The premise of this working paper is that the state of Ohio, through its investments in infrastructure and the operation of many state programs, affects development patterns. These development patterns are clearly changing. Development over the past 30 years in Ohio has become less dense and is spreading out, using more land.

The term that is used in popular and planning literature for this pattern of development is "urban sprawl," which has been officially defined by one state, Florida, as:

". . . urban development or uses which are located in predominantly rural areas, or rural areas interspersed with generally low-intensity or low-density urban uses, and which are characterized by one or more of the following conditions: (a) The premature or poorly planned conversion of rural land to other uses; (b) The creation of areas of urban development or uses which are not functionally related to land uses which predominate the adjacent area; or (c) The creation of areas of urban development or uses which fail to maximize the use of existing public facilities or the use of areas within which public services are currently provided. Urban sprawl is typically manifested in one or more of the following land use or development patterns: Leapfrog or scattered development; ribbon or strip commercial or other development; or large expanses of predominantly low-intensity, low-density, or single-use development."2

Urban sprawl has been criticized in a large body of literature for a variety of costs that it imposes on the public, either directly or indirectly. These include excessive public infrastructure and operating costs (including duplication of infrastructure), increases in vehicle miles traveled, transit system operating losses related to reduced use of transit in areas where sprawl is located, loss of farmland and environmentally sensitive areas, the undermining of the economy of older cities through the loss or reduction of tax-paying capacity, and loss of a sense of community resulting from the new dispersed development patterns. 3

Advocates or apologists for sprawl believe that it is merely an outgrowth of the expression of strongly-held public values that are immutable, regardless of the consequences. The movement outward, with its corresponding consumption of natural resources and heightened public and private costs, represents a desire for enhanced public safety, better public education, and a more secure housing investment.4 An attempt to modify the policies or practices that have yielded this pattern, the argument goes, will defy the public's deeply entrenched preferences and cause unanticipated repercussions in the form of higher housing costs, slower economic mobility, restrained personal mobility, and a loss of an overall standard of living. Others contend that state involvement will come at the expense of local government control, even though local governments draw their authority from the state.

There can, of course, be a fair degree of debate on whether this pattern is good or bad. But as Cleveland State University's Patricia Burgess and Tom Bier have observed, "what is undeniable is that American metropolitan regions continue to expand into once-rural areas while their central cities continue to lose population."5

Still, there seems to be a sea change in public sentiment under way in the manner in which Americans view the development of their states, regions, and communities. As this paper shows, an increasing number of state governmentsand the survey in this paper is only a partial oneare responding to this change and directly confronting the pattern and character of development and the role of the state (as well as local governments) in bringing about that pattern. Governors and state legislatures in these states are listening to constituent concerns about growth and sprawl and are attempting to balance orderly development with the need to protect and preserve key state resources and define and advance state goals.

Each state is different, however, and the political dynamic that brought about a rethinking of state policies in Oregon, Tennessee, and Maryland, for example, may not apply to Ohio. Nonetheless, much can be learned from the experience of other states and this paper's intent is to explore some of these approaches to see which ones might best fit Ohio. The paper resists broadside attacks on state agency practices and programs and blanket condemnation of state officials as insensitive Philistines. It is easy to criticize, particularly from afar, but much harder to bring about constructive change.

The approach advocated here is a systematic and gradual one in which change would come about, not by one or two sweeping big ideas or silver bullets, but through a thoughtful and considered process of evaluation and careful action. This paper suggests that the governor and General Assembly should begin to look at the sum total of state actions that affect development patterns and ask themselves whether the result is what is really desired and should be continued and, if not, whether there could instead be a better way. The authors of this paper believe there is.



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Smart Growth Working Paper
Part I: Historical background
Part II: Overview of trends
Part III: State agencies' policies
Part IV: Land-use planning models
Part V: Smart growth for Ohio
Next steps

Back to main Smart Growth Agenda

This paper suggests that the governor and General Assembly should begin to look at the sum total of state actions that affect development patterns and ask themselves whether the result is really desired and, if not, whether there could be a better way.



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