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Thread: Sprawl: cities that are winning

  1. #1
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    Sprawl: cities that are winning

    I am interested in examples of cities that are winning the battle of sprawl and also losing the battle. Specifically interested in hearing if you know of any that lack professional/educated planners.

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    The question is too broad, frankly. What is "sprawl" What is "winning" and for that matter "losing"?

    If you are more specific...It might be easier to have a discussion.

    For example, you might ask "what cities have been able to preserve their downtown as regional shopping distircts...even to the point that suburban shopping has never taken off or is fading?" Then, I would suggest San Luis Obispo, CA as anh example of that. .

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    I'd argue that most local governments aren't even fighting the battle against sprawl and see nothing wrong with the automobile-oriented communities being built.Partly this is because we as planners have done a poor job of convincing people that this type of living arrangement is problematic.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally posted by Gottalovegolf
    I am interested in examples of cities that are winning the battle of sprawl and also losing the battle. Specifically interested in hearing if you know of any that lack professional/educated planners.
    I did a study for the Fannie Mae Foundation that looked at trends in urban sprawl in all 320 US metro areas (as defined in 2000). About 200 saw sprawl increase and 19 saw sprawl decrease over that time - the rest had minor changes in level in sprawl (and that includes about 10 metro areas where sprawl could not get any worse because it was at the scale's maximum).

    Among the places where overall sprawl levels decreased include Portland Oregon and San Jose California. both had a pattern where densities decreased and peripheral development increased in the 1970s, only to have their development patterns change in after 1980. Most of the metro areas that had increasing densities over the past thirty years are "bounded", they have geographic, government, or other adjoining metro areas that somehow pose barriers that prohibit growing outward forever

    I could sent you the list or the whole report if you like.

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Given that I am familiar with your location, I would say that you might want to take a look at York and Harrisburg as examples. While the have a somewhat sprawling population, they also have recreated there urban areas to accommodate and change with the times resulting in cities that are still competitive with the surrounding areas, and both are similar in size and being regulated by the PAMPC.

    Other than that, many municipalities don’t hire planners unless they do have some level of education. For example, in every place that I have worked thus far, all of the planners have had degrees in Geography with an emphasis on planning, an actual planning degree, or in public administration. I think that with all of legal and technical aspects going on today, it is imperative to have a qualified and trained planner. While some of the old school planners may have other education, the experience that they bring when combined with new education and be of phenomenal importance.

    I would also suggest contacting someone from your state APA chapter and finding out who has participated in the “Master Planning” course they offer. It explains the ins and outs of the Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Code.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

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    It seems that regions may not be winning the battle against sprawl as much as different areas within a region. Metropolitan areas are made up of so many municipalities that they tend to compete with each other rather than on the national scale. Where as on suburban community may be making great strides to curb uncontrolled development another nearby will usually take up the slack. In many ways it is still too early to say which has been more successful, or more to the point, might be the different types of success. The subject of quality of life differs person to person. Whereas some say the quality of life has been improved because they can walk to their schools or shopping another might see it as having quick access to highways to work or the Walmart. Outside of the global implications, is it just a matter of taste or preference? Can it be judged by metropolitan area or must we look to the smaller community activites?

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Chicago is the king of sprawl, is that what you mean?
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Suspended Bad Email Address teshadoh's avatar
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    First off - any city that is experiencing a certain level of 'rebirth' or redevelopment of the urban core, is not neccessarily winning the war on sprawl. I would be curious, but so far - in the past 10 years a number of cities that are regaining population such as Atlanta, I have yet to see any diminishing drop in suburban sprawl. In my view, these cities are providing an alternative to suburban sprawl, not halting it.

    I would be curious about what specific actions a suburban county - in conjunction to a regional planning organization is doing. Not to 'end suburban sprawl', but control it & at least enhance the experience for those that choose to live in that environment. Promoting edge cities as preffered business site location, rather than placeless 'edgeless cities' as well as encouraging increased mixed use activities. Also of course, limiting leap frog developments - enforcing that any development has to be adjacent to existing developed area & meet a certain criteria on density & parkspace.

    Are there any metropolitan areas cooperating with a regional land use policy?

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    Winning and sprawl

    Quote Originally posted by UrbaniDesDev
    The subject of quality of life differs person to person.
    This is correct. Not to cavil, but If I live in an area that becomes inundated with poorly performing students in the public schools, and therefore choose to move to Surburbia USA (e.g. Overland Park, KS) so my child can get a better education. Is that really a loss? A lot of suburbs and municipalities are fairly self-sufficient (e.g. Los Angeles Metro area), so it is probably best to define sprawl as not meeting community lifestyle needs which in turn causes people to patronize businesses outside their community.

    With this, a city that is compact but has poorly performing schools can be considered to be losing the sprawl battle. Any other criteria that has to be met, is like what UrbaniDesDev said, is a matter of personal preference.

    London has very dense development from downtown throught the outlining communities, but it also lacks well located parks; at least in Grave's End. I don't think that's winning because everything (public land) is concrete, whereas people who do not exercise (e.g. run) much may view the development as winning the battle against sprawl.

    Austin: from what I have seen is doing very well, they have a good mix of livable densities and one of the best downtowns in America. I haven't been to Round Rock.

    But in terms of size, point in case, New Orleans, with hindsight you could say the city could have made parks and buffer areas out of low lying areas.

    I like Los Angeles' development from the USC area to Wilshire Blvd. It's very, very compact. But I dont think LA has lots of parks and such.

    Losing
    =======
    Kansas City: It is losing the battle because public transit is horrible. Note: They also have some of the best schools in the nation in their suburbs. No life though and very low density. I call it the "The Big Empty"

    Western Mass: In an attempt to keep the Pioneer Valley rural, people have fought development and I think every Tom, Dick, and Harry has their own piece of conservation land. So even though there are five colleges (~40000 student population) with about a radius of 20 miles, there is no real student life. The fight to zone out new housing in their rural utopia has also led to the lack of student housing and outrageous apartment costs (of par with LA, single Bed $550-1000).
    Along route 9, there is also a traffic build up, but any effort to widen the lanes would most likely be met with resistance. So an 11-mile bus trip with five drop-off points along the way will take about 50 minutes. Damn activists.

    Fredericksburg, VA: They are overrun with traffic from outside, but a bicycle path would definietly seem to be a good investment, because the roads (to Central Park and route 1) are too crowded for cycling during rush hour. But they have done a good job keeping their parks in the face of encroachment, even though they are civil war sites and probably can't be paved over.

    muer
    http://alliance.freeshell.org

  10. #10
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by muer
    Western Mass: In an attempt to keep the Pioneer Valley rural, people have fought development and I think every Tom, Dick, and Harry has their own piece of conservation land. So even though there are five colleges (~40000 student population) with about a radius of 20 miles, there is no real student life. The fight to zone out new housing in their rural utopia has also led to the lack of student housing and outrageous apartment costs (of par with LA, single Bed $550-1000).
    Along route 9, there is also a traffic build up, but any effort to widen the lanes would most likely be met with resistance. So an 11-mile bus trip with five drop-off points along the way will take about 50 minutes. Damn activists.
    http://alliance.freeshell.org
    Having grown up in the Pioneer Valley I think this assessment is spot on. The anti-growth sentiment that pervades the area also detracts from economic development oppurtunities IMO. And as for the situation with route 9 in Hadley- what a disaster. They really don't know what they're in for if they think they can add all that big-box retail yet preserve route 9 as a rural two lane road. I can't imagine how long it will take to get over the Coolidge Bridge in ten years Beautiful area though and I miss it quite a bit despite my rant

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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller
    Having grown up in the Pioneer Valley I think this assessment is spot on. The anti-growth sentiment that pervades the area also detracts from economic development oppurtunities IMO. And as for the situation with route 9 in Hadley- what a disaster. They really don't know what they're in for if they think they can add all that big-box retail yet preserve route 9 as a rural two lane road. I can't imagine how long it will take to get over the Coolidge Bridge in ten years Beautiful area though and I miss it quite a bit despite my rant
    Would it be beautiful if they allowed "growth" for "economic development?" Probably not.

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    Would it be beautiful if they allowed "growth" for "economic development?" Probably not.
    It could still be if the growth was "smart"; surely you know that I'm not advocating unchecked sprawl. But zoning out residential for the reasons muer notes has led to a housing shortage that I believe has negatively affected economic development. So all those college grads leave and head to Phoenix or some other place where they can find housing options supported by their incomes.

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    Quote Originally posted by hilldweller
    It could still be if the growth was "smart"; surely you know that I'm not advocating unchecked sprawl. But zoning out residential for the reasons muer notes has led to a housing shortage that I believe has negatively affected economic development. So all those college grads leave and head to Phoenix or some other place where they can find housing options supported by their incomes.
    I was trolling a bit

    But...I'm a little skeptical. We all know that what would happen is very low density sprawl. Especially as the older cities are pretty shattered, no? (Springfield is pretty gritty overall, and holyoke, etc.) It's been along time, so maybe I'm being difficult.

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by BKM
    I was trolling a bit

    But...I'm a little skeptical. We all know that what would happen is very low density sprawl. Especially as the older cities are pretty shattered, no? (Springfield is pretty gritty overall, and holyoke, etc.) It's been along time, so maybe I'm being difficult.
    Conventional thinking would be to increase densities around town centers/downtown areas, and there are many in the PV that are intact and flourishing (though springfield and holyoke are probably a lost cause). Planners have always suggested this but traditional NE towns in the region like Amherst or Northampton already have an established pattern of densities and uses with a historical logic of sorts. It would be hard to do infill without screwing this up IMO or pissing off the preservationists. For instance, that gorgeous Colonial that the Jones family has lived in for two centuries sits on 10 acres right outside town. It would probably be an ideal location for some New Urban project but there is no way in hell you're ever going to see that happen. Then you have hilltowns on the periphery with large minimum lot sizes and septic standards higher than the state's. Others are productive farming communities such as Hatfield and Hadley (legendary asparagus btw) with their own unique character. I don't know what the answer is because it seems that there are so many pitfalls to whatever course is chosen.

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    answers might surprise you

    I found this article about research done by U of Toronto on the "Sprawl" issue....It's alittle cryptic about how they are categorizing the issue and what exactly they are studying but the researchers answer to this question might be: Los Angeles, Miami and Atlanta.

    EARTH OBSERVATION
    A View Of Urban Sprawl From Outer Space

    In addition to urban development patterns in Saint Louis, this map illustrates that scattered development often escapes municipal regulations by locating close to existing development but just outside municipal boundaries.
    by Jenny Hall
    Toronto, Canada (SPX) May 03, 2006
    Recent urban development in Los Angeles is less scattered than recent development in Boston. Miami is America's most compact big city and Pittsburgh is most sprawling. Changing the number or size of municipal governments in a metro area has no impact on whether or not urban development is scattered, but controlling access to groundwater does.
    These are among the startling findings from a University of Toronto-based team of researchers who used satellite data and aerial photography to create a grid of 8.7 billion data cells tracking the evolution of land use in the continental United States.

    Matthew Turner and Diego Puga of the University of Toronto (Puga is currently a visiting professor at Universitat Pompeu Fabra), Marcy Burchfield of the Neptis Foundation, a Toronto-based organization focused on urban and regional research, and Henry Overman of the London School of Economics present their findings in the May issue of The Quarterly Journal of Economics, in a paper entitled Causes of Sprawl: A Portrait from Space. Heavily illustrated with Geographic Information System images, the paper challenges conventional wisdom about urban sprawl and presents a vivid and detailed picture of land consumption in America's cities.

    Though urban sprawl is widely regarded as an important environmental and social problem, according to the authors, much of the debate over sprawl is based on speculation. The data to conduct detailed and systematic measurement of how and where land is converted to urban use has, until now, simply not been available. Despite widespread interest in the topic, "we know next to nothing about the extent to which development is scattered or compact, and how this varies across space," they write.

    The authors merged high-altitude photos from 1976 with satellite images from 1992 (the most recent available) to create a grid of 8.7 billion 30-metre by 30-metre cells that tracks land use changes nationwide. "The data set we've constructed is unprecedented in that we have coverage of the whole continental United States with a very high degree of accuracy for two time periods. That's never been done before," says Turner.

    The new high-resolution data allow the authors to observe the amount of open space in the neighbourhood of every house in every U.S. city. Since development is more scattered when there is more open space around a house, the authors measured urban sprawl by calculating the average amount of open space in the neighborhood of a house in each city.

    They found that more recent residential development is not any more scattered than development was in 1976. Forty two per cent of land in the square kilometre surrounding the average residential development in 1976 was open space, compared with 43 per cent in 1992. "While a substantial amount of scattered residential development was built between 1976 and 1992, overall residential development did not become any more biased toward such sprawling areas."

    The authors are quick to point out that any one household would have seen much change in the study period, but that "if we zoom out and look at the city from a distance, we see little change, at least in terms of the proportions of sprawling and compact development: the new city is just like an enlarged version of the old city."

    Overall, Boston is less scattered than Atlanta, however recent development in Boston has been less compact than recent development in Atlanta. Miami, San Francisco and Los Angeles were the most compact major cities, while Pittsburgh and Atlanta were the most scattered.

    The authors also investigated why some cities are more sprawling than others. They found that a city's climate, topography and access to groundwater account for 25 per cent of the nationwide variation. When the climate is temperate, people spread out to have more space to enjoy the weather.

    Hilly places see more scattered development as people avoid the costs of building on hillsides — but mountains act as a barrier and lead to more compact development. Places with easy access to groundwater see more scattered development, since people can supply remote houses with water by drilling inexpensive wells rather than paying for water lines.

    "The presence of aquifers is particularly important," says Turner, "and that seems to me to have policy implications. It looks as if controlling access to groundwater is an important way to control whether development spreads or not."

    Roads, on the other hand, have no impact on the extent to which development is scattered, despite commonly held beliefs to the contrary. "We looked at a lot of measures of road density — miles of road per area, average distance to a road, distance to an interstate exit — and we could find no relation between those measures and the scatteredness of development," Turner says.

    The number of municipalities in a metropolitan area also does not affect development patterns. "You hear about fragmentation of jurisdictions being an important determinant of development patterns and we could find no evidence for that," says Turner. However, the team also found that development near cities is less scattered if it occurs in a municipality than if it occurs in an unincorporated area of a county. This suggests that people may be moving out to just beyond municipal boundaries in order to avoid more stringent municipal regulations.

    One of the common complaints about urban sprawl is that as development spreads, municipal services such as roads, sewers, police and fire protection are more expensive. The authors suggest that this concern is well founded. Development in municipalities that receive larger subsidies from higher levels of government is, on average, more scattered. Says Puga, "This suggests that as local taxpayers are held accountable for infrastructure costs, they respond by insisting on patterns of development that require less infrastructure spending."

    "People have been eager to rush to policy prescriptions without a very good understanding of the underlying phenomena," says Turner. "We wanted to try to put the policy discussion on sounder footing."

    The researchers received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada, the Centre de Recerca en Economia Internacional and the Centre de Referència d'Economica Analítica and support from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and the National Fellows Program at the Hoover Institution.

  16. #16
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    Depends if the city built around their downtown or built around the suburbs. Most I would say focused on building around sprawl because it's easier and it will generate more revenue right off the bat. Down the line though, it will have it's consequences on cities.

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    Cyburbian cng's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gottalovegolf View post
    I am interested in examples of cities that are winning the battle of sprawl and also losing the battle. Specifically interested in hearing if you know of any that lack professional/educated planners.
    This is vague and a bit presumptuous. Vague because "sprawl" is not defined well. Presumptuous because it attributes local government/planners having primary control over growth, or growth patterns.

    Sprawl is a nebulous term, often misused to describe the static form of a community, when it is actually a dynamic term that describes the spreading, consuming, outward growth of a region. Cities are in various stages of growth, and it's not always fair to compare how one is winning/losing, since older cities will always appear to be winning more so than newer cities, given a more constrained geography. Much of Los Angeles used to be considered sprawling, but as it gets built out, the land use densifies and the landscape is retrofitted. Now, the fringe cities surrounding Los Angeles are what appears to be sprawling. Planners like to think they can set policies that can contain sprawl -- but unless the jurisdiction has a tool like an "urban growth boundary" -- the market will continue to push outward growth (or just skip over the boundary). It takes a regional approach, as some have mentioned -- and in a regional approach, there are no winners or losers. There are some suburban/exurban/rural communities setting good policies though, despite the porous geography, but the wins are small (project by project), and the automobile continues to dominate the landscape.

    I'd focus the question to... Which cities are winning the battle of being to plan and build for walkable neighborhoods with complete streets, instead of losing the battle of allowing auto-centric developments to continue?

  18. #18
    When the latest round of data from the 2010 Census is completely released (around e end of March), I am going to calculate 2010 sprawl measures for all US metro areas. I have already calculated them for each decennial year 1970 - 2000. The result may provide some light on which areas have seen a decrease in sprawl.

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post
    When the latest round of data from the 2010 Census is completely released (around e end of March), I am going to calculate 2010 sprawl measures for all US metro areas. I have already calculated them for each decennial year 1970 - 2000. The result may provide some light on which areas have seen a decrease in sprawl.
    We have seen a big decrease in sprawl but we have also seen a bigger decrease in demolitions.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  20. #20
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    If you want to see predictions of hyperactive sprawl, by any definition, check out this snapshot from a GIS model we built. I linked this on another thread a couple of weeks ago here, already, but I thought it would be worth reposting it.:


    ny_projections by cismontane, on Flickr

    [mods: this is my own work.. not image leeching].

    Our simulation using the MPO's TAZ-level gorwth projections (NYMTC) for the NY metro region (the upper one on the snapshot page) projects a 700% increase on the exurban edge (NE Pennsylvania, the upper Taconic, outer Orange, etc)! Our case (the lower one on the snapshot page) attempts to simulate what would happen if the region did a great deal of infill rezoning along rail corridors (within 2 miles of commuter stops). The MPO 's projection is basically for a giant hollowed doughnut - heavy growth in the 5 buroughs and on greenfield sites at the exurban periphery. Since the intermediate suburban rings tend to resist densification, they basically assume no growth there.

    I suspect the only way to change this (and approximate something like the second case) is if the transit agencies themselves start acting as developers.. utilizing rights of way, air rights, etc., to push for high intensity development. Otherwise, home rule will make the NYMTC doughnut inevitable, and the region would beceome pretty unmanageable. Assuming just 1 out of 5 of those 2 million new exurbanites (and it's probably closer to 1 in 4 or 1 in 3) commute into the city or one of the other existing employment centers every morning. No currently planned transit and road improvements even come close to addressing that almost inevitable scenario.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 03 Mar 2011 at 1:50 PM.

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    I realize the original poster was looking for info back in 2006 but . . . the Government of Ontario introduced “greenbelt” legislation back in 2005. It created a wide swath of land around the urbanized parts of Toronto and its suburbs where all urban development was effectively prohibited. There is still quite a bit of developable land on the urban side of the Greenbelt, which is rapidly being used up, and leap-frogging of the greenbelt is a growing concern, but the result has been an acceptable that the existing urban parts of the City and its suburbs will need grow up rather than out. From a land developer’s point-of-view – those companies that used to specialize in low-density suburban homes have two choices – they can either start looking at land farther away from the Greater Toronto Area, or they can get into urban re-development.

    In addition to the Greenbelt legislation the province released its Places-to-Grow legislation in 2006 and subsequently the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (includes Oshawa, Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara and points between). This created set relatively aggressive growth targets for each municipality and directed how they were to accommodate such growth - 40% of the growth in each municipality was to be located within their existing urban boundaries. In greenfield areas (new growth beyond the existing urban limits) the average density was to be 50 people or jobs per hectare (ppj/ha). That translates into very small single family homes, or a combination of larger homes and townhouses/apartment buildings. New half-acre or larger estate lots are virtually unheard of these days anywhere within a hundred miles of Toronto. Within the identified Urban Growth Centres (existing or new downtown areas) the density target was as high as 400ppj/ha for Toronto’s core areas, and 300ppj/ha for many other areas. This means that local municipalities must plan for very high densities in these core areas, which takes the wind out of a lot of nimbyism. If Nimby’s don’t want a high density downtown they’ll have to fight the Provincial Government not the local government.

    Lastly, the Province also created a new regional transportation agency (Metrolinx) and gave it a mandate to develop and implement a plan that would see a robust rapid transit network to link up all the Urban Growth Centres and other key locations (airports etc.). Metrolinx released its plan – The Big Move – in 2009. Developing the plan was easy; it’s the implementation part that has been difficult.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally posted by Howl View post
    Ontario
    But how successful has this been? If you look at the growth projections for Toronto outer suburban places like Whitby they're still out of control. Whitby's projecting positively Chinese growth rates over the next 15 years. One neighborhood we looked at is looking at increasing it's populaton eight times in ten years.

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    Yes, it’s been successful if you understand that the greenbelt didn’t start at the edge of the urban boundary, but was based on real environmental features and natural connections that ring the city. The Greenbelt plan created three categories of land - the Greenbelt (which was shown green on the map), the 2006 urban areas (which were grey) and the remaining bits of undeveloped lands south of the greenbelt and north of the 2006 urban boundary (which were left white on the map and thus have become known locally as the whitebelt). The parts of Whitby that are growing rapidly are in the whitebelt. This, along with other whitebelt lands in Pickering, Markham, Vaughan, Brampton, Oakville and Milton, will be the last new major suburban development south of the Greenbelt. However these lands won’t have very many typical suburban single family homes on them. The demand for units in these areas is very high which means developers are building very urban products on the outer fringes of the city. I just came from a meeting where the City has approval for 70 upa (170 upha) (the developer asked for 100upa) on what is now a farmer’s field on the very edge of the urban fringe (45 minutes from downtown Toronto by commuter train). In the future the least dense parts of the Greater Toronto Area will be the 1960’s-to-1980's inner suburban ring. There will be a ring of medium-to-high density housing surrounding it and then the greenbelt. Once the whitebelt lands are used up all future development will be infill (up instead of out).

  24. #24
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    On reflection, the only reason the Greenbelt and Growth Plan work in Ontario is because they are Provincial initiatives which all local governments are obliged to comply with. Prior to the Greenbelt many local municipalities talked about curbing sprawl (see below), but very few actually did anything about it. This was due to local politics (a pro-development mayor could undo everything a pro-environment mayor had done previously, but a pro-environment mayor can’t always undo what a pro-development mayor has done), and the competition for development between municipalities (if one municipality brings in strict rule the developers just went to the next community). The Provincial initiatives have created a level playing field for all municipalities and all developers. The developers know what the rules are and where there will be development in the future so they can plan their strategies and business plans with some degree of certainty. Prior to the Greenbelt and Growth Plan where and when development occurred was much more about which developer had the deepest pockets or the right connections with the local politicians.

    An example of a suburban fringe municipality that tried to deal with urban sprawl before 2006 was the Town of Markham. They were early adopters of new urbanism. They couldn’t ban expansion outright but they were able to create plans for expansion that created walkable higher-density (in suburban terms) neighbourhoods such as Cornell and Angus Glen. They also created plans for a new urban town centre which is just starting to take shape now. Since 2006 the Town of Markham is one of the few municipalities that have actually asked the Province to expand the Greenbelt to include lands that are currently whitebelt within its boundaries.

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