newsletter archive
Sprawl Watch, Vol. 1, No. 13
December 9, 1999

= = = The Backlash= = = = 
For background information on the individuals and organizations introduced in our new "Backlash" section of Sprawl Watch please link to the Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse at

A recently released policy report by the CATO Institute "Smart Growth at the Federal Trough" charges the federal EPA with covertly funding grassroots organizations that oppose sprawl.  Policy Analysis no. 361

American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC) will hold a meeting for more than 200 Democratic and Republican state legislators Dec. 9-11. Attendees will listen to national experts and participate in eight sessions of debate and discussion of many issues, including smart growth policies, certain to face them during the upcoming legislative sessions. (U.S. Newswire, 12/1/99) 

"Property rights" activists in Spokane have started a letter writing campaign to protest Washington's Growth Management Act (GMA).   In a letter written to sympathetic landowners, a group calling itself the "Critical Issue Coalition" listed a number of
reasons the state GMA should be changed and invited recipients to attend a Dec. 6 
meeting to tell legislators how GMA has affected their lives. The letter was sent by four business leaders including software millionaire Bernard Daines, who is suing Spokane city and county governments, claiming they're choking the economy by over-restricting growth.  At the Dec. 6 meeting, six Eastern Washington legislators vowed to fight for reform of the state's Growth Management Act. (Dan Hansen, The Spokesman-Review). 

= = = State and Local News= = = = 
Gov. Bill Owens unveiled a "smart growth" plan for Colorado that promises tax credits for redevelopment within cities, for preserving wildlife habitat and for farmers and ranchers who offer conservation easements for 20 or more years. Public opinion polls place growth as one of the top concerns of Coloradans. Lawmakers created an 11-member committee that spent this summer and fall studying growth issues in the state after killing a mandatory growth regulation bill during the session. That committee came up with 10 different proposals. Some are expected to be similar to what Owens wants, including a way to
resolve land use disputes, tax incentives for telecommuting and income tax credits for open space. (John Sanko, Denver Rocky Mountain News, 11/29/99) 

District of Columbia 
The Joint Center for Sustainable Communities recently recognized 15 efforts across the nation that are models of growth and development for the rest of the country.  The Joint Center, created in 1993 by the National Association of Counties and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, was formed to help cities and counties work together on mutually-beneficial 
projects and planning. Some of the counties receiving awards: Lancaster County, Penn.; Denver/Aurora, Colo.; Chattanooga/Hamilton counties, Tenn.; Tempe/Maricopa counties, Ariz.; Cincinnati/Hamilton counties, Ohio; Ada and Canyon counties/Boise, Meridian, Garden, Nampa, Caldwell, Eagle, Star and Kuna, Idaho; (By Todd Weiss, Lancaster News, 11/30/99) 

In a little-known ripple effect of urban sprawl, local farmers, flush with cash from selling out to developers, are bidding up the price of farmland in some rural counties.  The most popular havens for farmers escaping urban sprawl are DeKalb, La Salle and  McLean counties. "They want to trade for properties within one or two hours' drive," said Dale Aupperle,  president of Decatur-based Heartland Ag Group. Average prices for farmland sold in DeKalb County jumped 23 percent, from $5,200 an acre in 1998 to $6,400 in 1999, according to Jane T. Arthur and Associates, publisher of the Illinois Land Sales Bulletin.  In the same period, prices in La Salle County rose by 5 percent and in McLean County by 8 percent. (By Art Golab, Chicago Sun-Times, 11/ 29/99) 

New York
Pathmark Stores Inc. was honored on 11/30 for its commitment to inner cities with an award from Partners for Livable Communities for pioneering a new store in Harlem, the New York City neighborhood's first modern supermarket in 30 years. The supermarket also has created almost 300 well-paying union jobs -- 80 percent of them going to Harlem residents -- and provided inner-city shoppers with an affordable source of groceries and other household goods. (PR Newswire, 11/29/99) 

North Carolina 
Governor Jim Hunt announced 11 appointments to the General Assembly's Commission to Address Smart Growth, Growth Management and Development Issues.  The goals of the commission are to preserve natural and cultural resources, promote smarter, infrastructure and transportation planning, foster more balanced economic development in rural and urban areas, foster compatible land-use patterns, preserve and improve air quality, protect housing affordability and assure consumer choice and enhance the quality of
life for the citizens of North Carolina. 

A subdivision in North Carolina - perhaps the first in the country - has been declared a Superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Pesticide-contaminated soil from bygone agricultural operations is being scraped from 27 homeowners' yards and replaced with clean fill. Federal officials have also approved $500,000 to clean up contaminated groundwater and drinking wells. In the meantime, residents have been urged not to drink their well water or touch the soil in their yards. (By Paul Nowell, AP) 

New population projections for the Philadelphia region show the stampede to the suburban fringes continuing, in some cases to where farmland has been vanishing under developers' bulldozers for years. The figures are distressing for both suburban officials, who want to control sprawl, and leaders in the cities and older towns trying to hold on to the residents they have. The forecasts for the next 25 years were made by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), and help the planning agency lobby for roads and other infrastructure projects in nine counties of Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey. A citizens' advisory group and dozens of municipal officials question the accuracy of the data. 

Rhode Island 
Facing a building boom that is transforming fields and forests across Rhode Island, The Nature Conservancy announced an unprecedented $45-million fundraising effort to buy 
and preserve environmentally critical properties around the state.  Leaders of the private land conservation group say they believe this will be the largest noneducational capital fundraising campaign in the state's history. Coupled with a $50-million bond issue 
proposed by the Almond administration for next fall, as well as municipal bond issues approved recently in several communities, conservationists could be working with more than $100 million in the next few years -- the largest pool of land conservation funds ever raised in Rhode Island.  According the Natural Resources Conservation Service 31.1% 
of Rhode Island's land has been developed.

The two largest Civil War preservation groups are merging as they try to raise $16 million to save battlefields in 11 states, from Brandy Station in Virginia to Prairie Grove in Arkansas.  The Civil War Preservation Trust, created from the merger of the Civil War Trust and the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, hopes to save more acreage by joining forces. "We're paving over important parts of our history. We are obliterating our past,'' said James Lighthizer, the group's president. "With every passing day the price of these sites goes up and the chance of destruction increases.'' (AP, 11/23/99) 

= = =New Release= = = 
Fannie Mae has produced a list of the top influences on American Cities of the past 50 years, and a list of the projected top influences for the coming 50 years. Topping the list of past influences are the 1956 Interstate Highway Act and the dominance of the automobile.  Other past influences included on the list include the de-industrialization of cities, 'Sunbelt-style' sprawl, and racial segregation and job discrimination in cities and suburbs.  Number one on the list of projected major influences is 'growing disparities in wealth,' followed by several other factors, including smart growth influences, deterioration of 'first-ring' suburbs, and perpetual 'underclass' in central cities and inner-ring suburbs.  The lists were developed by Robert Fishman, professor of history at Rutgers University, and were based on survey responses from 149 leading urban historians, planners and architects. For more information on the results, check out 

New figures, contained in the USDA's 1997 National Resources Inventory, show that nationally nearly 16 million acres of forest, cropland, and open space were converted to urban and other uses from 1992 to 1997. The average rate for those five years -- 3.2 million acres a year -- is more than twice the rate of 1.4 million acres a year recorded from 1982 to 1992. 

= = =Nationwide= = = 
The Federal Highway Administration reports that highway construction costs decreased 8.1 percent in the third quarter of 1999 compared to the second quarter of 1999, and decreased 3.7 percent to the third quarter a year ago. 

Vehicle sales are climbing even as many Americans cite urban sprawl as a growing national concern. A DaimlerChrysler economist points out that 15 percent of all house construction today includes a three-car garage. That's up 3 percent from just a few years ago.  A Ford Motor Co. vice president: "With this level of wealth, people seem to want more vehicles and newer vehicles." 

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