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After Sprawl

The Humane Metropolis
Rutherford H. Platt, July 1, 2008

Harmful impacts of sprawl in terms of air and water pollution, waste of energy and time, traffic congestion and highway accidents, lack of affordable housing, increased flooding, and loss of biodiversity have been widely documented (Platt 2004, ch. 6). Also, the fiscal impacts of sprawl on local communities have been evaluated by researchers at the Brookings Institution, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and elsewhere.

Slaying the “beast of sprawl” has been the Holy Grail of planners and land use lawyers for decades, stimulating the development of new tools like planned unit development (PUD), cluster zoning, subdivision exactions, preferential taxation of farm and forest land, transfer of development rights (TDR), state land use planning, and growth management. Reflecting the antisprawl fervor of the 1970s, a prominent policy report titled The Use of Land euphorically declared:

“There is a new mood in America. Increasingly, citizens are asking what urban growth will add to the quality of their lives. They are questioning the way relatively unconstrained, piecemeal urbanization is changing their communities and are rebelling against the traditional processes of government and the marketplace.” (Rockefeller Brothers Fund 1973, 33)