5 | Solutions to Sprawl (Part I)
States and communities are beginning to realize the effects of sprawl, and many are in the early stages of developing and implementing plans to curb it. The city of Portland, Oregon, is one the best examples of efficient land-use planning in the United States. In the late 1970s, Portland's government drew an invisible circle around the city limits, restricting any development beyond that line. Therefore, the city grew up instead of out, retaining both the downtown life inside of the city and the farmlands and open spaces outside of the city. Developers were prompted to use space more efficiently, and rather than leaving abandoned buildings to decay, these buildings are often cleaned up and turned, once again, into housing, office, or commercial spaces. Portland does have its share of growth-related problems, such as high rents and traffic congestion, but it's an excellent example of what a city can do to stem urban sprawl.
Protect farmers and greenfields
Without farmland there would be no food, and without greenfields, our landscape would be a never-ending chain of strip malls, big box stores, and sudivisions connected by pavement. With farmland and other greenfields rapidly disappearing, some organizations and states are beginning to fight for protection. Organizations such as the "1000 Friend" chapters (see More Information) and other grassroot efforts bring together citizens with a variety of backgrounds and interests, such as farmers, environmentalists, ruralists, and urbanists. By forming a coalition, thier concerns about land-use practices are better represented and create a stronger impact on local governments. Some state governments have also created programs to protect open spaces and farmland, such as the Growing Greener and Growing Smarter programs in Pennsylvania. The Growing Greener program will invest more than $650 million in land protection, and provide grants to organizations who have ideas on how to protect Pennsylvania's natural resources, while the Growing Smarter program encourages effective land-use planning while respecting the rights of property owners.
Revitalize your downtown
While many of the large cities around the Great Lakes region are struggling with depressed downtown areas, some cities are discovering ways to make their downtown more desirable. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has been able to clean up some of its brownfields and entice businesses and people back to the city. The mayor, John O. Norquist, is well known for his efforts to promote urban revitalization within Milwaukee by increasing job growth, simplifying zoning laws, lowering city taxes, and creating a safer city in which to live. He also supports deconstructing a partially built highway that would cut right through an old community, and his leadership helped build a river walk along both sides of the Milwaukee River, providing public gathering places and beauty.
Graphics: Michigan Farm; Milwaukee River Walk (photo courtesy of IJC-Milwaukee)
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