City Planning Information: Urban Growth Boundaries And Sprawl

Explores using a boundary, and how this plan tool is used to control urban sprawling and uncontrollable growing in large cities.

The world has evolved rapidly in the past fifty years. There has been an enormous development of technology and globalization is a household word. This tremendous surge in technological advancement is accompanied by a host of economic and social problems ranging from overpopulation to pollution to the threat of nuclear war. Therefore, we must step up to the plate and combat these social and economic woes so that future generations can continue to reap the benefits of human technological evolution. This type of planning and attitude is evident in Oregon and many other areas of the world. More and more cities have adopted urban growth boundaries (UGBs) to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy and appreciate the land surrounding them.

UGBs are planning tools used by states and cities to forecast where a city expects to grow. The boundaries mark the separation between rural and urbanized land. They are intended to promote the efficient use of urban land, improve the efficiency of public facilities and services, and preserve prime farm and forest lands outside the boundaries. The program has been extremely useful and the benefits are visible and tangible.

Below is a short list of some of the benefits of UGBs.

1. UGBs allow citizens to affirm their community's identity.

2. They save taxpayers thousands of dollars by using land more efficiently.

3. Housing becomes more affordable

4. Diversity in the community is encouraged.

Drawing UGBs is a joint effort. The city that will be surrounded by the boundaries plays a key role. The adjoining county also plays a vital part because it is jointly responsible for planning and zoning the area outside of the city limits. Citizens of the area play the most important role. Since they are the ones who have to live with the decision for years to come, it is essential that they participate in all phases of the project. They must lend a voice in the amount of land that is needed, the location, and who will manage the growth of the boundaries.

Let's look at the steps that are involved in planning a UGB.

1. The expected growth of the city must be determined. These projections are usually done by using available state and federal information.

2. The next step is determining how much vacant land will be needed to accommodate the % growth the city expects to attain.

3. When the amount of vacant land needed is determined, planners subtract it from the vacant land available in the current city limits. What's left is called urbanizable land.

4. After the amount of land is determined, a decision must be made as to which areas to include within the UGBs. Some areas are more costly to develop than others are.

This urbanizable land isn't immediately used. It may be two, five, or even ten years into the future before the land is fully developed. With this in mind, the land must be actively managed to ensure that haphazard or premature development doesn't take place. The cities and counties usually sign agreement in which both coordinate the planning and zoning of these areas.

Success stories relating to UGBs abound. The best place to view their dramatic effects is in Portland Oregon. This major city established UGBs in the late 1970s, protecting huge amount of agricultural and forest land. They have helped revitalize the downtown area. Housing has increased and pollution has decreased. The state of Washington, Boulder, Colorado, and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, has implemented similar programs. Internationally, London, Copenhagen, Vancouver, and other cities have been reaping the rewards of UGBs for years.

There is nothing more beautiful than watching a sunrise, taking a scroll along a wooded path, or hiking through the countryside. These little treasures are sometimes taken for granted, but UGBs will ensure that our children and their children will get a chance to experience them, too.

© High Speed Ventures 2011