newsletter archive
Sprawl Watch 
Volume 2, Number 4 - March 23, 2000

= = = State and Local News= = = = 
Farmland and Development 
Last week, the Tejon Ranch Co., owner of the largest contiguous stretch of private
 land in California, announced plans to work with three top developers to help 4,000 acres of its land in north L.A. County sprout homes and businesses. The company plans to create the region's newest master-planned community near the junction of the Golden State Freeway and California 138, overlooking Quail Lake.  So after more than a century of working the land, the company, founded in 1843, now wants the land to work harder to produce more green for shareholders. (The L.A. Times, 3/21) 

Urban Revitalization 
In response to the decline in city trees resulting from urban sprawl, the Urban and
Community Forestry program at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) has issued a call to action to the mayors of California.  The CDF sent a letter to every mayor in California asking each to consider putting urban forestry as a strong concern of their city's legislative agenda. Governor Davis has launched a $3.1 million tree planting grant program entitled "Trees for the Millennium," which will bring thousands of new trees to 69 California cities. It is the first allocation of funds dedicated to urban forestry in 10 years.  (PR Newswire, 3/22) 

The last major growth-management bill of the Colorado Legislature's 2000 session, a measure intended to give local governments more planning options, died a quick and decisive death 3/16 in the Senate Agriculture Committee.  The failure of the Legislature to address growth increases the likelihood that environmental groups will try to put one or more growth-control measures on November's general election ballot. (Denver Post, 3/17) 

Job and Population Growth 
The Atlanta metropolitan area is experiencing explosive job and population  growth in the northern and outer portions of its region and too little growth in its  core and close-in southern suburbs. These two sets of challenges are  fundamentally connected. This latest report by Brookings argues that, in order to move beyond sprawl, the Atlanta  region must understand this  connection and embrace a broad set of solutions that tackle the problems  faced by these two parts of the region. 

Affordable Housing 
Increasing rents combined with a drop in construction and low-vacancy levels have turned the Twin Cities metro-area rental housing market into a nightmare for those  in search of a place to live, a real-estate research firm official told a Metropolitan Council committee 3/20. The council's Livable Communities Committee, heard Laurence Harmon, president of the local Maxfield Research Inc., say the situation doesn't merely affect the one-third of metropolitan-area residents who rent their homes. Instead, the growing shortage of affordable rental housing jeopardizes the area's economic strength and strong growth projections. (Pioneer Planet, 3/21) 

New Jersey 
State Grants 
Seven counties and 14 municipalities will share $2.4 million in state grants to plan for smart growth and curb sprawl, Governor Whitman announced 3/22.  The grants will allow the counties and towns to craft plans that steer development toward existing infrastructure, such as roads and sewers, and preserve open space. Once completed, the plans will guide participating municipalities in updating their master plans and local planning ordinances. If subsequently endorsed by the State Planning Commission, they also will put towns and counties in a better position to receive  additional funding, permit approvals, and technical assistance from the state.  (The Bergen Record 3/23) 

North Carolina 
 Sprawl in Polls 
 A statewide survey conducted by a partnership of fifteen North Carolina news
organizations showed that as North Carolinians prepare to elect a new governor,
their most pressing concern by far is the quality of education.  Residents want the state's next governor to tackle other issues as well: helping North Carolina make the transition to a high-tech economy; cleaning up the air and water; and controlling sprawl and improving transportation.  (, 3/19) 

Tax Policy 
A study released 3/21 by PennFuture, an environmental advocacy group, wants Pennsylvania to shift some of the tax burden from property, income and investment to pollution and waste disposal. "Tax Reform to Grow Greener Pennsylvania's Economy and Environment" says the current setup is a cause of sprawl and the state is in trouble. And that trouble – including the13th-slowest rate of job growth in the nation - will worsen if the state's tax policy is not changed, the report says. (The Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/22) 

Anti-Sprawl Legislation 
In a blow to the homebuilders' lobby, another anti-sprawl bill moved a step closer to becoming law with a provision intact that builders had fought hard to remove -- growth boundaries. On 3/22, an effort by the Pennsylvania Builders Association (PBA) to also strip the bill of protections against zoning challenges known ascurative amendments was rebuffed, too.  The House Local Government Committee decided, 22-2, to send House Bill 14, written by Rep. David J. Steil (R., Bucks), to the full House for consideration. The bill, which would give municipalities unprecedented power and incentives to control  development, will join another Steil bill the committee sent to the House the week of 3/15. That one, House Bill 13, would give municipalities more authority to plan with other towns to stop unwanted growth.  (Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/23) 

Opposition to Smart Growth 
The backlash has begun in Loudoun County, where last fall citizens voted in a slate  of smart growth candidates to the county's board of supervisors.  According to the  Washington Post, an informal coalition of landowners, home builders, developers and others meets regularly at the offices of Grayson P. Hanes, the lawyer hired by the Northern Virginia Building industry Association to fight potential development  restrictions.   They also have hired Stephen S. Fuller of George Mason University to prepare a study challenging smart growth advocates.  In addition, the group printed and distributed "I'm For Prosperity" buttons and helped pack a public hearing March 9 with critics of smart growth, who made an impassioned and angry appeal for the county to change course.  (The Washington Post, 3/19) 

Land Use Legislation 
On March 1, 2000, King County Executive Ron Sims unveiled the region's  blueprint for growth with the updated 2000 comprehensive land use plan.  ( The plan calls for  continued efforts to preserve rural lands, prevent sprawl and make it easier  for growth to occur in urban areas. 

In just a decade, greenway advocates' dream of a protected 100-mile corridor of  public forests and trails is nearly complete. With the purchase of a 435-acres forest, known as the Mitchell Connector, the Interstate 90 Mountains-to-Sound Greenway will be complete and owned by the public. Deep philosophical rifts have opened up among environmentalists over land trades in the Cascades that benefit the greenway. 

 = = = National = = = 
A new study released by the Nature Conservancy is the most complete inventory of America's plants and animals to date.  The study reveals that the United States is one of the most ecologically diverse countries in the world. It is home to 10 percent of all species found on Earth. Key findings in the report include: As much as a third of the nation's species are at risk and at least 500 species are extinct or missing. The  single biggest threat to species survival is habitat loss. Nearly 60 percent of America's landscape is already severely altered. 

= = = Report Release = = = 
Federal transportation aid is at an all time high, but the funds are increasingly being spent to build highways rather than on mass transit, bike paths and pedestrian walkways.  A study by the Surface Transportation Policy Project found that in the last two years the portion of federal spending on new roads grew 21 percent while  spending on other transportation fell by 19 percent.  (Rocky Mountain News, 3/23) 
Find "Changing Direction: Federal Transportation Spending in 1990's" at the Surface Transportation Policy Project's website: 

Sprawl Watch 
Volume 2, Number 3 – March 10, 2000 

This Week's Content: 

= = = State and Local News= = = =

Maricopa County saw more new faces last year than any other U.S. county except Los Angeles. And it still led the nation in population growth during the 1990s, according to estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. Census estimators say the county grew by 77,674 people last year and added a whopping 739,294 new residents during the '90s. "That's a staggering increase," the Census Bureau's Marc Perry said. The results can be seen in everything from job growth and ethnic diversity to traffic snarls and urban sprawl. Rounding out the top five high-growth counties last year were Clark County in Nevada, and San Diego and Riverside counties in California. 

Farmland Preservation
Horizon Organic Dairy has combined efforts with The Nature Conservancy to acquire just over 600 acres of farmland, known as the George Dairy property, adjacent to the existing 40,000-acre Cosumnes River Preserve. The site is located in south Sacramento County near the city of Galt, Cal.  Both organizations benefit from this arrangement. Horizon Organic, the nation's leading organic dairy, increases its milk-production potential with strategically located, additional dairy land. In return, The Nature Conservancy of California is assured that the land will be protected from urban development and preserved as a working farm where sustainable, wildlife-friendly agricultural practices are employed for crop and dairy production. (3/2, /PRNewswire)

A plan to turn a former Marine base into a commercial airport has been blocked for now by a ballot measure that could also make it harder for fast-growing Orange County to build jails and hazardous waste sites. Whether to turn El Toro into the county's second big airport has become the most expensive debate over land use in California. Airport supporters and opponents spent a combined $34 million on TV ads, mailers, pickets, Web sites and a deluge of letters to newspapers.nbsp On Tuesday, airport opponents won a decisive ballot victory with Measure F, which passed 67 percent to 32 percent. It requires two-thirds voter approval before the county can build or expand airports, jails or waste sites. (AP, 3/8)

For more information on California's March 7 ballot measure results, see the California Planning & Development Report's analysis of local land-use ballot measures at  Election results of both state and local ballot measures reflecting quality of life and land-use issues can be found at

Smart Growth Legislation
A proposal to create a "smart growth" office in state government sailed through a legislative hearing 3/6. All 11 members of the House Local Affairs Committee sponsored the bill. HB 1437 is being pushed by Gov. Bill Owens as part of his agenda to deal with what he and many other Coloradans call one of the most important issues facing the state.  The bill creates the Office of Smart Growth under the Department of Local Affairs, provides money for two full-time positions and nearly $895,000 in grants to communities to help them plan more effectively. The proposal is backed by Republicans, Democrats, home builders, environmentalists, cities and counties -- groups that have been at odds over other growth bills.  (Rocky Mountain News, 3/7)

District of Columbia/Virginia/Maryland
A new group advocating more roads and transit has been called a front organization for business interests. The group ENDGRIDLOCK.ORG emerged from discussions last year among executives in the Greater Washington Board of Trade and other business leaders. Chaired by Gus Bauman, a lawyer with the Washington firm of Beveridge &Diamond, the group calls for increased investment in transit and better land-use planning it also urges several major highway projects that are opposed by environmental groups, including new bridges across the Potomac River, and intercounty connector in the Maryland suburbs and two bypass highways in Virginia outside the Capital Beltway. (Washington Post, 3/9)

In Florida, lawmakers are promising to put the rush back into rush hour with a $5 billion package to speed up road improvement projects that started its roll Wednesday 3/9 through the Legislature. 'The more roads we build, the less traffic we're going to have and it's a better Florida for all of us,'' said Sen. Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden, who sponsored the Senate bill. Charles Pattison, executive director of the environmental group 1000 Friends of Florida, cautioned that roads should only be built in conjunction with strong local growth management laws.  ''We haven't done as good a job as we should have at looking at other modes of transportation, or making towns more pedestrian friendly so people can walk places instead of driving everywhere,'' he said. (The Florida Times Union, 3/9)

New Sustainability Resource
A new web site offering information, ideas and links on sustainable development has been unveiled by the Minnesota Sustainable Development Initiative. The web site, at, presents information and resources on range of topics, including smart growth, indicators, economics, the collaborative efforts of the Governor's Round Table, and local planning, as well as research projects.  It also offers a directory of state programs related to sustainable development, pertinent state legislation and a sampling of interesting web sites from around the country. (1000 Friends of Minnesota Newsletter, Number 129, 3/10)

New Jersey
Several state and regional ecology groups are backing a lawsuit by Ringwood, NJ, environmentalists that challenges their hometown's rezoning of steep slopes to allow housing construction in a reservoir watershed.  In the fall, Skylands CLEAN filed suit in state Superior Court, contesting revisions to Ringwood's residential zone ordinance that regulates development in the mountains near the Wanaque Reservoir, the water source for 2 million North Jersey residents.  (The Bergen Record, 3/10)

Habitat Restoration
The Clinton administration Wednesday 3/9 announced a $91 million program to restore up to 35,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land along the Chesapeake Bay and many of Virginia's streams and rivers. The project aims to restore wetlands and wildlife habitats for native creatures, including the Peregrine falcon and the Virginia big eared bat -- both endangered species. The conservation program will also seek to reduce nitrogen, phosphorous and sediments in streams and rivers.

The grassroots group that helped sweep a slate of slow-growth candidates into office in Loudoun County last fall pushed out March 9 beyond the fringes of the Washington suburbs to the fast-growing Fredericksburg region. Voters to Stop Sprawl declared the launch of four new chapters and political action committees in Stafford, Spotsylvania and King George counties and the city of Fredericksburg.nbsp The group is devoted to defeating politicians who approve rapid growth and supporting those who want to control it. (The Washington Post, 3/10)nbsp

= = = National = = =
New Sustainability Resource
The George Washington University Law School’s new Center on Sustainability and Regional Growth is the first program of its kind at any law school in the country to focus on approaches to sustainable growth (or "smart growth") -- growth that protects the environment while promoting the economy.  The Center is a cross-cutting effort that draws together various disciplines throughout the University. It undertakes research, publications, seminars and conferences, and direct project work at the local, national, and international level. By linking across sectors and boundaries, the Center serves as a neutral resource and convener. It recognizes that the legal field, working with other disciplines and communities in general, can play a constructive role by helping to remove unnecessary barriers to smart growth planning and by offering new approaches and tools to assist locally-led efforts.  The Center is headed by Jonathan Weiss. For more information, link to the Center's website at

Private property owners in land disputes could bypass state courts and take their cases directly to federal courts under legislation approved 3/9 by the House Judiciary Committee. The 14-7 vote was mainly along party lines, with Republicans backing the legislation sponsored by Rep. Charles Canady, R-Fla. Similar legislation passed the House in 1997 but never made it through the Senate. It has the backing of developers and property rights activists but is strongly opposed by environmentalists, legal groups and associations representing states and local governments. The bill is H.R. 2372. (AP, 3/9)

President Clinton's 2001 budget calls for full funding for Amtrak at the authorized level of $989 million to support capital improvements and intercity passenger rail programs. This request contains an additional $418 billion above last year's funding levels - an increase of 73 per cent - and provides funds to enhance and expand intercity rail service nationwide through partnerships between Amtrak and state governments.

= = =Report Releases= = =
The Conference of Mayors recently called for a national commitment to 'recycle' the thousands of brownfields in America's cities. The Mayors released their third annual report on "Recycling America's Land" that finds brownfields redevelopment could generate 550,000 additional jobs, and up to $2.4 billion in new tax revenue for cities. “Recycling America's Land: A National Report on Brownfields Redevelopment” quantifies the many lost opportunities to the nation in failing to recycle these sites back into more productive uses. The full report, and searchable city results, is available at the Conference's website,