"Our own state government
is undermining us"

The following is adapted from a position statement issued in 1998 by Ohio's First Suburbs, a group that includes elected officials from the older suburbs in the Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo metropolitan areas.

We are a consortium of Ohio's mature suburbs and older communities who recognize that existing government policies and practices jeopardize our future. New developments on vacant "greenfield" land at the outer edges of our metropolitan regionsoften promoted or supported by our state governmentare powerful magnets draining residents and employers away from Ohio's historic and fully-developed communities. There is not comparable state support for established communities.

We believe that the health of each region in Ohio depends on the health of its urban core. In the long run, a state which maintains its huge investment in existing areas will be stronger economically. From the taxpayers' perspective, it's far cheaper to take care of our heritage and past investments than to abandon older communities and build new. We want all the communities in our statefrom the mature to the newly developingto be prosperous and stable. We want a level playing field, which will require shifting the policies, practices and expenditures of our state government toward greater emphasis on redevelopment. For that reason, we call for the following.

Focus on mature suburbs and older communities

Ohio's mature, developed communities are at risk because of state policies and practices that promote the continuing outmigration of people and businesses from the urban core. In response to farmland loss, Governor Voinovich established the Farmland Preservation Task Force. It is timely to do the same for mature suburbs.

The next governor should appoint a special task force to examine the condition of Ohio's mature suburbs and the factors threatening their well-being; and provide recommendations for ensuring their long-term stability.

Farmland preservation

The Ohio Farmland Preservation Task Force in its report to the governor states: "Preservation of a healthy agricultural economy and urban revitalization are two sides of the same coin. Strategic planning for one must incorporate the dynamics of the other. In order to reverse the costs and consequences of farmland loss and unplanned urban growth, communities must have the tools they need to preserve agricultural areas and reinvest in our older communities."

We agree with that perspective. However, the legislation (H.B. 645) that has been introduced to implement the recommendations of the Task Force fails to address the needs for reinvestment in older communities. H.B. 645 should be recast to include major initiatives to support the maintenance and redevelopment of older communities.

Economic development

Communities that have open, greenfield land for development have a major competitive advantage over fully developed communities that lack such land and need redevelopment. Not only does the state fail to compensate for that disparity, it aggravates it by providing incentives and infrastructure investments to assist new development on greenfield land. As a result, the state should:

  • Create new economic incentives for older suburbs and communities that have the greatest needs for redevelopment.
  • Level the playing field between redevelopment of used land (including "brownfields"), reuse of existing real estate, and development of greenfield land.
  • Count job relocation within the state as job retention, not job "creation."

Transportation

The Ohio Department of Transportation expands highway access to undeveloped land surrounding the state's metropolitan regions. But the resulting development often comes at the expense of older communities, as residents and employers relocate. To promote more balanced patterns of development, the state should:

  • Broaden ODOT's mission to include responsibilities for maintaining roads and bridges in incorporated areas; increase funding to do so.
  • Make operating policies and procedures more flexible so that Ohio's transportation needs can be met with a mix of transportation modes, rather than the present reliance on highways.
  • Distribute motor vehicle fuel taxes according to need and contribution so that urban communities get their fair share.
  • Revise the scoring system for major new capacity projects to make urban redevelopment count as much as new development.
  • Change the state constitution to allow fuel tax revenues to be used flexibly for all transportation purposes, not just roads.

If Ohio is to be a strong competitor in the global economy, it must achieve real growth rather than simply relocating existing businesses and duplicating expensive infrastructure. It's time for leadership across Ohio to encourage thoughtful, coordinated development aimed at sustainable growth.

 

 

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EcoCity Cleveland
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Cuyahoga Bioregion
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