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Thread: Growth management: who has done it right?

  1. #1

    Growth management: who has done it right?

    I recently attended a panel discussion on growth management planning. At the end of the discussion, the panel entertained written questions from the audience. All was moving along smoothly until the question was posed, "Which cities have done growth management right, and why do you think this?" After some (actually quite a bit of) hesitation, there were two comments of, "We thought it was Portland. They incorporated all the concepts we advocate... density, transit planning, design requirements, urban limit lines. Perhaps their downfall was inflexibility of their plan. It was cast in stone and did not evolve enough with the community."

    There was also one comment complimenting San Antonio and "the Chicago region" without any explanation as to what these communities were doing which was "right".

    So, oh throbbing brain, let's do better than that... what cities have done growth management right and why?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
    Dec 2001
    West Valley, AZ

    successes come large and small.

    If I look at baby steps, Peoria, IL although sprawling, has prevented a substantial amount of lightly regulated county sprawl. Through the creation of "growth cells" the city created incentives for developers to develop contiguous to the city limits.

    From on enviormental standpoint, this preserved farmland through the county that would have otherwise been developed into 1+ acre residential lots with individual septic and wells. Instead, we have .25-.75 acre residential lots all connected to city water and sewer.

    I agree, this is no way a giant step towards good growth management, but for a region that has suffered significant industrial contraction and suffered the stigma of being the backwater between Chicago and St. Louis, this was a mild success and one to build upon.

    The county has not be faithful in adhereing to their ag protection plans. Although the motives of the growth cells were to capture tax dollars, its principal benefit is the preservation of acres of rural farmland and continued contiguous development.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  3. #3

    May 1997
    Williston, VT
    Define "right." My town has done a good job on some aspects of managing growth management, a poor job on other aspects. I think the same is true of every place I know about that has seriously attempted to manage growth.

  4. #4
    Cirrus's avatar
    Aug 2003
    DC / Arlington
    Montgomery County, MD.
    • There was virtually no leap frog growth for 30 years. The same suburb was the end of the urbanzed area for decades. Just recently as that suburb gets close to build-out the next one has started to grow. And that's without a UGB.
    • It has the best TODs in the country, IMO, and is rapidly building more wherever possible.
    • It has a large rural reserve area where substantial new development is not possible.
    • It has one of the highest transit mode shares of any suburban jurisdiction in the country. The county's independent bus service, the Ride-On, gets more riders than metropolitan-wide services in many large cities, and that's without even a single commuter line going downtown. Also, the Ride-On isn't used as heavily as the MetroBus (never mind MetroRail and MARC rail).
    • It is a pioneer in new urbanism - home to Kentlands, the first (and still one of the best) NU project actually meant as a neighborhood for people to live in, as opposed to a resort.
    • It is a pioneer in inclusive affordable housing regulations.
    • The Washington urbanized area is the only one I know of where the population is growing faster than the land area. Considering land use practices in Virginia*, it is obviously Maryland that's responsible.

    * Except for Arlington and Alexandria, which are more like central cities than suburbs and have no sprawl issues, Northern Virginia sprawls like any fast-growing sunbelt area.

    ... I have never been to Portland, but it has always seems overrated to me. More bark than bite, it seems like.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian ChevyChaseDC's avatar
    Feb 2004
    Philadelphia, PA

    Baltimore County, MD

    Ditto Cirrus on Montgomery County, Maryland. If not for progressive planning, the county would almost certainly be completely built-out.

    Another county in Maryland also deserves mention - Baltimore County. This doughnut-shaped county (the independent Baltimore City is the hole in the middle) is home to >750,000, and is adjacent to an old northeastern city. Unlike most suburbs surrounding shrinking cities, however, this one is relatively free from sprawl. In addition to the state of Maryland's PFA's ("priority funding areas," which are sort of like the carrot part of urban growth boundaries, without the stick), Baltimore County features an "Urban-Rural Demarcation Line." The entire northern third of the county, from beyond Hunt Valley to the PA state line, remains rural, with zoning as high as 1 house/50 acres.

    Like Montgomery, the same suburbs in Baltimore County have been the edges of the urbanized area for decades. Though "leap frog" suburban growth has been occurring in Carrol and Harford Counties, and now, York County, PA, these areas would probably still be sprawling now anyway even without any growth management in Baltimore County...

  6. #6

    Oct 2001
    Solano County, California
    I'll put a plug in for my County, for although I am not thrilled with the type of development which dominates the County (endless stucco subdivisions, big box stores, and office "parks"), the County has succeeded in channelling said growth largely into the seven cities. The General Plan objective is "What is urban shall be municipal), and this County has largely, to date, avoided sprawling unincoporated county subdivisions. There remain distinct (if shrinking) gaps between the cities-increasingly enforced through conservation easements or even purchase of open space lands.

    Some cities, like my employer, are pushing more and more for infill, going so far as to not plan for new fringe subdivisions. Of course, there is the issue of providing enough housing, but...

  7. #7
    Member japrovo's avatar
    Mar 2003
    Blacksburg, VA

    Your premise is off

    Governing simply by aping the innovators is starting from behind. Portland (Cirrus- seeing is believing!) didn't set out to be a model, it set out, and despite the premature obits is still working at, solving its own problems. Every region is different. Look at "best practices" but take what you need and leave the rest.

  8. #8
    I was involved in a project to measure changes in sprawl in US metro areas from 1970 to 2000. About 10% of 330 metro areas actually had lower sprawl at the end of 30 years. Most appeared to reduce their sprawl levels because they hit geographic boundaries: Miami is penned in by the Atlantic, the Everglades and Ft. Lauderdale; San Jose by mountains, San Francisco Bay and Oakland/San Francisco. Portland is truly the exception. From 1970 to 80 sprawl was increasing, then it reversed itself and by 2000, its sprawl level was lower than 1970. I don't think any other US metro has done such a good job.

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