Land Use Policies that have caused and/or contribute to the problem of urban sprawl and rural growth. Studies show that in the long run, sprawling developments are actually financially unsound for cities. Many studies have examined response times in relation to sprawl, distance from service stations, maneuvering through traffic congestion and every study shows that sprawl always == limitation of services, delayed response times, financially strained ESDs.
My semester research project examined the effects of sprawl on a city’s ability to protect its residents and resources. Background: I love living in a more rural vs. urban area; however, I am concerned that my town, and the areas surrounding, are under protected. I started asking how the local volunteer fire department, with a paid staff of 2, and an informally trained volunteer pool, would be able to properly respond to fire and medical calls. My concerns were met with deer in headlights from my neighbors who had no idea that they were under protected. There is a prominent public safety department building that everyone in the city drives by regularly and its bays include fire trucks, rescue vehicles, boats, etc. As they learned that there were only 2 paid guys, and a team of volunteers who may or may not respond to the calls, they were completely unaware that the city ran a volunteer fire department. They assumed their homes and property were well protected. I talked to other local paid fire men/women and found that they shared the same concern: underfunded, understaffed, poorly trained volunteers, and too much growth to be able to keep up with. When I would ask how one would go about getting increased public awareness/funding for these problems, the answers were disappointing. “That’s how it’s always been. It’ll never change. It’ll never get better. The city will always be underprotected.” I wondered if this was true for all rural areas experiencing heavy growth. And I wondered what happened to the residents/property/city when these issues were left unaddressed? And I wondered what happened to cities that properly forecasted and actively protected 100% of their communities. How did they do it? What are the actual options? I’ve not completely finished the last part of the research, although the programs and resources I’ve found for rural volunteer run fire departments have left me hopeful that over the next twenty to thirty years, even the most rural fire departments can have access to the same training that even some of the most advanced and fully funded departments. (Like how about a program that trains volunteer firemen/women as Fire I, Fire II, and EMS Certification? For free? Or how about a resource available that sends young men and women to fire school, for free! There are some awesome programs being executed in small fire departments across the country!) However, since that part of the research is still unfinished, for this presentation I will share with you what I’ve learned when I purposed to academically examine the root cause of underprotected cities → Land use policies that we have written, approved, and executed, which have contributed to exponential development into rural communities and the impact of this sprawl on the local, regional, state, and federal emergency service departments/agencies. Since this is a huge topic, in this research project I’ve chosen to narrow the focus of the research to specific public policies that have had the biggest impact on emergency service departments, individual residents, and communities as a whole. First, we'll take a peek at some of the public policies that have caused and/or contribute to the problem. Next we'll review specific problems ESDs face that are specifically related to sprawl, and how those hurdles are deeply impacting American lives every day. Then we'll cover some policy solutions that can - and do - correct the problems with sprawl. And finally - we'll review key takeaways from the discussion. In short, a serious effect of sprawl is unsafe communities and fiscally unsound ESD's - but there are proven solutions available to help communities circumvent the risks.
Land Use Policies that have caused and/or contribute to the problem of urban sprawl and rural growth Multi/Mixed Use & Infill Development Restrictions Eliminate Close-In Affordable Housing Multi-Use Development Mixed-Use Development Infill development restrictions push growth, development, and population to the periphery. Tax Policies incentivize consumption of single-family homes Date back to the Housing Act of 1949 Three key pieces Provided money to subsidize below-market price forland cleared for urban renewal (eradicate the slum homes in the city) Money given for land assembly and clearance (track homes) Agencies supposed to provide housing to displaced citizens Taken as a whole Act created “urban renewal” Urban renewal= “a federally subsidized program of slum clearance and urban redevelopment established through the Housing Acts of 1949 and 1954” Gotham p. 269 Continual expansion of low-density (greenfill) development As more residential and commercial development moves into previously undeveloped rural/wildland areas (green-fill areas) cities are burdened with the responsibility of responding to emergency situations and/or natural disasters. Area of service becomes too wide to be effectively managed. Cities cannot develop emergency services departments as fast as developers can add in residential neighborhoods. As city services are pulled to the periphery, the inner city (which is more dense) can be left under-protected. 1 call to the periphery causes the loss of 2 calls in the inner city = revenue loss for already underfunded departments. Development into Known Hazardous Areas Areas that were already considered “hazardous development zones” (more at risk for major loss of life/property via natural disasters) are now housing residential neighborhoods/commercial strip centers which are underprotected by strapped ESDs. Sprawl originates from these policies Urban sprawl definition: “used loosely to refer to low-density residential development at the periphery of urban areas” p. 292 Numerous problems associated with this development pattern At the core, sprawl entails land area growing much faster than population growth Example: St Louis grew by 35% from 1950 to 1995 but land area grew by 355% Sprawl impacts a city’s ability to respond to emergency situations in an effective manner. To: First responders time to a scene From: Efficient evacuation of community out of rural area during natural disasters (hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, floods, etc)
Increased Hazard of Understaffed/Underfunded Emergency Service Departments As more residential & commercial development moves into greenfields (thank you tax policies that incentivize/subsidize this development) ESDs are burdened with a service area and population that far exceeds their resources and capacity. In fast paced growth areas ESDs struggle to keep up with population growth and boundary expansion.
Homeowners today purchase in the periphery because it's where they can get the biggest home for the least amount of money.
They do not usually consider the how close they are to a hospital or fire/ems/police station when purchasing a home - ESD services are expected. They never consider how underprotected they will be. Studies show that in the long run, sprawling developments are actually financially unsound for cities. Many studies have examined response times in relation to sprawl, distance from service stations, maneuvering through traffic congestion and every study shows that sprawl always == limitation of services, delayed response times, financially strained ESDs.
Quick response times often mean the difference between life and death. The impact of sprawl on residents can literally cost them their lives. People who purchase cheap homes in the periphery are taking on MORE risks than their peers who are closer in to the city.
Policy created these problems and it has been proven that policy can correct these problems. Development planning with a focus on sustainable growth best practices have positive outcomes for supporting ESDs and providing adequate level of protection for the community. Image: available lots in downtown Austin for infill development. Infill could be affordable housing. New report shows affordable housing has NO negative impact other property in its relative comp area - IOW - does NOT reduce value of other real estate in the vicinity. (Has been a concern for developers, home owners, and planners for a long time.)
Policy Solutions for Sustainable Growth that Support ESDs and meet the goals: negate hazardous development in periphery, appropriate funding for population growth, improve overall performance and preparedness for ESDs which positively impacts all of community.
Provides Density to Support Growth Land Use: (City of Waco 2040 Plan) Greenfields: Require cluster development Infill: Support multi-use/affordable housing types Outlaw sprawl Development: (City of Temple Current Planning Goals) Downtown Revitalization Gentrification Planning: (Seattle is doing this with great success) Transportation Relieve auto dependency There is a direct correlation showing how auto dependency negatively impacts community increased fatalities increased response times more deaths Power of Nearness clustered development supports non-auto dependence and density to support “nearness amenities like bodegas: multi use buildings with a grocery store on floor and apts/condos on top etc Belton is currently building 1. Belton struggles to support the growth in the community due to low property tax revenue per capita (due to UMHB and too many churches which do not pay property taxes to county/city) Belton/Temple/CT which is the epitome of sprawl should begin to force density w/in the city interior to improve safety City Services: There is a direct correlation between low-density development and increase of city expenses. Restrict city services to a defined boundary & make sure new development understands they are at a higher risk for ESD protection. Require sprawl to provide their own residential/emergency services. Require new developments to provide a specific density level Impact Fees: (City of Leander) Charge developers Impact Fees Charge residents Impact Fees If residents/developers want to live on periphery - shift the financial burden to those specific home owners & developers. Leander is doing this and it’s exactly why they have the most progressive fire department in the state of Texas. Examples: 2011 Bastrop Fire -- no impact fees then or now: Square Miles: 9.1 sq mi, Population: 7,218 Density: 801/sq mi (309.3/km2) 14% population change over 2000-2011 34,000 acres in Bastrop County. 1,660 homes lost - thousands more damaged 2 people killed, 12 injured Total est. loss: $400MM 2011 Leander Fire -- impact fees for all since 2007 - primary source of funding for Fire Dept: Sq Miles: 7.49 mi², Population: 26,521 residents Density: 1,016.2/sq mi (392.4/km2) 250% growth over a 2000-2011 330 acres and forced approximately 35 total homes destroyed/damaged. 0 lives lost, 2 injured (one was firefighter) Total Est Loss: $2MM Legislation: State and Fed requiring and supporting sustainable growth for density by incentivizing density clustered development Infill Walkability public transportation Go Green Rebates, etc.
Key take away message for audience. Sprawl impacts communities in many ways. One such impact = fire/ems/police Serious Negative Impacts that cannot be completely calculated ie: loss of life. (Someone did attempt and the study showed that for every life lost because of delayed fire/ems response times = estimated societal and economical loss was over $2Mil.) One way to address this is to limit sprawl so as to bolster efficient fire/ems/police presence Policies that can help address this issue can be passed at the local level (city planning, development codes, policies that limit services for sprawled developments, etc.) Best practices for addressing the problem Limitations on green-fill development Clustered in-fill development to provide density needed to be able to support additional fire/ems/police for residential growth Focus on downtown revitalization and economic development via gentrification of neighborhoods to help draw residents towards the inner city which = more efficient EMS/Fire/Police services. Local/Smaller Cities ARE adopting these policies now & are seeing positive outcomes from the effort. Waco Leander at the county level (land use/zones) at the state level (directives for growth that focus on sustainable/fiscally responsible growth)
(un)Safe &(un)Sound: How Sprawl Impacts City Emergency Services and What We Can Do About It.
April 21, 2017 | Sarah Pressler | POSI 4379 CPM Track 7
Public Policies Create
Sprawl Has Serious
Public Policies Can
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