newsletter archive
Sprawl Watch 
Volume 2, Number 23 - December 20, 2000

= = = State and Local News = = = 
Alabama's Commission on Environmental Initiatives, established by the Governor to work on the environmental agenda for the next legislative session, voted to establish a "smart growth" commission to tackle urban sprawl in Alabama.

As opposed to lessening home values, as some transit opponents claim, convenient access to transit usually becomes a house's greatest commodity.  With traffic and congestion worsening in the Bay Area, housing near transit is one of the most sought after items for new homebuyers.

The Governor's Commission on Saving Open Spaces, Farms and Ranches released a set of recommendations for the Governor and the Legislature.  The recommendations include allowing local governments to remove sales tax caps for open space and using state capital construction dollars to buy wildlife habitat, among other proposals.

District of Columbia 
With the ground breaking of a new Metro station in Northeast Washington, local officials hope to improve public transportation, spur economic development and increase recreational opportunities. 

Part of his continuing effort to expand and improve public transportation in Maryland, Gov. Glendening has proposed spending $750 million over the next six years to double mass transit ridership.  Perhaps more important than the amount of funding, is the mechanism he proposes, a special source of state funds permanently marked for transportation. 

Boston's waterfront came one step closer to gaining a new neighborhood after an agreement between city and state officials recently.  The proposal, which has been on the drawing board for many years, appears to have the backing of developers, public officials, and community organizations.

In a continuing battle over exclusionary zoning within the Minneapolis metropolitan region, the Metropolitan Council said that unless the town of Eagan plans for more affordable housing, the Council will "will curtail or significantly reduce the city's eligibility for regional infrastructure improvements and for a wide range of grants and financial aids." 

Next month the Nebraska Legislature will introduce a constitutional amendment that, if approved, would allow a property-tax break for people who restore historical structures.  Although federal income-tax breaks are available for costs in restoring significant historical structures, Nebraska is one of only three states that don't offer any state tax breaks for such work. 

New Jersey 
With traffic costing the state of New Jersey $4.9 billion annually in wasted time, transportation officials founded the International Intermodal Transportation Center.  The Center is charged with easing mobility and spurring economic development along the I-95 corridor. 

South Carolina 
The real estate and environmental communities in South Carolina all support a proposal from the Ad Hoc Committee on Urban Growth in the State Legislature for a "conservation bank".  The proposal, submitted by Rep. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, would use real estate transfer fees, about $32 million, to create a pool of money for preservation projects.,1458,219311,00.html 

The first publically financed subway station in Texas opened in Dallas on Monday.  The 3¼-mile tunnel connects North Dallas with downtown, but the system is set to expand over the next decade after a public bond passed with 77% of the vote in September.

Advocates fighting the controversial Legacy Highway outside of Salt Lake City are looking to Atlanta for inspiration on how a fight against a freeway turned into a campaign for better transit.

In a victory for smart growth advocates in Loudon County, the Virginia Supreme Court dismissed the first legal challenge to Loudon County's growth management proposals. 

= = = New Releases = = = 
Using the Market to Curb Sprawl 
To help policymakers achieve a growing public mandate to curb sprawl, Redefining 
Progress’s report, “Policy Options for Reducing Sprawl: A Critical Overview,” presents three recent market-based policy innovations.  These policies — location-efficient mortgages (LEMs), space-based impact fees, and split-rate property taxes — harness the market’s power to encourage denser development close to existing infrastructure. 

Examination of Development Patterns 
A new study, Environmental Characteristics of Smart Growth Neighborhoods released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is one of the first to examine a built-and-occupied new development rather than use model projections based on development plans.  NRDC hopes to test these promising results on additional sites with more sophisticated methodology.

Brookings Report on High Tech Job Growth 
Since the mid-1990s, Seattle has been one of the rare cities to have a level of high tech job growth comparable to its surrounding region. This paper seeks to understand the location pattern of high tech firms in the Seattle metropolitan region and to learn what factors influence their location decisions within the region itself. 

= = = National News = = = 
With transit ridership up 5% this year, compared to 1.4% for automobile trips, state and local support for transit initiatives has been growing over the 1990's.  Bucking the traditional stereotype of western conservative states against transit, Wasatch Front voters approved in November a quarter-cent sales tax hike to build more rail and buy more busses. 

Sprawl Watch 
Volume 2, Number 22 - December 6, 2000

 = = = State and Local News = = = 
According to a recent San Francisco Chronicle poll, a majority of Bay Area residents now support comprehensive regional plans to regulate housing along with an emphasis on increasing density and redeveloping existing communities to alleviate sprawl.

New Jersey 
Newark, New Jersey, after decades of extreme disinvestment, is slowly, but successfully, making a comeback.  Although much has been made of some of the larger projects in the downtown, a significant amount of credit belongs to the New Community Corporation, one of the nation's most successful community development corporations. 

Bluffdale, Utah, located outside of Salt Lake City, has been the site of an ongoing political and legal struggle over exclusionary zoning and affordable housing.  Recently, a civil lawsuit was filed to force the city to repeal a recently approved affordable-housing ordinance.  The zoning ordinance in question would allow up to 15 units an acre while the previous ordinance permitted only one building lot per acre.  The new ordinance was instituted due to a previous civil lawsuit filed by minority and disability-rights organizations requiring the city to adopt moderate housing policies.,1249,230013456,00.html 

Protecting farmland from urban sprawl was a large concern at the annual Virginia Farm Bureau Federation convention.  Specifically the Agricultural Vitality Program, which the Virginia General Assembly launched and started with $115,000 last session, was singled out as a good beginning but one that is woefully under-funded.  The Program includes a purchase of development rights element along with a unique program to link potential farmers with retiring farmers. 

= = = New Releases = = = 
Last Chance Landscapes 
Scenic America has released its second annual report naming ten Last Chance 
Landscapes.  The 2000 Last Chance Landscapes include a scenic roadway, open space in metropolitan areas, historic towns, and other places treasured for their natural beauty or distinctive character.  To view the report, including photos and a description of each landscape, please visit

Driven to Spend 
Americans living in sprawl pay more for transportation than other Americans, according to "Driven to Spend", a new report that analyzes government data on consumer expenditures.  The report ranks 28 major metro areas by the amount of family budget devoted to daily transportation costs.  The report was released by the Surface Transportation Policy Project and the Center for Neighborhood Technology.  To view the report, click here

Housing Vouchers 
"Who Should Run the Housing Voucher Program? A Reform Proposal", a new 
working paper jointly prepared by the Brookings Institution Center on Urban and 
Metropolitan Policy and the Urban Institute Metropolitan Housing and Communities 
Policy Center, explores options for administering the federal housing voucher program at 
the metropolitan, rather than the local, level.  To view the report, please visit

Transportation Enhancements 
The National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse released "Communities Benefit!: The Social and Economic Benefits of Transportation Enhancements" listing ten different TE projects from around the county.  Transportation Enhancements are projects funded by federal transportation bill, TEA-21, intended to increase non-motorized transportation, enhance local economic development, and ensure historic preservation among other activities.  To read the report and learn more about enhancements, visit

NGA Report 
By creatively combining transportation and growth planning, some states are doing a 
better job of addressing traffic congestion—the number-on quality-of-life complaint of Americans.  The National Governor's Association new report "In the Fast Lane:  Delivering More Transportation Choices to Break Gridlock" highlights those states and shows how other states can replicate these successes. 

Sprawl Law 
The most recent issue of the American Bar Association Bar Journal has an article specifically addressing land-use law.  The article, while providing a general overview of smart growth, is useful for the lawyer and non-lawyer alike seeking to figure out how the legal system will adapt to new smart growth policies. 

= = = National News = = = 
Coastal Communities and Sprawl 
A researcher for the University of Illinois has estimated that as haphazard development patterns continue on our coasts, by the year 2025 the ‘urban footprints' of these 20 regions are likely to expand by 46%, or from about 20,000 square miles to about 29,000 square miles.  That's an additional 9,000 square miles, or about 5.8 million acres, of land that today is either agricultural land or open space. 

American Planning Association Poll 
Americans want better communities and support stronger laws – at both the local and federal levels – to ensure a high quality of life in our cities, towns, and suburbs, according to the results released December 1 of a nationwide survey of voters by the American Planning Association (APA) and the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).  A majority of Americans (53%) favor new laws to manage growth at the local level, while 55% favor legislation to contain land-use or urban growth. 

Personal Transit Modules 
To witness how form can really follow function to the extreme, one needs to see the new Personal Transit Modules (PTM) being developed.  PTMs are single passenger, completely enclosed, electric vehicles that can be driven in most carpool lanes and parked in motorcycle parking.  For some of our denser urban areas, these could fill a unique niche.