The state's role
in land use reform
The State of Ohio plays a major role in determining where development occurs. It builds roads and other infrastructure, gives tax breaks and grants, ignores the need for regional land use planning, and generally promotes sprawl at the expense of the cities.
How should the state change? Here are five principles to stress at the state level, with an emphasis on transportation investments:
- We need development, not growth. We need to develop and improve Ohio in many ways, but we should not do so by constantly expanding the geographic spread of highways and other infrastructure. We should become better and more efficient, not bigger.
- Place matters. State transportation investments should support development, but it matters where that development occurs. All land in Ohio is not equal. The present goal of state transportation policies, however, is to open up every acre of the state to development.
- Rural land could (should?) remain rural. Rural land should not be seen as an empty place "needing" development. In most cases, rural areas serve many vital functionsagricultural, ecological, recreationalwhich should be preserved and enhanced. We should focus large-scale development in existing urban areas. With our stable population, there's no reason to keep tearing up the countryside.
- Job migration is not job creation. Too often, the state promotes the migration of jobs from the cities to the suburbs and then counts these as "new" jobs created. This is the tragic result of most Enterprise Zones in Ohio. State development officials need to change how they measure success, so they are not rewarded for moving employment away from urban areas where jobs are needed most. It is ludicrous, for example, to invest state gas taxes in access roads for new industrial parks in Streetsboro. This just wastes tax money on a zero-sum game.
- Think long term. In many cases, it may be more challenging to redevelop existing urban areas than to develop greenfields, but we need to accept that challenge and work for the long-term future of our cities. The future of Ohio depends on the future of its cities, and successful, livable and sustainable cities of the 21st century will be compact, not sprawling. Sprawl creates short-term economic gain for a few speculators while imposing long-term costs on the rest of society.
In general, state policy needs a drastic overhaul so that it stops promoting destructive sprawl.
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