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Planning for livable communities
A wealthy society tends to want more and better...and more and more. The US is experiencing that as part of its deeply held value for "the American dream"...a home with a yard and good schools for the kids, parks nearby, a wide variety of foods from around the world...entertainment, low gasoline and energy prices.... and the list goes on. But communities are struggling to keep up with providing those quality of life amenities. One city goes bankrupt. Another grabs more land to increase taxes. Another lures new business to its borders with massive tax breaks. Desperation calls for desperate measures...or does it?
Community costs rise rapidly with the addition of miles of roads. Or with the addition of a new sports stadium. Or new schools. We know that logically.
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But recent economic studies of community infrastructure is showing something else..... sprawl is the greatest contributor to higher taxes, higher infrastructure costs...and degradation of our air, water and food supply.
I hope you will give the following case studies some thought, and the next time you have a chance to make a choice, or voice your concerns, that you find a way to help others think through the growing problem of "sprawl".
"Studies show that for every $1.00 collected in taxes, residential development costs between $1.04 and $1.67 in services -- and these costs continue forever, generally increasing over time. Even including the initial cost of acquisition, open space is less costly to taxpayers over both the short and the long term than development of the same parcel. The major public costs to preserve natural areas are finite, often paid by a bond or loan over 20 years."
One story: Maryland
Maryland's concerns go to more than the environmental impacts of consuming so much open space. Governor Parris N. Glendening, a leading smart-growth proponent, has declared that the state "will go bankrupt building the roads, schools, and other facilities needed to accommodate the kind of sprawling suburban growth of the last few decades." In a 20-year period, for example, one suburban Maryland county closed 60 schools and built 60 new ones, at a cost of $500 million--largely to accommodate a sprawling population.
To complement its antisprawl legislation, Maryland passed a Rural Legacy bond issue that makes open space and farmland preservation money available to counties that show they are following smart-growth strategies. To date, the state has handed out about $38 million to preserve 19,000 acres. The goal is 200,000 acres in 15 years.
Another study: New York...Clusters are Smart for Development...and the Environment
"Giving land conservation a high priority encourages more cost- efficient development."
"Clustering involves grouping buildings on parts of a piece of property instead of spreading them out in a way that consumes the entire parcel.
...Clusters are frequently referred to as open space subdivisions because they can be designed to keep the most important undeveloped land on a site -- such as productive farm fields or wildlife corridors-- intact."
"The National Association of Home Builders first documented the economic benefits of clustering in 1976. In evaluating this tool for encouraging development and land conservation at minimal public cost, the association found that a sample 472-unit cluster cost 34% less to develop than a conventional grid subdivision.
These costs vary from site to site, but follow the general principle that well-designed clusters--both high density clusters in community centers and low density clusters of detached units in rural areas-- consume less land, require shorter roads and pipes, and fit in better with traditional community densities than do the suburban grids and spiderwebs that are spreading across the landscape."
Thomas, Holly L. February 1991.
Dutchess County Planning Department,
Dutchess County, New York.
"Well-sited, well-planned and needed developments may have a positive effect on town revenues. The AFT (American Farmland Trust) studies indicate that low-density, sprawling, large-lot development costs communities an average of three times more in service costs than cluster development. The cost varies according to the extent of service provided by each town. Extending water and sewer lines accounts for much of the cost of servicing sprawl."
------ Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions.
For a lot more facts, real life stories and insights about what communities can do to preserve quality of life in cities and nearby countryside... visit:
Remember to take a nature break....before urban sprawl fills that
space with pavement, smog and polluted ground water. Not a pleasant
thought, but a call for action before it's too late in your community!
You'll be glad you take a stand.