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Questions

Doesn't limiting sprawl limit people's choices?

No. Limiting sprawl creates more choices. Studies show that Americans want nice neighborhoods and clean communities where, for example, they have the choice to walk or bike to work, markets, shops, entertainment and schools. Sprawling development divides residential areas from the places we work, shop and play. Smart growth offers greater choice for homebuyers and renters by making communities more livable. Smart growth offers citizens a greater range of transportation choices, so we can get around by walking, biking, riding the train or driving. Smart growth also helps protect cherished open spaces from development.

Won't new roads relieve some of the sprawl problems, like traffic congestion?

No. Building new roads to deal with congestion is like buying a bigger pair of pants to deal with a weight problem. New roads may ease congestion for a short while, but they also attract more cars and lead to more sprawling development and more traffic when everyone tries to get to places far from home. Highways are also the number one cause of sprawl, according to a recent study by the American Farmland Trust.

America is huge! How could we be running out of land?

What we're running out of is our most important and productive land. Most of the land that is being paved to build scattered residential or business developments is prime farm land. Developers destroy almost 50 acres of productive farm land each hour. More than 100,000 acres of wetlands that prevent flooding, help purify our drinking water and provide habitat for many plants and animals are being drained and developed each year.

Isn't being against sprawl being against growth?

No. The Sierra Club thinks that growth should be directed to existing communities and build on investments taxpayers have already made in existing infrastructure such as schools and roads, and services such as police and fire.

Don't growth boundaries and other limits on development violate private-property rights?

Not for most of us. We all live by certain rules governing our property, like zoning laws. Many of us have property values at stake. Relatively few people profit from sprawling development while many may see taxes rise and property values fall as a result of sprawl.

Also, private interests must be balanced against public interests like preserving our precious natural resources and reducing pollution.

Don't urban-growth boundaries drive up housing costs, reducing the amount of affordable housing?

No. Well-planned development can lower the price of a new home by more than $10,000, according to a recent study of 18 communities in Michigan, conducted for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

Opponents of urban-growth boundaries often bring up the "soaring" housing costs in Portland, Ore. Its population has grown by almost 50 percent since its growth boundary was established in 1975, yet only 2 percent more land has been consumed. However, this has not created an unusually high gap between the affordable housing supply and demand, relative to other cities. Similar-sized cities like Denver, Seattle and San Francisco, which have no growth boundaries, have equal or higher housing prices than Portland. The sad reality is that an adequate supply of affordable housing is a problem in many U.S. cities. Smart-growth policies can help address that problem. -- Adapted from a Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse list of "Myths and Facts" by Jennifer Tlumak and Deron Lovaas, Sierra Club


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