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Sprawl is not inevitable, report finds

The costs of poorly planned development are becoming clear to many communities.  

October 8, 1999
Web posted at: 12:18 p.m. EDT (1618 GMT)


America may not be doomed to a future of parking lots, subdivisions and strip malls. According to a recent report, states that want to solve development problems have plenty of successful examples to follow.

The Sierra Club's second annual sprawl report, entitled "Solving Sprawl," shows that states and communities across the nation are using innovative programs and tools to manage poorly planned growth.

"The costs and consequences of poorly planned development are becoming clear and common. This report proves that we can manage suburban sprawl by adopting and implementing smart growth solutions," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club executive director.

The report rates each of the 50 states by measuring progress in four broad categories: open-space protection, land-use planning, transportation planning and community revitalization. In each area, the report found states with innovative programs that are already working as well as laggard states that have been slow to adopt sprawl solutions. In addition, the report offers profiles of the top states, short articles on different solutions to sprawl and commentary from in-house and guest experts.

"The best states are using innovative tools like regional planning councils, urban growth boundaries, investment in public transit and community development programs to help rein-in poorly planned growth," said Deron Lovaas, a representative for the Sierra Club Challenge to Sprawl Campaign.

A few shining examples highlighted by the report are:

    In Maryland, the state has earmarked $140 million for open-space protection and has plans to save 58,000 acres of crucial land along the state's eastern shore. In Vermont, housing advocates have joined with environmentalists to preserve farmland and provide affordable housing. In Rhode Island, the state has made a serious effort to break the stranglehold of the automobile by investing in transportation alternatives. In Oregon, urban growth limits and intelligent planning have protected open space while allowing cities like Portland to thrive.
But while many states are leading the way, others are clearly lagging behind.

For instance, only 11 states have passed comprehensive, statewide growth-management acts. Twenty-one states spent more than half of their federal transportation dollars on new road construction instead of investing in existing roads and developing transportation alternatives. Twenty-six states spent less than $10 per urban resident per year on alternatives to driving.

We cannot build our way out of sprawl. Building new roads will not solve our traffic problems - just as buying bigger pants will not help you lose weight," said Sierra Club spokesperson Daniel Silverman.

Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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