newsletter archive
Sprawl Watch
Volume 3, Number 43- November 28, 2001

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Sprawl and Forests
A two-year study released by the U.S. Forest  Service (11/26) concludes that the biggest threat to Southern forests is urban sprawl. While timber industry sources applauded the results of the study, environmental groups said Southern forests are being overlogged and took issue with the Forest Service's findings.
Additional Headlines: New York Times: "Sprawl Seen Hurting South's Forests." (11/27)

To view the Southern Forest Resource Assessment please link:

The NJ State Supreme Court heard arguments (11/27) on whether a lower court was correct in allowing a developer to build hundreds of single-family homes in a township that was fiercely opposed to the development. Despite the courtroom references to sewer hookups and traffic volume, however, the seven justices hearing West Windsor Township v. Toll Brothers Inc. seemed to be more concerned with a broader issue: the housing barriers that make New Jersey one of the most racially segregated states. 
"Remedy to Exclusive Zoning Goes on Trial in New Jersey" (11/27)

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Affordable Housing
Nearly two-thirds of Bay Area cities and counties have missed a state deadline to submit plans for providing ample and affordable housing. Housing advocates are outraged by the the lack of progress but many city officials believe they have made substantial progress.  Northern California has the highest housing prices in the country.

In a move to add prestige and visibility to housing issues, Howard County, MD is preparing to transform its housing office into a full-fledged department. A bill to make the change is set for introduction Dec. 3 in the County Council, with four members as sponsors.

D.C. Metro Area
The Washington region's workers spend an hour or more getting to work making the area among the worst in the nation for commuting times according to new figures released by the Census Bureau (11/20). The Census Bureau survey results chart time, not mileage.

To view the Census figures please link to:

North Carolina
Jim Ritchey, director of the North Carolina Triangle Transit Authority (TTA) from its inception more than a decade ago, is leaving to become the deputy director of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority in Atlanta. As the TTA's general manager, Ritchey directed planning for a commuter rail system linking Raleigh and Durham, expected to begin service in 2008. 
"TTA Head Takes Ga. Transit Post" (11/27)

The Pierce (County) Transit Board of Commissioners voted 8-1 to ask voters to decide next spring whether to bolster local mass transit services with a 0.3 percentage point sales tax increase. If approved, the 0.3 percentage point increase would allow limited growth in local mass transit.

The sales tax proposal is in response to the November 1999 passage of Initiative 695. The initiative prompted Gov. Gary Locke and the Legislature to eliminate the state motor vehicle excise tax, which provided roughly 40 percent of PierceTransit revenue. 
"Pierce County, Wash., Transit Agency to Go to Voters with SalesTax Increase" (11/27)

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Brownfields Development
California Planning & Development Report Publisher William Fulton addresses some of the obstacles to forging a comprehensive brownfields policy in California in the December issue of CP&DR, which now available online at

"Fake CDC Study Full of Holes" claims the Thoreau Institute in response to the recently released Sprawl Watch report "Creating a Healthy Environment: The Impact of the Built Environment on Public Health".
To read their response please link to:

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) releases "Solving Sprawl: Models of Smart Growth in Communities Across America". The book illustrates how cities, suburbs, and rural areas have found profitable, community-oriented alternatives to sprawl.  "Solving Sprawl" illustrates a wide variety of successful smart-growth strategies and reveals how these techniques allow local economies, environments, and communities to thrive. To order a copy contact Island Press at 1-800-828-1302 the report is also available at major bookstores.

The Brookings Institution's Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy releases "Rewarding Work: The Impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit in Chicago" The survey finds that the EITC provided a $737 million boost to the Chicago regional economy in 1998, and lifted purchasing power in the city of Chicago by an average of $2 million per square mile. Large numbers of Low-income working families lived not only in inner-city Chicago neighborhoods, but also in smaller cities throughout the region like Aurora, Joliet, Elgin and Waukegan. The survey concludes by describing steps that state and local leaders could take to build on existing efforts to link working families to the EITC, such as increasing resources for free tax preparation services, helping EITC recipients to open bank accounts, and expanding and making refundable the Illinois state EITC.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is pleased to announce a new online resource designed to facilitate and support smart growth development.  To learn more about smart growth policies, technical tools and and much more,visit

Sprawl Watch 
 Volume 3, Number 42- November 15, 2001

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The Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) board approved GRTA's procedure for assessing the traffic and air quality impact of large metro development proposals.  The board also approved a $4.6 billion, three-year transportation improvement plan, which provides financial support for new roads, trains and HOV  lanes. GRTA's review of development proposals until now has been little more than a formality. But when the procedure takes effect in January, GRTA will have the power to withhold state and federal transportation funding from projects that  fail to address its criteria for traffic generation, access to alternative transportation and air quality. 

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Affordable Housing 
District of Columbia 
The Finance and Revenue Committee approved the Housing Act of 2001 that for the first time would commit a
percentage of tax revenue to the city's Housing Production Trust Fund, which is designed to secure affordable housing for families of middle to low income.  Housing is among the most critical and divisive problems facing the District. 

Air Pollution 
A Sierra Club report gave the Bay Area an unflattering ``C-minus'' grade for efforts to reduce smog through public transit spending. But the region was ranked among the best in the nation for its efforts. The report, called ``Clearing the Air with Public Transit,'' grades the fifty largest cities nationwide giving the best anti-smog ranking to New 
York City, where most people get around by train and subways. 
To view the Sierra Club report please link to: 

The Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) gave final approval and endorsed a plan that calls for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority to pay for operating costs for a new extension to San Jose. Under the agreement, the VTA has until 2009 to determine how it will fund the project, which could range from a new sales tax, an increase in  fares or a new gas tax. BART director Dan Richard called the deal a historic agreement between two transit systems that have, until now, competed for money to fund projects rather than work together on the same proposal.

Carroll County commissioners will meet with the planning commission, planning staff, the ordinance review committee, the agricultural preservation board and other groups to discuss how the county will implement a recently passed zoning law that many say promotes development on farmland. County rules allow landowners to build one house per 20 acres on land zoned for agricultural use and it allows one house every 3 acres on land zoned for conservation. The new law allows landowners to transfer their development rights from their conservation land to their agricultural land. 

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The Metropolitan Philadelphia Policy Center, a coalition of business leaders, smart growth advocates, and a revitalization loan fund, is focusing on promoting a regional agenda to reverse inner city and older suburban decline, fight sprawl development and the slow rate of economic growth. They have just released a report entitled Flight or Fight: Metropolitan Philadelphia and its Future, that presents the data on trends and presents the need for bold action to change them. The report is available at

A new Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy report Do Federal Funds Better Support Cities Or Suburbs? A Spatial Analysis of Federal Spending In The Chicago Metropolis examines the spatial distribution of federal spending and the effects of that spending on growth and development in the Chicago metropolitan area. Federal funds do not support all parts of the metropolitan area in the same way. Some funds help promote investment and build wealth while others actually discourage private investment. 

A new Sierra Club report Clearing the Air with Transit Spending graded America's largest cities(1) on the smog(2) from their transportation systems by looking at the amount of smog coming from cars and trucks per resident in relation to the cities' spending on public transportation. The report finds a relationship between increased investment in public transportation and decreased per person vehicle smog.

                                        Sprawl Watch 
                             Volume 3, Number 41- November 7, 2001

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Public Health 
A new report released by the Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse Creating a Healthy Environment: The Impact of the Built Environment on Public Health, finds several primary connections between urban sprawl and public health. Authored by doctors and researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the report focuses on land-use decisions that affect air and water quality, levels of physical activity, mobility of elderly and the handicapped, and pedestrian safety.

 To view the report please link to:

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Ballot Measures 
Many state and local ballot measures to fund open space protection were voted on election day (11/6).  Last year, voters approved 174 local and state open space measures creating $7.5 billion in new funding. To view this year’s results link to the Trust for Public Land and the Land Trust Alliance website where you will find descriptions of all 2001 ballot measures. Organized by state, the list contains 169 measures officially on the ballot for elections held during the 2001 calendar year. 

Glendale voters approved a measure directing the City Council to increase the sales tax by a half-cent to 8.1 cents to pay for a light rail system and other transportation improvements. The plan would have Glendale paying half of Phoenix's costs to extend the planned rail system three miles. The light rail project is a 20.3-mile line that links north-central Phoenix with downtown Phoenix, Arizona State University in Tempe and downtown Mesa.

Voters adopted Proposition 1, a City Charter amendment that allows work to continue on the Metropolitan Transit Authority's Main Street light rail line. Proposition 1, favored by Mayor Lee Brown and Metro rail supporters, will allow the project -- now about one-fourth complete -- to continue, but it requires referendums on any future rail extensions. 

Stafford County voters chose four of seven members of the Board of Supervisors pushing the county into the region’s expanding slow growth movement by electing two anti-development supervisors and shifting the board’s majority away from its previous pro-development stance.

 = = = National News = = = 
Affordable Housing 
Fannie Mae’s Chief Executive Officer warns that housing costs are too high for many across the country. The lack of affordable housing contributes to --- sprawl. As people move out to where rents are cheaper but public transportation less accessible, they are forced to use highways to reach jobs, adding to metropolitan area traffic woes.

Growth Trends 
Phoenix and other hot growth cities across the sunbelt have lost their allure as locations for real estate investment, according to a survey of top national real estate experts. The survey, released after September 11, called Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2002, found that New York City was viewed as the best place for real estate investment next year.

The interviews with 150 real estate investors, analysts, developers, planners, lenders and brokers was conducted by the PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting firm. The 62-page report was written by Lend Lease Real Estate Investments, a real estate investment management firm.

U.S. Civil War battlefields disappear at the rate of about 1 acre every 10 minutes, according to preservationists who say the fields are being overtaken by houses, roads and shopping malls. In a three-day series, The Columbus Dispatch looks at what has been lost and the efforts to preserve some of what is left. Nov 4 - Nov 6, 2001.

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Affordable Housing 
The Fannie Mae Foundation launches an informational web site called  KnowledgePlex. Aimed at media, academia and planners and developers, the site features a library of current information including articles, case studies, best practices and journals; housing news from 300 sources; interactive communities including chatrooms; emerging issues in affordable housing and community development; and a directory of sources for additional information. To visit the Fannie Mae website:

Parking Policies 
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation releases Building Healthier Neighborhoods with Metorrail: Rethinking
Parking Policies. The second in a series on potential Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority reforms, the report identifies best practices from inside and outside the region and suggests new priorities and approaches for increased transit access and a more livable region. To view the report please link to: 

People's insatiable appetite for mobility is heading the world's transportation systems toward unsustainable gridlock and environmental degradation unless several grand challenges are tackled, conclude Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers in a report on worldwide mobility at the end of the 20th century. The study, conducted by MIT and Charles River Associates, is the first phase of a three year study commissioned by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). The MIT researchers warn that by 2015, greenhouse gas emissions from transport in the developing world will exceed those in the industrialized world unless manufacturers and municipalities can improve the fuel economy of cars and trucks and curb traffic growth. Grand challenges to that end include reinventing public transport and creating a portfolio of mobility options for people and freight. The MIT report can be found at 

Urban Areas
The Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy argues that cities should organize around an agenda for next year's reauthorization of welfare reform. Its new report What Cities Need From Welfare Reauthorization examines the unique challenges cities face including having a greater share of the nation's welfare caseloads, being home to the hardest to serve, and now confronting a looming economic recession that further threatens low-income workers.