Dec 27, 2006, 4:26 AM
People tend to associate the staggering growth in exurbs and Sunbelt states as fundamentally good. While I agree that it's good to be having growth in the general sense, on the local level there can be problems.
In some towns you have cases where building tons of new housing developments and sub-divisions has led to higher taxes. With more families moving in, schools need to be built or expanded, along with sewers and trash service, and other amenities. The quality of life can go down, due to traffic congestion and increased pollution. Eventually the "exurbs" mature and become urbanized and stagnate, with families moving further outward because the community is no longer affordable.
One solution to maintain the local quality of life is to acquire open space through purchase or by donation. Several of the towns in my area of doing this, but a lot of these individual acts have been through generous donors of property (ie. wealthy benefactor types who can afford to give parts of their property away or have a philanthropic desires to preserve the local quality of life) on the other hand, many towns that try this do it in the form of ballot referenda, which can get rejected, because higher taxes are often needed to finance the purchase and maintenance. At the same time, limiting the amount of land that can be developed raises housing prices, and ultimately property taxes.
My question is, even though taxes go up in both cases, which scenario would leave middle class residents better off? Would you rather have continuous growth that leads to higher taxes to pay for more services? Or would you rather have a limit on growth and aesthetic preservation of open space, which will lead to higher taxes as more expensive housing as a result?
Dec 27, 2006, 5:12 AM
I think I lost you on the first paragraph. Do you mean the average person, because I think almost everyone here would reject the idea that growing exurbs is a good thing. In fact, that's one of those basic gripes with many of us.
As for the question, I'd choose the latter, as the former almost always requires a gross about of sprawl. It would be different if we had a more responsible society when it comes to land-use, but we don't. The average person actually seems to celebrate the idea of houses eating up grasslands and and marshes and such. A Super WalMart is seen as a great accomplishment for many small town, these days.
Dec 27, 2006, 7:44 AM
I also think you have to look at a fundamentally different approach to development in these states: sprawl. While the entire country has it, many of the major southern cities developed without a major center, picking up smaller communities as it went along. Therefore, the giant booms in development that are creating this urban center is fundamentally good. It promotes culture, urban interaction, domestic and international appeal, etc. Obviously, places like Charlotte, Orlando, and Atlanta are great exaples of this.
I do agree, though, that it is not always good. Planning takes just that... a plan. Development that goes crazy without any eye to interaction and surroundings can be almost worse than empty land. You also tend to get quickshot places that either empty or lose value quickly without a general consensus.
Dec 27, 2006, 9:10 AM
Is it worth it, though? How much is a new downtown condo project worth in the cost of natural lands on the outskirts of town? Is it really a fair trade off? Maybe, I'm missing something major, here. I mean, you use Atlanta as an example, and while it's core is starting to see significant growth, you have to ask yourself at what price? It would seem that the cost of a urbanized central city Atlanta has costed, so far, a total of 1,963 square miles/5,083.1 square kilometers (the size of the Atlanta Urbanized Area). Is that really anywhere near the best bang for the buck? Is any growth really better than no growth at all, especially considering our poor grasp on responsible growth? I think I'm veering from the original topic. lol I'm tired.
Dec 28, 2006, 2:17 AM
I'd rather see a former brownfield or military base redeveloped. Develop a portion of it at a fairly high density ie 10,000 people/sq mile and then turn the remainder into a mitigation bank....the mitigation bank needs to buffer the developed area on at least 2 sides.
The developer can sell credits from the mitigation bank to other developers; while acting as "open space" it's generating income. Plus the mitigation bank, being open space, increases the value of the peripheral (interior) development, so it's generating income twice for the developer, either through increased rent rates or increased land values (sold to a builder or another developer). Then, if you have a transit line running through, say, the middle of the property, the transit line then helps increase the value of the property in the middle of the development.
This results in higher revenues (tax receipts) for the local government(s) and a higher quality of life (large open space that is protected from future development, mass transit, and walkable development patterns). Oh yeah, the properties that surround the project (the former brownfield/military base) become more valuable, too. As property values continue to rise, the local government(s) can reduce the property tax rate because their revenues stay the same or increase at the rate of inflation (and maybe plus growth). Sadly I know of only 1 city that does this...Highland Park, TX.
But to answer your question, the answer would change with each individual project. In some cases the land is almost unsuitable for development, so does it make sense to turn it into a park? Probably not...you're paying to create something that sort of already exists. A better option would be to purchase the development rights from the owner(s); I believe this has been done in Boulder, CO. If a highly dense city already exists, and the only available sites are the "suburbs/exurbs" or a few inadequite sites in the city center, then build in the suburbs. Hong Kong comes to mind as an example of this.
As LMich stated, many on this site probably don't like the idea of suburbs and/or exurbs growing. And not to point a finger at LMich, but I've come to the conclusion that some on this site don't truly understand market forces, or they want to live in a socialist state. We have 300 million people in this country, and we probably have close to 300 million different views on how development should take place. One area where I would hope we can all agree is that we need to limit the impact on our enviroment. I'm 27, got my undergraduate degree in architecture, my master's in real estate development, I listen to conservative talk radio, and I read a lot. And I engage in political debates with friends and business associates from time to time. I cannot recall one instance in which someone said, either verbatim or in a roundabout way, "We should destroy the environment." Environmentally smart architecture/development an educational process and it will take a long time to educate a majority of the decision-making public on its benefits.
People don't consider operating costs of a house. Consider asking someone, "Would you rather buy a $100,000 house and have a $300/month utility bill, or would you rather spend $150,000 (on a more environmentally efficient house) and have a $100/month utility bill?" I haven't asked that question, and I don't know if the examples given support my assumption, but my guess is most would rather spend $100k when over a 15- (or hopefully shorter, ie 5 years) year period their overall costs are lower with the $150k house.
I'll leave with this example. My company sells a particular product type, of which there are 9 different options - 8 are functionally the same. Of the 8, the lowest priced product sells for, let's say $600, and my customer sells it for $1200. The next lowest priced product sells for, let's say, $700, and my customer sells it for $1400. These products are purchased with other products and the final bill often comes to $8-10,000. With this purchase, $200 will not make or break the deal, usually. Yet some of my customers A) can't comprehend this notion, or B) don't want to take the extra effort (maybe 30-45 seconds), to educate their customers on the benefits of choosing the $1400 item vs the $1200 item.
Some people embrace change. Many resist it. A few take a long time to understand its benefits.
Dec 28, 2006, 4:18 AM
Tex, I think your being far to dismissive of the other side. There is this belief among that those pro-growth (whether it be sprawl or urban growth) that those on the other side are all socialist wanting to dictate exactly where people live. The fact of the matter is that most of us see current land-use policy, and see how incredibly weighted toward sprawl it is. The argument is not about telling people where they can live, rather bringing land-use policy back to the middle. Sprawl is not just allowed, but it is greatly encouraged and incentivized over urban growth by our policy and law. If this scale is has two ends, one being the total control of growth by the state, and the other being total and complete unmitigated, and unregulated growth, it is not even up for debate how much closer to the latter it is than the former.
On a related note when discussing the tricky issue of letting the market vs. government driving the economy, don't you realize that the government can actually get in the way of letting the pendulum swing when it reaches the peak on BOTH sides of the proverbial clock? What I mean is that can't you see the government has come to the point, ironically, where it is the one actually promoting sprawl as the superior means of growth in this system? I think it's unfair and short-sighted to imply that anyone wishing to bring the issue back to the middle, and favors some regulation, wants a socialist state. You do realize that a completely unfettered, unregulated market-driven economy is just as extreme as a completely state-driven economy, don't you? Government does have a place, and currently, IMO, it's let sprawl run completely amuck.
Dec 28, 2006, 5:51 PM
From the Portland angle,
We have an urban growth boundry (UGB). IT DOES NOT stop the burbs from growing, because by state law, the UGB must be large enough to accomidate 20 years of growth. What it does is allow the region to determine which burbs will grow and in what direction. While open farm space just 15 minutes from downtown are preserved, a new city 30 minutes from downtown Portland is being developed on land not deemed environmentally sensitive. Not only are farms protected, but the UGB is also used to protect the urban forests.
In addition to the UGB, Portland metro has a regional government called Metro. Since 1995 Metro, along with recycling responsibilities and running the convention center and zoo, is responsible for purchasing and preserving open spaces before development moves in. From 1995 to 2005, voters approved spending $200 million for land preservation, in November another $200 million bond over the next ten years was reapproved. Now, within walking distance of Portland's downtown, you can lose yourself in the 5000 acre urban Forest Park protecting streams that Salmon migrate in, and sensitive ecological habitat for Bald Eagles, the Spotted Owl, and many other endangered species.
While all this land preservation might be a bad thing for lower income people, Portland also has mechanisms in place to keep housing prices affordable as well. First, there is the Portland Development Commission (PDC). The PDC has an annual budget of $250 million to spend on encouraging private sector development. The Portland City Council is looking at the possibility of requiring 33% of all PDC funds to be spent on affordable housing. Even in Portland's tony Pearl district, there are at least 5 buildings that offer exlusively affordable housing (and they don't look any different from the condo and market rate apartment buildings). Partnered with other affordable housing agencies, the Portland area has a healthy mix of lower income homes and apartments in the city, not just the burbs, being built next to buildings charging $500/square foot or more for condos.
Another advantage in Portland is the mass transit system. The light rail line runs on a spine across the entire metro. If you can only afford to live in the burbs, you can still get around town without needing a car. However, the Portland mentality is that in order to control sprawl, we need to make sure the city is offering everything the burbs are, especially affordable places to live. While our city and the decisions made don't always turn out perfect, the direction Portland is headed in makes city living not only attractive, but also feasible.
vBulletin® v3.8.7, Copyright ©2000-2013, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.