urban growth boundaries
The following material is excerpted with written permission from How Smart Growth Can Stop Sprawl, a briefing guide for funders by David Bollier. The views expressed are those of the author. (Washington, D.C.: Essential Books), 1998. 

Many localities, particularly in the West, have successfully used urban growth boundaries, or UGBs, to contain future development, encourage more livable urban spaces and protect farmlands and open space from development. Under the UGB concept, local governments estimate the amount of land needed for new business, housing, recreation, etc., for a period of time. They then draw a line around this land. New development can occur within the line but not outside it. UGBs are typically set for twenty years -- long enough to be taken seriously but short enough to accommodate revision. One of the most successful champions  of UGBs has been the Greenbelt Alliance, the San Francisco Bay Area's  land conservation and urban planning nonprofit group. In recent years, its advocacy has helped persuade 15 Bay Area communities, including San Jose, to adopt UGBs. 

The value of UGBs is not in drawing a fixed boundary per se, but in the pressure it exerts on municipalities to make a direct reckoning of the long-term costs of unplanned sprawl. UGBs virtually force a town to undertake a more sophisticated, long-term structural approach to fostering economic and community vitality -- rather than just letting sprawl happen. UGBs provoke a discussion about other reforms, such as fair housing within a metro region, infrastructure spending, etc. Growth boundaries also allow states to target monies for transportation, schools and sewers to those cities and counties that have taken steps to identify and implement boundaries and make regional plans. 

Case Example:

· Oregon: Urban growth boundaries were one of the most significant reforms enacted by Oregon in its 1973 state-wide planning legislation. Each locality was required to adopt a UGB as part of its overall planning, a rule that helped Portland maintain its high quality of life over the next 25 years and has preserved 25 million acres of farmland and forests. Some towns, such as Corvallis and Ashland, have actually decided to permanently freeze their boundaries. Kentucky's growth boundary has preserved the bluegrass country around Lexington since 1958. 

Statewide urban growth boundaries are now mandated in Oregon, Washington, and more recently in Tennessee. Localized UGBs exist in over 15 California communities, Boulder, CO and Lexington, KY.

What is an Urban Growth Boundary? (Prepared by the Oregon State
Department of Land Conservation and Development). 

Factsheet: Urban Growth Boundaries (Prepared by the Greenbelt Alliance). 

Bound for Success, the Greenbelt Alliance's excellent manual describing how communities can adopt UGBs, the Greenbelt Alliance describes how a UGB "affirms your community's identity by ensuring that it doesn' t merge  with nearby communities; promotes urban and suburban revitalization; uses public facilities more efficiently, thereby saving taxpayers money; encourages the development of more affordable housing and mixed use centers; stimulates community development patterns that support more accessible public transit; protecting farmlands, watersheds and wildlife habitat...." among other benefits.  To order, visit www.greenbelt.org.