newsletter archive
Sprawl Watch
Volume 3, Number 20- May 30, 2001
= = = HIGHLIGHT = = =
Community Character Act Introduced in the Senate
The Senate has now joined the House of Representatives in considering smart growth planning legislation. Just prior to the Memorial Day recess, Senator Lincoln Chafee (R- RI) introduced the Community Character Act (S. 975). The bill would authorize $25 million per year for five years to establish a grant program for federal assistance to states for reform of outdated state planning statutes and improved state and regional planning. An addition $1 million per year is provided for an educational and informational program for the use of State, local, and tribal land use planning and zoning officials. S. 975 was referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
The Senate bill differs modestly from the House version of the Community Character Act (H.R. 1433), which was introduced in April.

More information on the legislation is available online at APA’s legislative action center ( 

Gov. Parris N. Glendening announces that the MD state Department of Planning will more actively intervene in local zoning decisions as part of his administration's efforts to limit suburban sprawl.

Atlanta residents will have their say in the future of Georgia's transportation system
Bay Area voters want more transit
The opening of the new I-15, 10 lane-superhighway has worsened the drive time for thousands of commuters.  Critics argues that providing more transportation choices such as new light-rail lines is the only way to save "the freedom that the automobile gave us."
Washington State Senate Passes Bill to Allow Local Road Taxing

Idaho Residents OK Land Preservation Property Tax

Bequest of $12 million to establish a trust aimed at ensuring that Ventura County farming would hold its own against suburban sprawl.

= = = NATIONAL NEWS= = =
This week the US News and World Report cover story is on the impact of
traffic on quality of life.

= = = NEW RELEASES = = =

Barriers to Better Development by Edward McMahon.  Despite a growing number of innovative development projects around the country, "Planning Commissioners Journal" columnist Ed McMahon still finds a number of persistent barriers to better development.

Sprawl Watch
  Volume 3, Number 19- May 23, 2001

As part of an ongoing project of Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse to highlight  the many different facets of smart growth, this issue of Sprawl Watch will focus on affordable housing. In a brief format, we hope to inform our readers on national legislation promoting affordable housing, state and local campaigns, and provide a brief list of recent reports and organizations working on affordable housing. While this is certainly not comprehensive, it is meant to educate activists about the nexus between affordable housing and sprawl. 

Why should people concerned with sprawl, also be concerned with affordable housing? Affordable housing is neither tangential nor separate from the cause of abating sprawl; it is integral to the dynamic of sprawl development and crucial if we are to build a large and inclusive coalition to promote more ecological and equitable patterns of development. When communities fail to maintain enough affordable housing, it triggers a long list of reverberating problems that defy easy solutions and indeed, may define sprawl itself. One of the most problematic is the huge distances that separate low and moderate- income urban Americans from where most of the new jobs are being created, out in the 'burbs. As distances between housing and work (and everything else) increase, traffic and air pollution worsen with the attendant increase in driving, especially when there are not adequate public transit options. As more land is paved, water pollution increases from the runoff created by impervious surfaces. The public sector ends up footing the bill for new water and sewer treatment plants created and new schools built, even as school buildings within the city remain vacant. In short, lack of affordable housing just may be the equivalent of knocking down the first domino.

Sprawl Watch
Volume 3, Number 18- May 16, 2001

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New Smart Growth Legislation Introduced
Legislation has been introduced by Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) that would use the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to give local communities greater power in identifying, reviewing and addressing federal actions or projects that may have an impact on urban growth and sprawl.  The "Urban Sprawl and Smart Growth Study Act" (H.R. 1739) would require federal agencies to do a more thorough NEPA analysis if a state governor or a lead local or tribal governmental official requested such review due to the proposed project's impact on sprawl.  In addition, the bill also would direct the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the agency that implements NEPA, to study how well federal agencies evaluate sprawl impacts of federal actions in conducting their environmental reviews.

= = = State and Local News = = =
Changing Households
Traditional suburban development is not practical for many households, critics charge, because of our nation's changing demographics.  As the current census numbers prove, more households are married couples without children, unmarried couples, and "empty nesters" that do not require, nor want, a detached house in the suburbs.  Many of these people are fueling the rise in urban populations.
Rural Population Still Dropping
Often forgotten in the debate over what the new census numbers mean for the health of American cities is the continued decline in population of many rural communities.
Exit Ramp Economy
Though much has been made of the urban rebound in several cities, the clear majority of growth still continues at the metropolitan fringe, what some refer to as the "exit ramp" economy.

Conservation easement programs in Kentucky are gaining in popularity as farmers find the program an attractive way to both dramatically reduce their taxes, while preserving the land for future generations.

Prairie burning, common in much of the plains as a way to reinvigorate prairie grasses and keep out invasive species, has become more controversial as communities sprawl closer to the burning areas.
New polling in Virginia shows that the clear majority of Virginians support funding for conservation programs at levels as high as education and transportation.

Tax policies at the state and local level that "fiscalize land-use" in California have often been singled out as a significant contributor to sprawl.  One state representative has introduced a bill to correct one of taxation's most sprawl-inducing effects.
Carrying through on a promise he made to legislators at the beginning of the year, Governor Owens called a special session of the Colorado legislature to pass a growth management bill.,1002,61%257E33923,00.html
The West
While Census 2000 numbers prove the obvious population growth in the western U.S., many state legislatures continue to grapple with how to implement growth management policies.,1299,DRMN_15_475265,00.html

An innovative, and low-cost, pedestrian safety project in Berkeley will utilize colored flags on both sides of the sidewalk to be used by the general public as they cross the street.
D.C. Region
Car-Sharing may soon be arriving in the D.C. area.  Two companies, Flexcar from Seattle and Zipcar from Boston, intend to locate within D.C. and outside D.C. along the Metro Line by this Fall.  To see if a car-sharing program already exists near you, visit
Calling $15 billion over the next 25 years an "absolute minimum," Gov. Glendening proposed a massive increase in transit funding for the D.C. region.
Governor Ryan's plan to phase out Illinois' tollways is coming under increased scrutiny from both the legislature and the driving public.,2669,ART-51823,FF.html
New York
To be sure, the congestion in New York City has always been infamous, but it appears to be getting worse and a variety of schemes, some of which would require a considerable political sell to implement, are being considered.

= = = New Releases = = =
Lending Barriers to Smart Growth
A growing segment of the real estate community is experimenting with a new form of development that combines neo-traditional design, mixed uses and higher densities. "Smart growth" or "new urbanism" developers contend that conventional financing techniques - with their reliance on standardization and short-term financial returns - unnecessarily impede investment in their projects. This paper, released by the Brookings Institution's Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy, examines the barriers created by conventional real estate investment practices and outlines financing strategies that can--and have--worked for different, progressive, developments.

= = = National News = = =
CEO's for Cities
A new organization "CEOs for Cities," comprised of big-city mayors, university officials and non-profit leaders, has been formed to advocate for cities on a national level.,2669,SAV-0105040103,FF.html

Congestion a Top Priority with DOT
Relieving congestion at our airports, highways, and railways will be a top priority for the new DOT Administrator Norman Mineta.

How to Define "Rural?"
Definitions of "rural" often complicate debates about the efficacy of programs to protect open space.  Is a golf course "open space?"  How about "ranchettes" at 1 house per 5 acres?

Preserving Modernism 

The editor of "Preservation Magazine" wrote an Op-Ed in USA Today recently suggesting that, though there has always been an uneasy relationship between historic preservationists and modernism, it is as deserving of
protection as any other architectural movement.

Sprawl Watch
Volume 3, Number 17- May 9, 2001

Transit Lessens Burden of Congestion
Easing the Burden, a analysis of newly released data shows that road building has done little to ease congestion, while transit service is significantly lessening the burden of congestion on many commuters. A new ranking developed by the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP) shows how the average commuter is affected by both congestion levels and the availability of transit in 68 U.S. cities.  STPP analyzed data collected by the Texas Transportation Institute for its annual Urban Mobility Study and found that metro areas that added the most roads have had little success in easing congestion.  But metro areas with good transit service rank significantly lower on the new Congestion Burden Index.

Texas Transportation Institute's (TTI) annual Urban Mobility Study documents the growth of congestion levels on major road systems of 68 U.S. urban areas.  The data speak to increasing traffic demands and a transportation network that is not expanding as rapidly. Nationally, TTI found that the average American is spending about 36 hours a year in traffic.

= = = State and Local News = = =
The billboard industry is heavily investing in the upcoming municipal Los Angeles elections because of regulations the City Council is considering that could help or hinder the industry.

One of the highlights from last November's election was Ohio's "Clean Ohio" bond that split money between farmland preservation and brownfield redevelopment.  This is part of a broader strategy by many in Ohio to create a different economic pattern for the state, away from its Rust Belt past and towards smarter growth.
North Carolina
A recent Op-Ed in the Charlotte Observer explains the interconnectedness between farms and cities, how each relies on the other's success.  Many of these issues were discussed at a recent forum in Charlotte attended by urban and farmland advocates, sponsored by the American Farmland Trust.

Sprawl, and its effects on urban disinvestment and traffic congestion, was a prominent issue in the recent City Council primary election in Columbus, OH.

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a three-part series chronicling the difficulties a developer faced attempting to get a "traditional neighborhood design" subdivision approved in a suburban county.

Some planners in metro Atlanta are attempting to cap the maximum number of allowable parking spaces allowed per development.

Continuing what has been a hallmark of his administration, Maryland Governor Parris Glendening has dedicated over 80% of his school construction money to renovation, rather than new schools built in greenfields.

The conference committee pounding out the details of controversial growth control legislation has finally begun to make some progress in the Colorado legislature.,1002,61%257E31222,00.html
Though there are many bills dealing with growth management in state legislatures throughout the country, it is proving difficult to get any legislation to the governor's desk.

Representative John Lewis (D-GA) from Atlanta claims that the formula used by the Georgia Department of Transportation to divvy up transportation funds is discriminatory towards Atlantans.
While many cities and counties have bike plans designed to connect different bicycle routes throughout their jurisdictions, few regions have done this.  The Metropolitan Transportation Commission in the San Francisco Bay Area is currently undertaking a region-wide bicycle plan.
District of Columbia
Due to the huge and growing demand for transit in the D.C. region, the Metrorail will need to build a new line underneath downtown D.C., according to the agency's engineers.

= = = National News = = =
Two New Reports from the Brookings Institution's Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy 
The growth of cities in the 1990s has generated headlines lately, but what factors contributed to this population growth?  Why have some cities gained while others lost?  A variety of attributes that a particular city might have had in 1990 can explain whether it grew or shrunk over the decade.   Some of these attributes are susceptible to policy fixes, while others are not. This survey, City Growth and the 2000 Census: Which Places Grew, and Why, uses 2000 Census data to examine and explain the patterns that describe which cities grew in the last decade and which did not.

Downtown Rebound, co-sponsored by the Fannie Mae Foundation, finds that the number of people living in downtowns increased during the 1990s in 18 of the 24 cities analyzed.  Most of the downtown growth was fueled by the movements of white residents into these central business districts. This pattern is a counter trend to the overall loss of white residents in central cities to the suburbs.

Transportation and Land Use in Tennessee
The Southern Environmental Law Center released Where Are We Growing?  Land Use and Transportation Trends in Middle Tennessee, which is the first report to comprehensively examine the links among the unprecedented population, development and transportation trends that are transforming the Nashville area.  The report also explores some of the economic, environmental, and health impacts of this tremendous growth.  In addition, the report highlights promising efforts underway in the area to capture the benefits of economic growth without the mounting costs of poorly planned development.  These efforts include revitalizing existing communities, developing a less destructive transportation system that provides meaningful alternatives to having to drive everywhere, and protecting farmland and open space.

Last Chance for Last Chance Landscapes
Scenic America, a national scenic conservation organization, is now accepting nominations for its 2001 Last Chance Landscapes program.  These endangered landscapes are places of beauty or distinctive community character with both a pending threat and a potential solution.  A Last Chance Landscape can be a scenic vista, a distinct region, an urban neighborhood, or some other place people cherish and want to preserve.  Scenic America will judge nominations on the scenic quality and/or distinct character of the area, the extent and urgency of the threat, and the opportunities to save the landscape.  Nominations are due on June 1, 2001.

= = = National News = = =
Mayors Call for Increased Federal Support for Housing
In testimony today before the Financial Services Committee of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, Conference of Mayors Advisory Board Chair and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino recommended a four-point plan for easing the housing crisis in cities across America, explaining that the strong economy has caused housing costs to skyrocket, pricing many middle- and working-class citizensout of their homes and neighborhoods.

Sprawl Watch
Volume 3, Number 16- May 2, 2001

= = = Highlight = = =
The Senate has passed, 99-0, the Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act of 2001 (S.350), a bipartisan bill aimed at cleaning up abandoned, contaminated industrial sites.  S. 350, broadly supported by much of the smart growth community, provides liability protections for innocent parties, such as contiguous property owners, prospective purchasers, and innocent landowners. The bill provides for funding and enhancement of state cleanup programs, including limits, where appropriate, on enforcement by the federal government at sites cleaned up under a state response program.  The bill passed on 4/25/01.  To learn more about legislation introduced in Congress to support smart growth, visit

= = = State and Local News = = =
Social scientists are observing similarities between the cities that gained population, or remained relatively stable, and those that still hemorrhage many of its residents.

North Carolina
The Triangle region of North Carolina saw most of its growth during the 1990's occur on the urban fringe, similar to most metropolitan regions nationwide.

An innovative mix of public and private funding is working to save the agricultural lands of southern Maine.

Growth management and sprawl are top concerns of Philadelphia residents according to a recent poll.

In addition to its much-publicized urban growth boundaries and regional governance, Portland has also done an impressive job encouraging dense, mixed-use developments along its transit lines.

After months of rancorous debate, Loudon County planners approved, 8-1, a new 20-year growth plan for the county.

The Kentucky Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling that may affect the authority of planning agencies to encourage mixed-use and new urbanist subdivisions.

Los Angeles
Due to a recent study, the dream of many planners and residents of West Los Angeles to get a light-rail line to downtown may finally come true.

North Carolina
Under a new plan by the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Winston-Salem will be included in studies to connect North Carolina with a proposed high-speed rail link between Washington D.C. and Atlanta.

San Francisco
If the funding pulls through, the new Bay Bridge, which connects San Francisco with Oakland, will include bicycle and pedestrian access across the entire length of the bridge.

Downtown Franklin, Massachusetts, blessed with a college, a transit stop and a historic cinema, is updating its general plan to encourage more residential use downtown.

= = = New Releases = = =
New Brookings Report
A new analysis of data from the 2000 Census shows a number of important patterns underlying the increasing diversity in our nation's largest cities. Non-Hispanic whites now represent less than half the population in the nation's largest central cities. The Hispanic population is growing rapidly, while the number of Asians and blacks in central cities are also increasing. These demographic changes will affect the social, economic, political, and fiscal character of our cities.

Federal Funding for Preservation Projects
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has prepared a second edition of "Building on the Past/Traveling to the Future," a preservationist's guide to the transportation enhancement program.  The publication profiles 27 projects in 19 states to illustrate how the enhancement provisions have been tapped to support multiple community and regional goals, from downtown revitalization and heritage area projects to rural landscape preservation.  Contact the Trusts' Public Policy Department by e-mail at

Call for Presentations
The National Main Street Center is accepting proposals for presentations to be given at the 2002 National Town Meeting on Main Street in Fort Worth, Texas April 7-10, 2002. The audience of more than 1,500 professionals is made up of new and experienced program managers, board members, architects, planners, public officials, volunteers and consultants from Main Street Communities across the nation.  The deadline for submitting a proposal is right around the corner – June 25, 2001. For information on submitting a proposal visit to find a copy of the submission form and instructions. 

= = = National News = = =
Obesity and Sprawl
Many public health professionals are drawing the connection between America's huge spike in obesity and our sprawling land use patterns.