Subsidizing real estate speculation takes money away from necessary uses, such as infrastructure maintenance. Worse than that, is the harm it causes in underwriting the direct destruction of the region's assets, such as the 11 historic buildings razed in downtown Pittsburgh to build a suburban department store, an act which helps to undermine the urban character of the city, or the pending demolition of the Greater Pittsburgh Airport in order to put up some tin-shed air cargo warehouses that people in the air cargo business say are not needed. Worst of all is the indirect destruction that is caused as newhly created land consumptive over-capacity drains existing communities of people and investment, a phenomenon which leads traditional communities to their decline while adding congestion, environmental problems and a larger tax burden to communities on the receiving end, not to mention the forced changes in the residents' lifestyles.
Those who have gambled upon their ability to control public policy to the detriment of the people do not deserve a guaranteed profit. They must accept that they have risked and lost. Speculation is just that, speculation!
We must immediately pull the plug on the subsidies that are destroying our communities! TOP /\
Zoning and land use restrictions are not the perfect solution. They reduce the ability of property investors to implement the most effective use of their land. The most dynamic parts of the region's traditional communities were built without zoning. Following an organic trial & error approach, small establishments started, failed, and were replaced; those that worked best continued on. Owners were free to build from one edge of their property to the other, making the buildings and communities that can't be duplicated today.
The model zoning ordinances of the mid-twentieth century outlawed the traditional urban form and established a suburban model that was superimposed upon traditional cities and towns. These ordinances forbade the addition of more urban form and even its replacement with urban form. The buildings of our traditional communities have survived as "exceptions" that are "grandfathered in," and they often require special "variances" to change uses.
Zoning and restrictions such as the growth boundary have been determined by the courts to pass the constitutional muster, and there are instances where they can have some limited beneficial influence. (Zoning is best used to protect an existing community area from changes or an intrusion of uses that would undermine it; preservation of an area's historic character is an excellent example.) However, they are overused and should be religated to a minor role in the effort to reverse suburban sprawl. TOP /\
One restriction gaining popularity as the ultimate in sprawl control is the growth boundary. First implemented in Portland, Oregon, the growth boundary is a line drawn around a metropolitan area, beyond which no suburban uses are permitted (except that in Portland a five acre zoning was "grandfathered" in a few places outside the growth boundary and is now used in those areas for what Portlanders call "McMansions"). The growth boundary does effectively contain sprawl and keep it from moving outward as it would normally do, however, within it, the outmigration and land consumption of un-utilized areas continues.
There are similarities between the growth boundary concept and municipal zoning. Compared to the pinball effect of municipal zoning, the growth boundary is more like the bumper on a billiard table, bouncing land consumptive uses inward until they find some place within. While the growth boundary does contain suburban sprawl, as with zoning it does little to slow or control the land consumptive uses within, and it does nothing to stop or reverse the continuing proliferation of automotive based suburbs.
Despite this, contrary to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports of dissention in Portland over the growth boundary, Portlanders are insistent that the growth boundary remain as is. A few years ago, the regional planning agency in the metro Portland area found itself faced with a burgeoning population that was growing faster than had been anticipated when the growth boundary was first drawn. The agency proposed extending the boundary farther out in order to make way for more people as the area's population grows, and the matter was placed on the ballot. Furious voters overwhelmingly defeated it. — They wanted their growth boundary, and they wanted it to stay just the way it is! It is now considered a settled issue among most Portlanders.
The Portland metropolitan area has chiefly relied upon the planning process and its instruments of zoning and design restrictions, upsetting some real estate speculators. They are struggling against the same land consumptive pressures that plague the rest of the country and they have not succeeded in achieving much more than containment using the growth boundary.
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