Lands at risk

Lands at risk of development in Northeast Ohio before 2020

What: The map depicts areas already urbanized (according to U.S. Census Bureau criteria), suburban and rural areas that are developed at low densities, and areas that today are still largely rural, but are likely to become low-density suburbs by 2020.

Why: To see where our current policies and investment patterns are taking us. Understanding where low-density growth is likely to occur during the next 21 years is important as a wake-up call not only for urban and suburban residents whose communities are threatened with continued disinvestment, but for rural residents too who stand to see the rural character and natural resources of their communities diminished or destroyed.

How: Using population projections, proposals for extensions of sewer lines, zoning information, and planned and proposed highway capacity additions for the period 1999 to 2020, EcoCity Cleveland identified areas where development is not only possible, but likely to occur.

The transition
from rural to developed

Do you ever get the feeling that whenever you drive out to the country the country is no longer there? Instead, you see the farms and open space being gobbled up in huge chunks of low-density subdivisions and commercial strips.

Many of these areas are not included in the official definition of the region's "urbanized areas" because they fall below the Census Bureau's threshold of 1,000 people per square mile. But these areas look and feel developed, and they create many of the same environmental problems, traffic congestion, and service demands as more densely populated areas.

So, for our lands at risk of development map we chose a lower threshold of 250 people per square mile (roughly the number of residents in an area with homes on five-acre lots). We projected what parts of the region would exceed this threshold by 2020 (or meet one of several other criteria related to the construction of sewers or highway interchanges). And we found it was a huge amount of land—874 square miles, or about 30 percent of the region. Of that, about one third is already over the 250-person density threshold.

Thus, our region's developed area is set to balloon outward in the next 20 years. It's going to be a dramatic change. Given the magnitude of the impacts, we would be wise to ask about the long-term costs and the possible alternatives.



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EcoCity Cleveland
3500 Lorain Avenue, Suite 301, Cleveland OH 44113
Cuyahoga Bioregion
(216) 961-5020
Copyright 2002-2003

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Regional trends

Shifting wealth
Zoned for development
Transportation spending
Lands at risk




Legend for lands at risk of development map






Lands at risk map analysis conducted and map prepared by EcoCity Cleveland, with technical assistance from the Northern Ohio Data and Information Service (NODIS), 1999

Data sources:

  1. Cleveland Metroparks Open Space Inventory, from Ohio Capabilities Analysis Program (OCAP), ODNR;
  2. U.S. Census Bureau TIGER files;
  3. U.S Census Bureau Population Statistics;
  4. Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA);
  5. Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study (AMATS);
  6. Northern Ohio Data and Information Service (NODIS);
  7. Portage County Regional Planning Commission


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