Methods of Combating the Negative Impacts of Sprawl

Combating Sprawl with Smart Growth

The problems of sprawl can be countered by the collective actions of homebuyers and renters, businesses and developers, and policymakers.  To make these changes more effective, it helps to draw on an overarching framework that gives clear direction and objectives. Smart Growth is the most common framework designed to combat sprawl.

Smart Growth reverses sprawl, either directly or indirectly, by providing an alternative model of development that aims to exchange these common realities:

  • Poorly connected street and highways networks that leave no alternative to driving
  • A strict separation of large and poorly accessible residential and commercial areas
  • Development pressure concentrated on the urban fringe and rural areas

for these alternatives…

  • Walkable neighborhoods with multiple transportation choices
  • Mixed, compatibly scaled uses that create vitality and diversity in neighborhoods
  • Centrally focused development that reduces pressure on natural resources and open space while using existing infrastructure more efficiently.

In order to realize the benefits of Smart Growth, there are direct actions that homebuyers and renters, businesses and developers, and local, regional, and state government officials can take, including:

Smart Growth Choices for Residents

  • Make deliberate choices about where to live –
    • Choose neighborhoods where it is feasible to walk, bike or take transit between work, home, and shopping
    • When considering the cost of housing, also think carefully about the costs of transportation from each location
    • Choose lots with smaller yards at locations near public parks and gardens
  • Support spending for the improvement and maintenance of schools, roads and other infrastructure to strengthen existing communities first
  • Support downtown businesses, smart growth developers, and anti-sprawl policymakers when making decisions about where to shop, where to live, and how to vote

Smart Growth Choices for Businesses and Developers

  • Work with local governments to find less expensive and alternative ways to redevelop real estate with mixed uses in central  locations served by existing infrastructure
  • Market to the growing demand for central residential locations using a variety of infill and redevelopment options (multi-family houses, adjoining buildings, condominiums, in-city apartments, pocket neighborhoods) in order to attract families and individuals who are looking for accessible amenities and a sense of community

Smart Growth Choices for Local, Regional, and State Governments

  • Coordinate growth and development policies regionally and across municipal boundaries
  • Based on strong public participation, adopt or update comprehensive plans to reflect Smart Growth principles
  • Use comprehensive planning to clarify for all what kinds of development are desired where, and then change laws and procedures to facilitate the desired development
  • Change zoning laws to encourage and make legal desirable mixed use development and redevelopment in areas prioritized by comprehensive plans
  • Adopt tax  and other incentives for infill and redevelopment paired with protections that minimize incentives to convert open space and  farmland
  • Prioritize public spending, especially but not only for infrastructure,  to align with Smart Growth principles
  • Enact and adhere to Smart Growth policies at the state level.