Term Paper: Land Use Planning Policies

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[. . .] Effectiveness of plans

Kaiser and Godschalk's literature also reveal planning policies are ineffective. The land use patterns mapped in community administrative departments often set out plans without any specific land use or implementation strategy. Kaiser and Godschalk call these verbal policy plans, designed for non-physical development policy. At the initial stages these plans were found important for foundation policy. However, they give the false impression of concreteness. They were found to be functionary for paper processing purposes. "The Calvert County, MD Comprehensive Plan (Calvert County 1983), winner of a 1985 APA award, exemplifies the verbal policy plan. Its policies are concise, easy to grasp, and grouped in sections corresponding to the six divisions of county government responsible for implementation. It remains a policy plan, however, because it does not specify a program of specific actions for development management. Though the plan clearly addresses physical development and discusses specific spatial areas, it contains no land use map." [Kaiser and Godschalk, 1995].

Subsidies

Urban development requires extensive funding. New areas especially require financial backing for new roads, water, sewer lines, schools and emergency services etc. Whenever a new community develops it subsidize development funding from new businesses and industries. In Texas for instance officials and citizens debate a proposal of $17 billion on water related issue. The development plan consists of a project near the state's population. The debate is whether the infrastructure will provide the community with better living or not ["Stop Sprawl," 2002]. To connect with the community would mean connecting with the industries. Members fear they will be subsidizing industrial growth instead of urban. If they extend the roads to the communities, they would generate sprawl living on the freeway. Thus, depending on the kind of subsidies the local community subscribes to, the nature of investment determine sprawl development.

A study by Sierra Club's fact sheet reported "In addition to infrastructure investments, cities, states and communities across America spend billions of dollars to attract corporations to their areas. These relocations are often a contributor to sprawl." Since these corporations control the government, contributing to the nation's economy there is little the authority can do to control them. As Greg LeRoy of the Good Jobs First program at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) showed a study of a suburb in Minneapolis-St. Paul area found 26 out of 29 companies relocated because of the free land subsidies. They were also responsible for 1200 jobs. A shift of this nature obviously shifts the concentration of economic activities away from the city centers ["Stop Sprawl," 2002].

When companies relocate they automatically cut down the cost of building and maintenance. Transportation and other utilities for companies become the government's priority instead of the people. Hence, the concentration of the cost structure shifts to the suburbs instead to the urban areas. The higher the density of sprawl the higher the cost for infrastructure for the government. In the end the structural cost of maintenance of these suburbs absorb budget allowance for the infrastructure of the urban areas [Gordon and Richardson, 1997].

There are several factors responsible for encouraging subsidies. First of all corporations are the main providers of economic activities. The sizeable subsidies, the more the community benefit. For instance "One hundred and twenty-three deals approved at a cost of more than $35,000 per job...[and] Thirty-eight deals approved at $100,000 or more per job." [LeRoy and Slocum, 1999]. For this reason they are encouraged to remain in the jurisdiction yet reap the advantage of cheap land use. When corporations have to pay high tax they in turn have to minimize their overhead expenses. Minnesota jurisdictions for instance receive exchange jobs. But these are paid at minimal wage of 20% below the market rate. Hence, not only corporate subsidies increase sprawl through land use relocation but also through poor wage.

Special interests

Special interest groups deter from policy application. Developers blame governmental zoning, subdivision ordinances, building codes and permit procedure hinder them from constructing affordable housing. Suburbs on the other hand have few of these mandates. People are willing to commute long distances by car instead of paying high taxes for expensive housing.

Property taxes

Property taxes is a uniquely designed policy to regulate cost of local infrastructures. Infrastructures in urban areas depend on property tax for its maintenance and administration. Local bodies govern the rate of these taxes according to the services provided by the government. Property taxes are subjected to local votes for approval.

According to Joseph L. Bast property taxes have not proved effective because they are quite flexible according to the needs of the local businesses. "Changes to property tax rates typically require voter approval, making them more flexible than sales or income taxes. Competition for businesses and new residents from neighboring communities prevents a community from setting its fees or tax rates too high." When the rate of taxes is lowered it lowers the rate of development and hence lesser opportunity for setting urban social services funds for projects relating to new developments. The government mandate "reasonable connection" between the fees of the cost of public facilities and services and compensation for developers. But the reality is that local communities usually outgrow the rate of development. Any new growth is dependent on external financial sources like businesses and community members themselves [Bast, 1998].

Urban Shift

Traditional urbanism indicates that businesses usually locate near the consumers, where the workers live and where the cost of production is less. Skeptics like Peter Gordon [1998] indicate that this old model has become obsolete because the new wave of workers choose to be at a different location. Firms have to follow where the core consumers live. As the site of urban consumers shift outside city limits, businesses are also forced to follow thus. As Gordon says "they go where the workers want to live. The orientation has flip-flopped. Even manufacturing businesses are no longer locked into specific sites, so they have more locational choices. They want to go where the labor force wants to go. The workers and their families want to live where the land is cheap and the air is clean and the schools are good and there are high amenities and so forth."[qtd. From Moore, 1998].

The blame cannot solely rest on the authority or the businesses. Consumers are, too, responsible for changing the commuting scenario. As long as they can afford travel expenses, and gain better living quarters, consumers are willing to risk living outside the limits of cities. Gordon [qtd. From Moore, 1998] estimate "20% of all trips by automobile are for work, 20% are for shopping, and 60% are for things I would call social." Consumers have as much say in determining sprawl expansion as the businesses that lure them away from urban centers. Thus, the "New Urbanism is heavy on intervention, and it's tied into the "civil society," or communitarian, discussion. It dances around defining whether there's a problem with the way we live and says, "There's a problem -- automobile use -- and we have a solution." [Moore, 1998].

Farmland preservation policy

The argument that farmland are important for the development of a country have generated thousands of acres of reserved farmland. Farmland preservation policies are assessed and determined by the value of the cropland. The more fertile a region is the more subsidies it gets from the government. Not only does the government "pay" extra to preserve the land but it goes to great length to provide amenities for the land. For instance in Illinois farmland taxes are subsidized. Assessment value also changes when the Federal government evaluate farmlands. In 1996 farmland in McHenry County was assessed at an average value of $162.22 per acre, using the productivity index. The total equalized assessed valuation for farmland in the county was $43,768,500, while the total value of farms, including improvements was $171,773,069. This was only 3.83% of the total assessed valuation of the county." [Paulson, 1997].

When such land assessment procedure differ from urban assessment then tax amount is restricted to consumers and businesses only. The law states: "No agency may commit State funds for land acquisition or construction unless it is provided for in an exception contained in that agency's working agreements or until the study of agricultural impacts has been completed by the Department of Agriculture." [Paulson, 1997]. With this mandate, the law has little option to control the spread of farm living by consumers. Lured by the low rate of taxes and benefiting the same kind of amenities as they would in a city, people are shifting to the outskirt of the cities, hence increasing sprawl.

Government influence

The federal government do influence the extent of urban sprawl. Specific programs, taxation policies and regulations pertaining to city limits, all influence containment of urban sprawl. Studies conducted indicated that the Federal government can utilize the combination of policies and programs to influence market forces and local land… [END OF PREVIEW]

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