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Urban Sprawl Urban sprawl is the spread of urban congestion into adjoining suburbs and rural sections. (Brecher 34) Urban sprawl has become an issue for concern in the country since 1920. There was a rapid rate of sub urbanization between the years 1920 and 1950. Then by the seventies and eighties, urban sprawl has been curbed to moderate suburbanization. Urban sprawl has characterized American growth patterns for the past eighty years.
There has been much controversy surrounding this hot topic. Urban sprawl has created an all out national debate about our land and its use. There have been about 19 states that have growth-management laws or task forces that are designed to protect open spaces and farmland (Duaney 114). Former President Bill Clinton allocated over a billion dollars to protect land and to slow down sprawl (Duaney 147). Urban sprawl may sound like it is destroying our nation, and many believe that it is a huge problem for concern in our country today, but is it?
The answer to this question, I believe is, no. Have we done our part to curb this problem; how much is too much? Urban sprawl should not be a cause for concern in todays society. We did our part as a nation to curb this problem earlier in our history.
Urbanization must continue as long as our population grows. There are many reasons to support this claim. Many people that oppose the expanding of our nation, by means of sprawl, believe that urban sprawl is a cause for concern in the United States. Their concerns are driven by low-density residential developments that are threatening farmland and open space. (Smolski 14) They believe that urbanization creates higher costs on the public.
They believe that people of wealth leave the cities because of the increase of population; they think that urban sprawl is the culprit that causes many problems in the environment. Finally, they think that the government should step in and try to help to put and end to urbanization. However, I do not believe that urbanization is to blame for these problems in society. First, in response to the argument that urban sprawl threatens the quality of life of many individuals, there have been many laws and regulations behind developing land. For example, counties enforce zoning laws that prohibit business and residential land from being intermixed (Brecher 112). Land has also been managed more effectively, not by land use planning either, but by real estate markets.
These markets curb the sprawl unconsciously by creating buyers for the market that best suits them. Take for instance the idea of building a Starbucks in the middle of a farm in Iowa, it probably will never happen. Builders and business owners will only add to sprawl in areas where there is a demand for the product that they are selling. Second, some citizens of the United States fear that urban sprawl is eating up all of the open land and rural areas in our country.
Now, historically the most rapid rate of sprawl happened during the post war years of our country, when federal transportation and mortgage policies gave birth to the nations first car-burbs (Duaney 150). This is a time when loans were easy to get, and the Federal Housing Administration pushed people to buy home in the suburbs. So there has been an increase in population and people flocking from the cities into the suburbs. However, despite the concern that urban sprawl is increasing, urban land remains a very small part of overall land use (Duaney 186). Urban development does not even threaten rural farms, or the nations food supply. So the question is; are public service costs higher because of an increase in suburban growth?
The answer is no. Most of these costs are over exaggerated and are at the fault of the local elected officials. For example, say that there was a projected cost of an improvement in a city; well these costs are just estimates, higher than what the cost really is. All people see is that cost, they never see the bottom line cost of the development years later after it is completed. Even the actual costs of development are recovered through on-site improvements made by developers. Local governments often do make conscious policy decisions not to recover the full costs of the development, thus placing the blame on the voters who elect the public official who decide to let urban sprawling cost them more money, when it did not have to cost as much as it did (Duaney 219).
Fourth, the supporters of anti-sprawl say that the decline of cities is due to an increase in suburban growth. Well, it is. There is no disputing the fact that more and more people are leaving the city for a house in the suburb, creating sprawl. However, is urban sprawling responsible for this change in life style, or is the city itself? The real reasons why people are leaving the cities for the suburbs are because of the higher tax rates that are instilled on city dwellers, the poor school systems that are in the cities, and poor housing stock (Smolski 15). The suburbs are just more attractive nowadays to people that dwell in them.
The cities still have features that attract businesses, people, roadways, culture, diversity, and sometimes, inexpensive housing opportunities. On the other hand, these features still do not matter to the suburbanite. They have access to public transportation, and other ways on how to get to the city when it is necessary, yet they still have all of the comforts of the suburbs and live close enough to reap the benefits of the city (Brecher 163). Then, there is the major concern of many who oppose urban sprawl that urban sprawl is creating more pollution and is harmful to the environment. They say that there are fewer preserved natural resources, and more urban congestion as a direct result of sprawl. They think that a higher population density is the cause for smog.
However, there is little that can be done to help this problem. People will still drive their cars no matter what. Population density does little to alleviate auto-caused smog (Brecher 178). The compactness has little to do with how much pollution is produced. If the urban area is sprawled out it still does not have an effect on how much pollution is produced. Traffic and the environment are hot issues with the individuals opposed to sprawl, but when you give them the options that exist, they refuse to follow through with the anti-sprawl solution.
For example, to alleviate the environmental problem you would have to follow the anti-sprawl solution of not driving a car, or the pro-growth solution of expanding the roadway. The pro-growth solution just makes sense, it makes it easier and faster to get to the destination, thus minimizing the time that you idle in your car on the highways, and minimizing extra pollution that is created. The question is; what do you choose, no car, or more roads and less pollution? Finally, can the government be trusted to pass policy that will help to ease the problem of urban sprawl? For years the government has taken a passive role in trying to alleviate urban sprawl, up until recent years.
During the Clinton years, the government bought up lots of land in order to protect it from urbanization. This one billion dollar plan to preserve the land was sufficient enough to maintain the distinction between urban areas and rural areas. I believe that urbanization will control itself; we do not need any more laws or ordinances to stop urbanization, it is no longer a concern for society. Real estate markets and private conservation efforts do a good job of keeping urbanization in check. Take for instance the laws of supply and demand, urbanization, like supply and demand controls itself. Supply and demand always want to be in a state of equilibrium, the point where both parties involved the suppliers and the demanders are satisfied.
As the population of the United States increases so does the demand for land. In order to be in a state of equilibrium where both parties are happy they supply of land must also be increased. Urbanization is kept in check naturally; it does not need to be controlled by government. (Duaney 241) In conclusion, urbanization and urban sprawl in particular should not be a cause for concern in todays society. Many believe that urbanization is the cause for many harmful things that are going on in todays world, for example pollution, high costs on government, declining city population, poor quality of life, and that it is using up all of the open land that should be used for farming. The truth about urban sprawl is that the government has already done its part to protect the land, and that there is plenty of land to go around. We are a growing nation; we need more land, as our population gets larger.
Urbanization is should no longer be a concern in todays society; we have done everything that we are capable of doing in order to curb urbanization. Words Count: 1, 525. Bibliography: Brecher, Jeremy, and Tim Costello. Global Village or Global Pillage, Economic Reconstruction from the Ground Up. Cambridge, Ma: South End Press, 1998. Duaney, Andres and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck.
Suburban Nation, The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream. New York: North Point Press, 2000. Smolski Chester E. "Confronting urban sprawl with nation's planners. " Providence Business News June 5, 2000 v 15 i 8 p. 13 - 15.
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