Land Use

What's Worse Than Economic Disaster? Growth, I.E., "Sprawl"


Boasting higher than average unemployment and declining jobs and population, Ohio is a hard-luck state, with a fistful of cities (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron, Youngstown, et al.) that are either fully in the crapper or about to become then next municipal T-D-Bol Man. In all of this, it exemplifies the plight of the industrial Midwest. You'll find the same issues in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana.

So what's worse than economic stagnation or outright collapse? Well, any signs of development, of course, especially if it comes at the expense of those mythical small family farms. From USA Today:

From 2002 to 2007, the number of farms in Warren County [near Cincinnati] fell 14 percent from 1,036 to 896, one of the sharpest declines in the state. Before the recession hit, Hamilton Township saw an average of 600 new homes built each year from 2002 to 2006.

"It's hard for a community of our size to manage," Boeres said.

In nearby Turtlecreek Township, once a heavily rural area east of the small city of Lebanon, an entire new village called San Mar Gale is being planned.

"I used to ride my bicycle to town and never pass a single car," said township Trustee Dan Jones, who grew up in the area. "That's certainly changed. But I think we are managing it well."

Some small and medium-sized farms don't generate enough to serve as a family's primary income, putting pressure on farmers to sell land.

"Many leave farming to get a job," said Christy Montoya, an organizational director with the Ohio Farm Bureau. "Livestock-based and grain farms have taken a major hit."

Various lawsuits and zoning schemes to make it more difficult to develop land ensue: Hamilton Township has, for instance, "imposed an impact fee on new development that led to a bitter and unresolved court challenge from home builders. Government officials also have changed a zoning code to limit the density of homes in rural areas."

Whole article here.

Ohio is currently the 9th most densely populated state. Whole list here.

Reason on sprawl and land use here.


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  1. But would urban sprawl even exist without feeding off of the eminent domain arteries we call highways and interstates?

  2. Of course sprawl is bad. This is what you get for ignoring Al Gore.

  3. V&C,

    Yes (but not as much).


  4. This sort of thing really irritates me. What if the “small family farms” don’t want to just barely make it farming when they can sell their land for over a million dollars an acre? WTF? And guess what! If they “have to sell their land” because the farming doesn’t generate enough income for a family, maybe we’re producing too much food? Maybe too many people are farming?

    From what’s left of farming, very few small farm households have that as their only source of income. They either have retirement income or their spouse works full time somewhere, or they run a business out of their home. But fuck you for trying to keep these people tied to their land to play the role in society you think they should play instead of doing what they want and improving their lot in life.

  5. Whether the highway or the development came first is often a chicken/egg question but V&C raises a good point.

    There are a host of subsidies, some indirect, like flood insurance, that distort development patterns and cause people to build in inappropiate places or ways.

    I have nothing against filling wetlands or building on barrier islands per se, but I often look and wonder if these things would be being done absent government funded civil works and even direct subsidies (“pro-growth’ local governments can get talked into an awful lot of boondoggles).

    But on balance I tend to see development and growth as good things.

  6. But the kind and caring representatives of THE PEOPLE know when growth is good and when it is bad.

  7. Thank you, Isaac.

    Think New Orleans.

  8. The other elephant that needs mentioning, is the rent seeking nature of ag business. The various subsidies and supports left over from the New Deal (nearly killed off, but resurrected by the W administration), make farming profitable only to the largest/wealthiest corporate farms that can hire the best lobbyists.

  9. Isaac,

    People have been building on barrier islands forever. Well before subsidies. Of course, they built things that were cheap to rebuild after hurricane season. 🙂

  10. economist

    Think also all of the towns buying up (with ED) existing housing and businesses to replace them with more upscale units in the hope of generating more tax revenue.

  11. Ohio isn’t a hard-luck state, Nick. It’s a state that acts simultaneously like a Northeastern state in terms of regulation and taxes (went from the 5th lowest taxes [45th] to the 7th highest today) but acts like a bunch of redneck yokels at the ballot box (anti-business and anti-freedom measures like smoking bans, payday lending bans and gay marriage bans).

    It’s the collective fault of all Ohioans that Ohio looks the way it does.

  12. But fuck you for trying to keep these people tied to their land to play the role in society you think they should play instead of doing what they want and improving their lot in life.

    This is feudalism, and I called it…

  13. Yo, fuck Henry David Thoreau.

    [/the unstoppable X-meme.]

    Pastoralism always looks great from the outside. Small scale farming is becoming an expensive hobby for a lot of people; that some people don’t want to spend their lives participating in an expensive hobby is nobody’s fucking business. And the answer is not to monetize hobbies through subsidies.

  14. I’ve always thought the way road money in this country were allocated was bullshit. When you drive through a small town in Virginia and see that they’re building a literal beltway for it you know something’s got to be wrong. I know that as a libertarian I’m uncharacteristically skeptical of doing things for the “public good” (highways help move goods faster! don’t you want goods to be cheaper?!). But when you have a situation like a development occurring in a rural area, like a Wal-mart built on a 2-lane road 5 miles from anything else, even if there’s no doubt that they will eventually generate enough tax revenue to pay for the road, the local citizenry (and state, and federal) are on the hook for expanding the road so that Walmart can buy the cheapest most restriction-free land it can find in the cheapest tax district. I don’t like it.

  15. Those poor farmers; forced by evil predatory developers to accept more money than their land is worth based the stream of income generated by farming. And then, the horrible fate of not being hostage to their “morning chores”.

    I weep for them.

  16. P Brooks –
    next we’re going to see a bailout for farmers who didn’t sell their land during the housing bubble, and now would be forced to accept much much less for it if a developer wanted to buy it.

  17. robc | March 30, 2009, 9:16am

    Road, bridge and seawall construction have tended to accelerate the rate of development on barrier islands far beyond the fisherman’s shacks and occasional rich man’s retreat, though, haven’t they?

    And that’s even before you get to the craziness of flood insurance.

    There would not be anywhere near the level of development in the Florida Keys without the Bridge replacement program in the 80s.

    The original bridges were built as railroad bridges with all private money and in the face of what passed for environmental protests in the day (if Flagler had had his way he would have just filled the channels betwen the islands). The State put road bridge decks on them a few years after the rail line was wiped out by the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.

    Also, all my comments are made with the awareness that agricultural subsies create a host of countervailing but equally perverse incentives.

  18. Now I get it. Sprawl is killing family farms and farmers. Reason readers are all for it.

    Thanks for clearing that up.

  19. oh, and of course, the town of “Lebanon” isn’t pronounced “Leb-A-non” here in the Ohizzle; it’s pronounced “Leb-a-nin”.

    If you see a foreign name in this state, assume it’s pronounced incorrectly. See also:

    Rio (RY-oh, not REE-oh) Grande
    Nevada (Ne-VA-da, not Ne-VAH-da)
    Versailles (pronounce the Ls)

  20. missing fifth par to complete above post

    Until the bridge replacements of the seventies and eighties development progressed at a far more modest pace.

  21. Reinmoose-

    It’s all about fairnesssss! [drink!]

    re: Walmart

    Based on my observation of various small towns in various states, Walmart, at least in the past, has actively carried out a program of building across the road from a K-mart, to capitalize on established traffic patterns.

    This is the closest thing to “predatory” behavior (I think) they do.

  22. P Brooks –
    Your towns still have K-Marts?!

  23. HAHAHA, TofuSushi thinks this was about environmentalism. Please understand the planet will take care of itself and balance itself out, humans dont need to do anything extra, just keep on keepin on.

  24. argh, I am SO tired of this George Carlin shit. That “environmentalism” schtick was stupid…please stop referencing it.

  25. Actually, I don’t have a problem with the concept of impact fees. The builders rake in the profits building houses, but the existing residents get stuck with the tax bills to build new roads, sewers, etc. It seems to me that the builders ought to be paying for the infrastructure required by their activities (or, more correctly, the new residents, but the cost will be passed on to them anyway).

  26. “I used to ride my bicycle to town and not see any cars.”

    Be glad there is new construction of homes, businesses, etc. At least there is some new life. Or would you rather see Ohio sprinkled with dead and dying towns like much of the upper Plains?

  27. “It’s the collective fault of all Ohioans that Ohio looks the way it does.”
    AO, I’m disappointed in you. You know that collective guilt is a logical fallacy.

  28. TAO,
    Don’t for get Lima, pronounced like the bean, and Cadiz, pronounced CA-diz.

  29. “…but acts like a bunch of redneck yokels at the ballot box.”

    We should have given the southern third of the state to Kentucky long ago.

  30. Nevada (Ne-VA-da, not Ne-VAH-da)

    The first how Nevadans say it. As for people from Ohio being provincial yokels who can’t speak, well…at least we’re better than Pennsylvanians.

  31. Citizen Nothing,

    Fuck that shit, you can keep it. We’re still trying to unload the eastern half of the state on West Virgina. East West Virginia has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

  32. AO, I’m disappointed in you. You know that collective guilt is a logical fallacy.

    I know, I know! But it gives me a chance to guilt-trip the hell out of some people for our state’s failures.

    at least we’re better than Pennsylvanians.

    Too true.

  33. well…at least we’re better than Pennsylvanians

    [citation needed]

  34. Ohio made the girl I was in love with in high school really fat.

    Fuck Ohio.

  35. Ohio thinks they have sprawl? Come on down to Houston, let us show you how it’s done.

    Yes, I proudly contributed by buying a new house in a shiny new subdivision that used to be pastoral woods or some shit.

  36. well…at least we’re better than Pennsylvanians

    [citation needed]

    I’m gonna have to agree with Taktix here.

    Why are those from Ohio better than Pennsylvanians?

  37. Yes, I proudly contributed by buying a new house in a shiny new subdivision that used to be pastoral woods or some shit.

    Pastoral woods? In Texas?

  38. Gew worsh up fer supper, Taktix. We’re havin jumbo sammitches n’at.

  39. Pastoral woods?

    Uh, the woods aren’t pasture…

  40. Maybe it was a woods where a bunch of pastors used to have rape parties.

  41. Citizen Nothing | March 30, 2009, 10:30am | #
    Don’t for get [sic]…Cadiz, pronounced CA-diz

    Funny, that’s how the Spanish pronounce it, too. You must be one of them Ohio yokels.

  42. Gew worsh up fer supper, Taktix.

    I did, actually, but I had to remove my six rings before warshing up…

  43. ohhhhh… look who knows so much

  44. that was in response to SugarFree’s 11:09 comment

  45. Go back to your MLT, old man.

  46. Better urban planning would prevent this.

  47. Woods aren’t pastoral? Damn, that what I get for listening to hippies.

  48. The Yinzer language is one of the worst crimes ever to be perpetrated on humanity.

  49. Now I get it. Sprawl is killing family farms and farmers. Reason readers are all for it.

    “Sprawl” (how I hate that word in this context) is making them rich selling out to developers. Why should I be bothered by this? They are voluntarily going out of business, all anti-sprawl regs do is destroy the value of their land. Why is that a good thing?

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