newsletter archive
Sprawl Watch 
Volume 2, Number 2 - February 25, 2000 

This Week's Content: 

= = = State and Local News= = = =
The American Farm Bureau Federation recently spoke out in disagreement 
with a USDA report published last spring which concluded that the 
conversion of cropland to urban development poses little threat to the 
nation's ability to produce food and fiber in the next century.  The 
Farm Bureau states that urbanization of farmland in California is a very 
big concern. Between 1992 and 1997, California's agricultural lands 
declined by an average of 256,000 acres annually. (Farm Bureau News, 

Religious Community and Affordable Housing
Silicon Valley has created five new jobs to every one new housing unit 
in the 1990s, industry and government reports show. As home prices have 
escalated in response, so has the political pressure to build affordable 
housing, with religious groups leading the way.  In San Jose, the 
Community Homeless Alliance Ministry has been staging civil disobedience 
-- getting arrested at City Council meetings -- to draw attention to the 
lack of sufficient shelter spaces for the homeless and the lack of 
affordable housing in the valley. (SF Gate, 2/21)

Smart Growth Legislation
The principal growth-control bill in the Colorado Legislature took a 
sharp change of direction 2/18, "scuttled," its sponsor said, by a 
coalition of developers and environmentalists. Rep. Matt Smith's House 
Bill 1223, drafted by Colorado Counties Inc. and the Colorado Municipal
League, was amended to set strict municipal service boundaries, to force 
local governments to adopt comprehensive plans, and to give those plans
the force of law. Rich McClintock, executive director of the Colorado 
Public Interest Group, or CoPIRG, said the bill was vastly improved by 
the amendments added Friday.  (Denver Post, 2/19)

Open Space 
The Georgia Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, the Georgia 
Conservancy, the Sierra Club's Georgia Chapter, the Trust for Public 
Land, Georgia League of Conservation Voters, Upper Chattahoochee 
Riverkeeper, Georgia River Network, Campaign for Prosperous Georgia, and 
the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund launched a mass mailing 
to bolster Gov. Roy Barnes' plan to protect green space in fast-growing 
counties.  About 40,000 color brochures went out, touting the initiative
to set aside 20 percent of undeveloped land for natural areas.  The
brochure provides a postage-paid card to notify legislators about 
support for the measure. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/19)

Infrastructure and Development
People who build new homes beyond easy reach of the power grid will no 
longer be subsidized by Central Maine Power Co. Under a policy change 
that took effect Jan. 1, the state's largest electric utility is 
charging developers and homeowners the full cost of extending power 
lines to new homes. The Public Utilities Commission, which approved the 
change, said the anticipated $3.5 million a year in savings will be 
passed on to ratepayers. (AP, 2/11)

Takings Legislation
Legislators in the Minnesota House are considering two 'private property 
protection' bills authored by Representative Bruce Anderson (R - Buffalo 
Township).  HF590 and HF591 seek to overcome the fact that recent 
efforts by property rights activists to expand the use of constitutional 
takings claims have been turned back by the courts.  The bills establish 
a requirement that local units of government provide compensation to 
property owners specifically when a local government's land use decision 
does not rise to the level of a constitutional taking.  The bills define 
the threshold of requirement to compensate as 'inordinate burden'.  In 
turn, inordinate burden is defined expansively to include a permanent 
reduction in the 'reasonable, investment-backed expectation' of the 
property owner.  A potential impact of the legislation, if upheld by the 
courts, would be to require local governments to compensate landowners 
when their property is down-zoned to protect agricultural lands or open 
space from sprawling development. (1,000 Friends of Minnesota, 2/15)

= = =National= = = 
Watershed Management and Quality of Life
Two federal agencies have proposed a new partnership to protect water 
quality on federal lands. The "Unified Federal Policy to Ensure a 
Watershed Approach to Federal Land and Resource Management" would frame 
the efforts of the Departments of Agriculture and Interior to protect 
public health, reduce polluted runoff, improve natural resources 
stewardship, and increase public involvement in watershed management on 
federal lands. "Healthy watersheds mean healthy people," said 
Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. "Improving water quality on federal
lands will enhance the quality of life in communities all across America 
and bring cleaner water for generations to come." (ENS, 2/22) and

Sprawl and Polls
A new Pew Center for Civic Journalism poll finds sprawl is a
surprisingly big issue in some cities. "In the four cities surveyed, a 
complex of issues including sprawl, unfettered growth and traffic 
congestion surfaced as an overwhelming concern, outstripping or joining 
traditional issues such as crime, the economy, and education. In Denver, 
60 percent cited sprawl as a top concern in an open-ended question, as 
did 47 percent in San Francisco and 33 percent in  Tampa."

Greenways and Trails
The National Park Service (NPS) is expanding its Rivers, Trails, and 
Conservation Assistance Program to include four new field offices and 25 
additional local conservation efforts in communities around the country. 
Rivers & Trails works with local citizens groups to preserve valuable 
open spaces, revitalize nearby rivers, and develop trail and greenway 
networks. (ENS, 2/22)

Outer Space
New images from Earth-observing satellites are documenting the effects 
of urban sprawl on the landscape, hinting at adverse long-term 
consequences related to the rapid growth of cities.  NASA on Monday 
released satellite image sequences of Atlanta; Washington; Portland, 
Oregon; and Shenzhen, China.

===Report Releases===
The aging of the baby-boom generation will intensify the need for new 
housing choices for the elderly, the Joint Center for Housing Studies of 
Harvard University said in a new report. The elderly have special needs 
that can be met with changes ranging from simple ones, such as grab bars 
in the tub, to more radical ones -- assisted living, for example -- said 
the report, "Housing America's Seniors."  By 2030, the senior population 
is expected to nearly double to about 70 million, about 20 percent of 
the U.S. population. (2/22)

The Fall 1999 issue of the William and Mary Environmental Law and Policy 
Review "Symposium 1999: Land Use in the 21st Century: The Next Frontier 
for Environmental Law" features articles on growth management.  Writers 
include Douglas R. Porter, Ed Thompson, Jr., Eric Freyfogle and others. 
To obtain a copy, write to: Managing Editor, William and Mary School of 
Law, PO Box 8795, Williamsburg, VA 23187.

Those interested in land-use planning, conservation, and how sprawl is 
affecting the natural world are encouraged to attend the American Museum 
of Natural History 2000 Spring Symposium, "Nature in Fragments: The 
Legacy of Urban Sprawl" on April 13-14, 2000, in New York City. 
Co-sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History's Center for 
Biodiversity and Conservation and the Wildlife Conservation Society's 
Metropolitan Conservation Alliance. To register, call 212-769-5200, 
Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.  EST; Saturday, 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 
p.m. Please refer to program code  SPRAWL2K. For additional information,

Free-marketers will hold a conference on urban sprawl in Chicago on 
April 26. "Where We Live" is a day-long conference on "sprawl" featuring 
free-market thinkers on the issue as well as advocates of "smart 
growth."  The conference is hosted by The Heartland Institute and 
cosponsored by The Heritage Foundation, The Henry Hazlitt Foundation, 
and PERC (Political Economy Research Center). Presenters include Steve 
Hayward, Ph.D., a Senior Policy Fellow at the San Francisco-based 
Pacific Research Institute and Sam Staley, Ph.D., Director of the Urban 
Futures Project, Deputy Director of the Reason Public Policy Institute.

Sprawl Watch 
Volume 2, Number 1 – February 9, 2000

= = = State and Local News = = = 
Big Box Superstores
Wal-Mart won a ruling in Superior Court that seems likely to force a Tucson citywide
referendum on the new "big-box'' ordinance placing limits on how the giant stores operate.  The ruling will force a fierce contest with neighborhood groups, which say the superstores must be strictly regulated to protect residents from noise, traffic and visual blight.  Wal-Mart has fought hard against a separate provision in the ordinance banning grocery businesses that occupy more than 10 percent of a big-box store's total space.  (, 2/1/00)

Development Regulations
Three years after Gov. Parris N. Glendening introduced Maryland to the term "Smart Growth," he is pushing the next phase in his campaign to fight sprawl, a set of measures to encourage redevelopment and investment in existing communities. Legislation proposing the so-called "Smart Codes" was introduced in the General Assembly 1/26, becoming the centerpiece of Glendening's environmental agenda this year. It would pave the way for a new statewide rehabilitation code, designed to make modernizing buildings easier and cheaper, and model development regulations for counties to adopt if they choose. (The Washington Post, 1/26/00)

Development Rights
Washington County, Board of Commissioners has voted to initiate the state's first Purchase of Development Rights program.  The program would allow rural property owners in the county to sell the development rights to their land to the county, maintain ownership, yet ensure that the land will never be developed.  The county would target lands it deems critical for conservation or agricultural purposes.  The program will initially by funded by $150,000 provided by the county, with a matching $150,000 from the state.  However, the commissioners also voted to place a referendum on November's ballot, asking to increase county residents' property taxes to raise a total of $2 million per year to fund the program on an on-going basis.

Big Box Superstores
Bozeman city commissioners voted to postpone a decision on a proposal that would limit the size of new retail stores to 50,000 square feet.  In a town where managing growth has been a contentious issue for nearly a decade, the proposed temporary limit on so-called "box stores," such as those built by Wal-Mart, has been one of the more controversial subjects. . "I don't want to rush into this," Commissioner Jarvis Brown said at the conclusion of the hearing that drew an over-capacity crowd of more than 100 people and lasted more than three hours. (Billings Gazette, 2/8/00)

New York
Land Preservation
New York State will acquire three parcels of private land for $9.47 million in state, federal and environmental group funds to complete the consolidation of Sterling Forest State Park. The park expansion, which will now comprise 19,000 contiguous acres straddling the New York-New Jersey border at Orange and Passaic counties, means that previous plans to build homes, commercial buildings and golf courses have been blocked. Sterling Forest is part of the Ramapo River Watershed, which provides drinking water for 25 percent of New Jersey residents. (The New York Times, 2/7/00),234,nscp-75780532,00.html

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge plans to propose a change to the state's land-use law and grants to help local governments control sprawl. Ridge's changes will protect municipalities from developers' lawsuits and provide more incentives to plan for growth with neighboring municipalities. Ridge also plans to ask for $2.6 million in state aid to local government for land-use planning as part of his nearly $20 billion 2000-01 budget. (The Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/7/00),234,nscp-75780532,00.html

Virginia state lawmakers on 2/8 rejected measures that would have given local officials power to control development by limiting home construction and by charging developers fees to finance new schools and roads needed by growing populations. (Justin Blum, The Washington Post, 2/9/00)

Land Use and Infrastructure
Opponents of a change in state septic system rules set to open up 9 million acres for new development have decided to sue the state to block the change, alleging it will worsen problems related to urban sprawl. Groups joining in the legal action include 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Alliance of Cities, the Sierra Club, Citizens for a Better Environment and the Wisconsin County Code Administrators Association. Opponents believe the new rule, which makes legal nine different septic system technologies for use in Wisconsin, will set off a building spree on farmland and ecologically fragile lands that should be preserved. (Amy Rinard, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 2/6/00)

= = =National= = =
Sprawl and smart growth issues continue to remain one of the more important issues in the states. The January 2000 State of the State speeches highlight many governors’ focus on sprawl and smart growth. Summaries and links to the full texts of each State of the State address that mentions sprawl or smart growth issues can be found at

= = =International= = =
A weekend car ban in the city center of Rome and in over 150 towns and cities across Italy is the latest in a series of moves by local authorities all over the world to reduce vehicular pollution and congestion. Earlier in the new year, the city of Athens launched a metro system which city authorities were quoted as saying will cut choking fumes in one of Europe’s most polluted capital cities by 30% and reduce traffic volumes by 10%. In Rome the car ban will last for 10 hours on Sundays during which time public transport, and entry into museums and archaeological sites will be free. Other cities are all set to make their own rules.

According to research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) the emissions from car exhausts are responsible for more deaths than road accidents. The WHO study which looked at data from Austria, France and Switzerland found that exposure to pollution caused an estimated 21,000 deaths a year in the three countries. In addition, the researchers calculated that car fumes caused 300,000 extra cases of bronchitis in children and 15,000 extra hospital admissions for heart disease made worse by pollution.

= = =New Releases= = =
The Urban Habitat Program released, “There Goes the Neighborhood: A Regional Analysis of Gentrification and Community Stability in the San Francisco Bay Area”. The report finds that seven out of the ten cities causing gentrification in the San Francisco Bay Area are located in Silicon Valley.  The report claims that irresponsible land use policies by these cities are creating corporate office space and high end housing, while leaving low wage and middle wage workers with no place affordable to live. For more information: Urban Habitat Program (415) 561-3329.

The CATO Institute has published “Critiquing Sprawl's Critics” (Policy Analysis No. 365, January 24, 2000) by Peter Gordon and Harry W. Richardson. Both Gordon and Richardson are professors in the University of Southern California's School of Policy, Planning and Development, as well as the USC Department of Economics.

A new report, prepared by Climate Solutions, an Olympia, Washington-based environmental advocacy group concerned about global warming, looks at the hidden costs of sprawl in Washington State.  The 31-page report looked at four areas: the effect of road costs, the collective tax burden, air pollution, and damage to streams and salmon runs. “The Hidden Costs of Sprawl in Washington State” is available online at

= = =Funding Opportunities= = =
The Great American Station Foundation is accepting applications for its 2000 cycle of grants for rail station revitalization projects. The Foundation makes grants in the range from $5,000 to $30,000, in most cases as seed grants to jump start a community's effort to restore its rail station as an active intermodal transportation facility and economic development engine. Eligible applicants include state and local units of government, transit agencies, non-profit organizations, and community development corporations. 
Applications are due on April 14, 2000. For the full grant guidelines, contact Janice Varela at the Great American Station Foundation at 505-425-8055, FAX 505-426-8057,