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Study: sprawl will cost Jacksonville

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Study: sprawl will cost Jacksonville

"It seems so much simpler to buy farmland at the edge and build a familiar housing subdivision, but in the long run, this is a more costly strategy for everyone," said co-author Robert Burchell, who works at the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University. "If just a modest percentage of this growth were more compact, the savings we reap as a society overall would be huge."


Here's a direct link to the Ruters study webpage...



I haven't read much beyond the overview ... but I like how the study appears to gauge things in more economic, and hopefully capitalistic terms. As opposed to some articles which rant against sprawl for purely subjective reasons only supported by economic externalities.

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As impressed as I am with the TU's running a story on urban sprawl, I am going to play the pessimist here...

Unfortunately, Jacksonville's sprawl is here to stay. The completion of 9A will make it easier for people work in Jacksonville (most likely pretty far south of Downtown) and take their earnings out of the county. If anything, there will be a push to shift the city's center to Deerwood, south along 9A and Southside Blvd. to Phillips (that's Federal Highway for our neighbors to the south ;-).

There will have to be a fundamental shift in our people's thinking and real-estate angents' selling habits. The City Council will have to actually pay attention to a growth plan that migrates incentives to where growth is needed and inhibits further growth where development has run amock.

Joe Public living in Julington Creek Plantation doesn't see himself as part of the problem. All he cares is that his family is far, far away from the human grime that plagues the older parts of Jacksonville. He feels safe and secure and doesn't care that 10,000 acres of oak hammock, swamp, etc.. were completely obliterated to make room for his 3-car garage that his Ford Explosion is too stinkin' big to fit into anyway. He doesn't care about reason or research or that 1/2 of his drive is on municipal roads that, since he doesn't pay Duval County property taxes, he doesn't pay dime one to maintain. As long as he can pay his bills and his immediate circle of influence seems secure, he won't care.

Many of the median-income and greater jobs in Jacksonville have already shifted south to follow Joe Public out of town, thus perpetuating our apparently linear cycle of sprawl. I'm in the position of someone who lives in the urban core but works where the jobs have moved. Where I sit, my father and I used to drive on rolling dunes (that were left as a result of a strip-mining operation). My wife teaches at a Magnet school that used to be in the urban core but is now just down the road from where I work, thanks to the influence and persistence of suburban parents (those underprivileged kids who lived near the old school are happier on the bus than the suburban kids were, anyway...Right?). It would actually be more economical for us to sell our home in Springfield and move to Mandarin or to one of the new subdivisions along 9A, Kernan, Hodges, etc.. Although I would give up my current job for a comparable one Downtown in a heartbeat, the jobs simply are not there any more.

The companies that have invested so heavily in the Southside aren't moving out any time soon. Companies looking at Jacksonville are looking at where their target demographic of employees are living and where the residential and infrastructure development are occurring. None of this is in the core and all of it is too close to other counties. The good ol' boy network's family names have changed and the land their interests are in a different area of town than the old guard's (who's company is Gate Parkway named after and owns a good portion of Blount Island and other Northside properties now under development?). Unless we control the sprawl responsibly and without undue influence from the people who have the money that gets politicians reelected, the sprawl will continue unchecked.

The public at large is uninterested and uninvolved in local politics. They are not going to push for a growth plan that brings development from the fringes and back into the core if they don't see a direct, personal benefit. I'd put money up on a wager that most registered voters in Jacksonville don't even know who their elected city council representatives are. The Civil Rights movement of the '50s and '60s were proof positive of the power the people in this country have if they just use it.

It really is too bad that civic/political involvement is so danged inconvenient in this time where two-earner households are the rule and there's barely enough time to get the family fed, check the kids' homework, and make sure everyone is clean and ready for bed on time. Those who can afford to lobby, do while the rest don't get heard. Unless the public starts to really care, our sprawl is here for a good, long time.

The TU article and the research it is based on are a good educational beginning but won't do enough on its own. Besides, how many people are going to go to the CUPR web site (or even Amazon) and pony up $35 to read the research? This site and its contributors are an excellent resource for those who want education. Luckily, the City Council and Mayor's Office are starting to see the cost that sprawl subtracts from the city's tax revinue. I just don't see the sprawl being reigned in as far as it should be any time soon.

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Springfieldian: I agree with most of what you said. Too many people equate living in a gated community in the suburbs with affluence and safety (which I personally find comical). But, downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods are seeing a massive resurgence not seen since before World War II. The City needs to work harder to encourage companies to relocate to downtown, but we did just have a Fortune 500 company in Fidelity move to the fringes of downtown so not all is moving in the wrong direction. We just all have to work at making downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods a better place and many people will choose to come back here.

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