serious questions about its transportation infrastructure.

Retaining grocery stores in downtowns, and encouraging new ones to relocate, has always proved vexing for local officials searching for ways to encourage downtown living. Columbia, SC has been trying to lure people to move into its downtown, and Earth Fare, a new organic grocery store, should add positively to that effort.

Residents in the Dallas Area Rapid Transit's (DART) 13 member cities voted overwhelmingly to allow the agency to use long-term financing to upgrade and accelerate future light rail lines to Carrollton, Farmers Branch, North Irving, South Dallas, Fair Park, Pleasant Grove and Rowlett.  The vote was a true mandate for DART with 77% of the voters casting ballots for the proposition.

Utah's proposed, and much-criticized, Legacy Highway has received another setback with a report released by the Sierra Club attacking the legitimacy of the traffic models used to justify the "need" for the 120-mile $2.76 billion highway.  Last year, Taxpayers for Common Sense and Friends of the Earth listed the Legacy Highway as one of the 50 worst road projects in America because of its mammoth expense, its redundancy paralleling I-15, and its effect on surrounding farmland.,1249,195008539,00.html
To view the Taxpayers for Common Sense report, "Road to Ruin", please visit

= = = New Releases = = =
Parks and Sprawl
The National Park Trust released "Legacy:  The Crisis in our Parks" singling out sprawl as one of the major threats to our national and state parks.  In addition to documenting how sprawl is threatening our system of state and national parks, the report also lists the ten most threatened state parks in the country.  To view the report, please visit

Livable Communities Initiative
The White House Task Force on Livable Communities has released "Building Livable Communities" which lists the growth-related challenges for urban, suburban and rural communities along with the role the federal government in supporting local initiatives.  In addition, the report outlines the Livable Communities Initiative, a comprehensive 30-point package of policies designed to support local efforts to revitalize existing communities; expand transportation choices; improve schools and increase public safety; protect farmland and open space; and generally encourage economic prosperity consistent with a high quality of life. 
To view the report or to order one, please see

Highways and Growth
The Brookings Institution's Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy has released "Do Highways Matter?  Evidence and Policy Implications of Highway's Influence on Metropolitan Development Patterns".  The report documents that highways do, as many public officials, academics and activists have contended, affect metropolitan development patterns.  The report goes on to recommend, among other things, that the federal government encourage regional transportation planning. 
Also read the Op-Ed in the San Jose Mercury News by the Center's Executive Director, Bruce Katz, and Nicolas Restinas, the Director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, on the federal government's role in solving the nation's severe affordable housing crisis.
To view both the report and op-ed, please visit

Alternatives to Sprawl in Virginia
The Conservation Fund's new publication "Better Models for Development in Virginia" offers officials and citizens dozens of ideas and examples of ways to balance conservation with economic development.  Although the book focuses on Virginia for its case studies, it is useful to all who are interested in accommodating appropriate growth while preserving community character and natural resources. To view the report, please visit

Sprawl Watch
Volume 2, Number 14 - August 15, 2000

= = = State and Local News = = =
In Wisconsin, a bipartisan state task force set up by Gov. Tommy Thompson to suggest changes in the state's tax district laws, has recommended that local governments meet more stringent standards before providing subsidies for industrial financing.  This financing through special tax districts, referred to as "tax incremental financing", allows municipalities to use property tax revenue from a development to pay for public improvements, such as roads and sewer lines.   The task force voiced concern, long suggested by smart growth advocates, that this type of financing has had the net effect of subsidizing sprawl.

An organization comprised of Metro Detroit churches, the Metropolitan Organizing Strategy for Enabling Strength (MOSES), has been meeting with religious leaders across the state to form a coalition of urban and suburban congregations.  The group plans to lobby the state government on development, housing, transportation and state revenue-sharing.  As newer, and more homogeneous, suburbs have increased in Michigan over the last 40 years, the political power of its urban constituency has continued to wane as the quality of life in its cities has deteriorated.  MOSES, mirroring the efforts of other urban-based community organizations looking to build coalitions, is seeking to build an alliance with its traditional urban constituency along with inner suburban communities that are now experiencing many of the same problems plaguing our cities as development continues to "leapfrog" still further out.
The Brookings Institute's Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy has launched an initiative to study the interconnectedness of urban and suburban communities, to learn more please visit

And also in Michigan…
New school construction has become a focal point for community opposition as communities deal with suburban growth.  Smart growth advocates have long pointed out the fiscal irresponsibility and environmental harm created as new infrastructure is built on the urban periphery instead of utilizing existing infrastructure closer to the core.  Due to a harmful mix of out-of-date state regulations and a lack of coordinated planning, new school construction can many times be a contributor to sprawl, especially when existing school buildings remain empty.

The Jacksonville Community Council Inc. has just released a study on Improving Regional Cooperation in Northeast Florida.  The study examines how regional cooperation among public and private entities can be improved including joint consideration, planning, and action on public-policy issues that have regional scope and impact.  To view the report, please visit

Tennesse's strong statewide land use planning law passed in 1998 has been taken to court by two counties who contend the law oversteps the legislature's jurisdiction and threatens property rights in their county.  The law, which orders cities and counties to create 20 year growth plans to direct growth and guide development, was hailed by many business, civic and environmental leaders throughout the state as a sensible strategy to encourage cities and counties to promote regional cooperation and quality growth, and prevent urban sprawl and the continuing loss of Tennessee's agricultural heritage.

Kittery, Maine, which along with Freeport helped to usher in the wave of outlet malls 20 years ago, will have a referendum September 26 on whether two new shopping centers should be constructed on the outskirts of town. The additional outlets would more than double the amount of land already dedicated to outlet stores. Kittery Citizens, a group opposing the new outlet malls, believes that the resulting traffic and the fiscal costs associated with the development make it a bad proposition for the town.

Austin, and its surrounding suburbs, has become a hub for high tech business and services over the previous two decades.  As many high tech employees have fled the exorbitant housing prices, traffic, and perceived low quality of life in Silicon Valley and moved to the Austin area, many of the same problems people fled are creeping up in this famously popular state capital.  Still low compared with Silicon Valley, housing prices have been rapidly increasing causing many locals to wonder whether the high-tech growth is truly benefiting the community as a whole.

The Responsible Growth Initiative, an  measure designed to stem sprawl and promote smart growth, has officially qualified for the November ballot.  To learn more about this initiative and others that have qualified for this Fall's ballot, please visit

And also in Colorado…
The redevelopment of the former Stapleton's airport outside of Denver has been on the region's redevelopment agenda for many years, and the city of Denver is now prepared to contribute $674 million of sales and property taxes to build roads, utilities, parks and schools to spark the process.  Planners and public officials envision a new "urban village" that theoretically will look like other Denver neighborhoods with housing, parks and businesses.  It is projected that within 25 to 30 years Stapleton will have 30,000 residents and 35,000 jobs along with 12,000 homes and 4,000 apartments. 

And one more thing from Colorado…
The rapid growth of the Denver metropolitan area, led the Denver Regional Council of Governments to create the Mile High Compact encouraging counties and cities in the six county metro area to cooperate on land use and transportation concerns.  Although areas representing 73% of the metro area have signed on, two of the most booming counties-Adams and Arapahoe-and the most populous-Jefferson-have refused to sign on citing concern over "property rights".

New Jersey
Helping to complete a legacy that has now preserved more farmland in the previous two years than has been saved in the last twenty, Gov. Whitman signed two bills, which will purchase the development rights of 15,000 acres on 201 farms.  This is part of Gov. Whitman's million-acre open space goal, which she intends to complete by the end of her second term in January 2000.
To learn more about "purchase of development rights" programs that have become an increasingly popular tool for open space and farmland preservation, please visit

= = = New Releases = = =
Urban Parks
The Trust for Public Land and the Urban Land Institute have coordinated to produce Inside City Parks, a landmark study providing comprehensive statistics on parkland and recreation services in the nation's 25 largest cities.  The study highlights innovative programs and initiatives, and explores how parks are affected by the many public and private forces at work in the urban core.

= = = National = = =
Subdivide and Conqueror
"Subdivide and Conqueror", a documentary about the social and ecological effects of urban sprawl in the West that has been shown on public televisions around the country this summer, was almost cancelled on KAET-TV in Phoenix, AZ.  Due to a huge public outcry, the documentary was shown August 4th doubling the usual ratings for its time slot.  Apparently the station had felt the documentary was too "one-sided" in its examination of urban sprawl, which does partly focus on Phoenix.  In addition, the timing was felt to be inappropriate due to the placement of two growth related initiatives on the Fall 2000 ballot in Arizona.

To learn more about the ballot initiatives, please visit
Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse has sponsored showings of the award-winning documentary for the Senate Smart Growth Task Force and various community organizations.  For ordering information and to read more about the film, please visit

Highways and Wildlife
Scientists have long documented the detrimental affects of roads on wildlife, but scientists have now discovered conclusively that they isolate populations genetically.  This phenomena is especially dangerous for threatened or endangered species in relatively remote areas, which can be uniquely vulnerable habitat fragmentation causing inbreeding depression and hastening extinction.  Scientists measured the effects of inbreeding from three types of roads: a 20-foot railway, a 33-foot wide country road and a 164-foot-wide, four-lane highway.  Whereas the railway and country road had relatively benign effects genetically, the four-land highway had profound consequences on the species.

Record Month for Amtrak
In July 2000 Amtrak achieved an all-time ticket revenue high of $107.2 million (breaking the previous $102.3 million record in June 2000) and a ten-year ridership high of more than 2 million passengers. Amtrak is on course to set a record for annual ticket revenue and to break its all-time annual ridership record of 22.2 million passengers. To learn more about the High Speed Rail Act (S. 1900) that would authorize $10 billion over ten years forthe construction of regional high speed rail lines throughout the country, please visit

Sprawl Watch
Volume 2, Number 13 - August 1, 2000

 = = = State and Local News = = = 
Election 2000
Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse is in the process of collecting the state and local ballot initiatives for the Fall 2000 election affecting open space preservation, transportation choice, and community  redevelopment; such as:  open space bonds, transportation taxes, urban growth boundaries, etc. Please visit to view the current list of initiatives along with a brief description of each and links to organizations directly involved with the campaigns.  If people know of other relevant initiatives, please let us know at

1000 Friends of Washington recently released a report on the progress of Washington's Growth Management Act (GMA) passed in 1990.  Inspired partly by Oregon's landmark growth control legislation in the 1970's, the act has 13 statewide planning goals intended to protect open space, link transportation land use planning, and encourage infill development among other goals.  The Act has been used as a model for other states looking to control unwanted growth and encourage infill development. 

Sprawling development continues to threaten Colorado communities, according to a report released today by the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG). The 3rd annual "Sprawl of Shame" report documents ten development projects around Colorado that serve as examples of the negative impacts such poorly planned developments are having on open space, traffic congestion, and the overall quality of life in the state.  To view the report or learn more about CoPIRG, please visit 

Hays County's farms, ranches and open lands generate three times more in tax revenues than they receive in public services, according to a study released today by American Farmland Trust. The Cost of Community Services study also found that tax revenues from residential development fall short of paying for the public services it receives.  Hays County, located between Austin and San Antonio in  Texas's desirable "hill country", has seen its population more than double in the last twenty years.

Contra Costa County, on the eastern edge of the San Francisco Bay area, voted July 26 to move its urban limit line inward 22 miles.  Contra Costa is one of the fastest growing counties in California and  many residents fear the type of growth occurring, largely spread-out low-density development, is increasing congestion and paving over much of the open space and productive farmland.  Moving urban limit lines closer to the urban core is designed, by limiting the distance publicly-financed services and infrastructure will go, to stem sprawl and encourage redevelopment of urban communities.  ttp://

South Carolina
South Carolina's coastal communities, as with many in the southeastern Atlantic and Gulf regions, have experienced exceptionally high rates of growth over the last twenty years.  This has exacerbated existing problems with natural erosion and the inevitable consequences of living in a hurricane zone.  Town officials have struggled with how to limit what many view as irresponsible growth along many of the state's famous and ecologically-rich barrier islands.

Mississippi River 
Time magazine recently published a special issue focused on small towns along the Mississippi River, and how many communities have survived as river and barge transportation lost favor to surface  transportation during the 20th century.  Many are discovering that the preservation of their unique and historical downtowns have been integral to their success.,3392,1101000710,00.html

 = = = New Releases = = =
Fiscal Costs of Sprawl
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released "Developments and Dollars:  An
Introduction to Fiscal Impact Analysis in Land Use Planning."  This useful new guide provides citizens, planners, local officials and others concerned with sprawling development and growth issues with the tools they need to examine the likely impacts of development proposals on local taxes and municipal budgets.  It also offers advice on accounting practices sometimes used to make development appear more attractive to local governments than it really is. The text of Developments and Dollars may be downloaded from NRDC's web site at  Printed copies may be ordered by mail for $5 plus $1.50 shipping and handling per copy from NRDC's Publications Department, 40 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011. 

Growth in North Carolina 
The Brookings Institute Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy released "Adding it up:  Growth Trends and Policies in North Carolina" summarizing the growth trends in North Carolina. The report  concludes that the state needs to grow differently, in a more compact and balanced fashion. The report offers eight policy options that can put North Carolina on a different growth path, and detailed suggestions for future research that can help all North Carolinians make the link between public policies  and development.  To view the report and more information on the Center, please visit

Open Space and Affordability
A new research report titled "Livability and Affordability: Open Space Preservation and Land Supply" was prepared for The Fannie Mae Foundation by the Solimar Institute and the Growth Management Institute. The report provides a scan of state programs to preserve open space, including a discussion of eight such programs that were on the ballot in November 1998: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island. The report also includes recent gubernatorial and legislative initiatives.

= = = National = = = 
Although state and local governments hold much of the jurisdiction for land use decisions and growth management, the federal government plays a significant role with respect to transportation investments, facility citing, open space funding and community redevelopment.  Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse tracks federal legislation that affects efforts to promote smart growth and community livability.  For instance, the U.S. Senate is currently considering crucial legislation to redevelop brownfields, and a bill that will dramatically increase funding for open space, urban parks and historical preservation for years tocome.  To learn more about these bills and others, please visit

Smart Growth and the Law
The George Washington University Center on Sustainability and  Regional Growth is hosting its inaugural conference on September,  21 in Washington, DC titled "Smart Growth and the Law."  The one- day summit will bring together the top experts in the field to explore  the key legal issues associated with smart growth.  It is designed for lawyers and non-lawyers alike.  For more information and to register, see  If you have any questions, contact Tanya McCain at (202) 994-2275. 

Sprawl on NPR 
National Public Radio's ongoing series "The Changing Face of America" spent an episode on Albuquerque's ongoing struggle to both stem sprawl and revive its historic downtown.  Much of the support for the redevelopment of Albuquerque's downtown is coming from developers who are aware of a national trend away from low-density suburbs and towards more compact urban living.  To listen to the report, please visit

Car-sharing, an innovative mobility service that makes cars available to members on a per-use basis, is beginning to gain popularity in the U.S. after two decades of success in western Europe.  Car-sharing is a practical alternative to private car ownership for city dwellers that drive less than 10,000 miles a year, or couples and families interested in downsizing to one car.  The following two articles in the Washington Post and San Jose Mercury News respectively document successful car-sharing projects currently operating, and some proposed, in the U.S.
To learn more about car-sharing opportunities near you, please visit