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Greenville

Sprawl

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When I hear people mention Greenville, especially our "friends" from Asheville, all I hear about is the evil SPRAWL we have. I hope to get some dialogue going about what exactly sprawl is, and why it is perceived as being so bad.

I have heard people say that our sprawl is almost as bad as Atlanta's. The Atlanta metro area consists of 20+ counties, while ours is 3 or 4 I think. I understand that we have a lot of stuff going on around Woodruff, but what defines it (and our growth in general) as sprawl?

I tend to look at the many things being added to Greenville as positive. The city is growing. People and businesses want to be here. Why is that a bad thing? I understand that perhaps people disagree with where and how these new additions occur, but I think the fact that people want to be here is a good thing. A lot of cities would love to have the interest in their cities that others have in Greenville.

I am all for smart growth, but would much rather have "sprawl" than little to no growth at all. Thoughts?

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Agreed but why should Greenville end up with more Congaree Roads, Laurens Roads, etc., which is what we'll get if we let more sprawl happen, when growth could be managed so that we have a relatively more attractive and more liveable city? Letting Greenville's core decline in the 1960s-1980s while unattractive sprawl developed was a huge mistake that we shouldn't repeat. At least downtown is on the rebound, finally, but we could make things even better by better urban planning.

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I've read and heard of new zoning ordinances passing that will allow for more density in the City. This should encourage the development of more closely built, or taller structures, hopefully lessening the overall rate at which the suburbs have been growing. This will only get better if the prices for space in the City come down a bit. :)

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I guess I have concerns about a city's ability (or rather, a city's authority) to dictate where development can or cannot happen. While we don't want uncontrolled development, we also don't want a city that forces developers into certain areas and run the risk of losing those developments totally. Offering tax incentives for businesses to locate in certain areas is fine, but if someone wants to build on Woodruff and the city doesn't want them to, what happens? If the city says no, and suggests that they go to Pleasantburg instead, the developer will probably go elsewhere (as in another city).

It seems that every city has it's "hot zones," and people tend to not want to be in less-desirable areas where traffic and other shopping/dining options are limited. That is just the way the business cycle works, and I think you will find that in every city in the world.

Did Greenville neglect its core? Downtown was dead as malls developed farther out, but that trend occurred in most, if not all, cities. Now, cities are redeveloping their downtowns and Greenville has done that as well as any other city. But other parts of Greenville's "core," like Augusta, Pleasantburg, etc., were once popular but have faded in the eyes of developers. What is a city supposed to do to counteract that? How is it possible?

So for the cities without sprawl, what are they doing to control it? Is Greenville not doing those things?

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Georgia counties are decievingly small. It would probably take 2 of their to make one of ours. We have about 8 counties in our CSA, which translates to 16 GA counties. Obsviously that is not 100% accurate, but you get the point I think.

Our sprawl is as bad as Atlanta's. In a national ranking, Atlanta ranked 4th, and GSA ranked 5th in terms of the worst sprawl. (I don't have that link anymore, so if anyone has it, please share.) They determine this by distance traveled to work and average density i think.

So why is sprawl bad? Well, take Woodruff Rd for example. Commuter traffic and local shopping traffic is funnelled through this one road, making it a nightmarish place to drive to. particularly at rush hour. This is common accross the Upstate. Sprawl is the epitome of ineffeciency.

Leapfrogging is another symptom of sprawl. This is when you have your Walkmart and its cluster of satellite stores in one area. Eventually it wants to expand, so it moves a half mile down the road to its shiny new store, leaving the old store and its satellites high and dry. This means that most of the satellites will move to the new location too, so that it can keep up with development. The result is the empty boxes and generally crappy looking areas that nobody wants to see. Today this is usually what we call the 70's era sprawl. Columbia's Two Notch Road is a particularly good example of this, but it fits for Woodruff Rd too, since most of the stores in Greenridge used to be on Laurens Rd.

The other aspect of innefficiency is the lack of density. You have nothing but these massive neighborhoods with identical houses taking up the coutryside, and there is nothing to show for it. These people just have to drive further (becuase they cannot drive straight there due to the cul-de-sacs in the various subdivisions) and create more congestion to get to their destination. All of that compunds on itself.

As for density, its not that I think we should all live in a New York style density, but I think that there is a certain amount of density that should be encouraged, particularly in core areas. Greenville is beginning that process with all of hte new residential developments we are seeing downtown. I also think that there should be more interconnecting roads. Removing cul-de-sacs should be a priority. All of our counties should fololw Charlotte-Mecklenburg's example and ban or at least restrict cul-de-sac developments.

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Well said, Spartan. The major concern regarding these new (and old) neighborhood developments, is that they typically have only one or two access roads in and out. This means hundreds of travelers have to wait their turn to get in and out during the rush hour periods of the day. Compound this problem with the fact that many of these are being built right next to each other (example: Woodruff Road), funneling tons of traffic onto already busy roads. I don't think it has reached the level of many large cities yet, but the headaches are definitely there at certain times of the day. :)

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Having lived in and visited cities with dense developments and little sprawl and low-density developments and much sprawl, and as a homeowner, one thing to consider is that cities with lots of sprawl often have relatively low housing costs (and housing values that don't appreciate much) (but relatively high transportation costs, since people have to own cars and drive long distances), and cities with little sprawl and dense development often have relatively high housing prices (and housing values that appreciate rapidly). Restricting sprawl is a tradeoff between these factors.

Nonetheless, people who developed Pleasantburg Drive, Laurens Road, Congaree Road, etc. should be ashamed; commercial developments could have been built in those areas in much more attractive and efficient ways that don't impact housing values; big parking lots are ugly and inefficient.

I'm surprised that existing commercial real estate owners don't act to restrict new sprawling developments; if Woodruff and Haywood Roads hadn't been allowed to have been built, for example, people who owned property in existing areas such as Pleasantburg Drive would have made a lot more money.

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The other aspect of innefficiency is the lack of density. You have nothing but these massive neighborhoods with identical houses taking up the coutryside, and there is nothing to show for it. These people just have to drive further (becuase they cannot drive straight there due to the cul-de-sacs in the various subdivisions) and create more congestion to get to their destination. All of that compunds on itself.

As for density, its not that I think we should all live in a New York style density, but I think that there is a certain amount of density that should be encouraged, particularly in core areas. Greenville is beginning that process with all of hte new residential developments we are seeing downtown. I also think that there should be more interconnecting roads. Removing cul-de-sacs should be a priority. All of our counties should fololw Charlotte-Mecklenburg's example and ban or at least restrict cul-de-sac developments.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Part of the resaon we see this is that well, our development is new but the land is old. What I mean since the land was first given to the original owners it has now been passed on and passed on to decendants many times, often getting split up among heirs. And over the years sold and split sold and split. It has left our area with lots of small parcels of land, few hundred acres or less rather than very large chunks to be developed.

Developers can only develop what they own and that means what they can buy, since some people don't want to. So to meet demand for housing, etc. they have to go where the available land is which is further and further outside the city centers. This also is the reason we have so many small subdivisions with cludasacs. Another reason is topography. Also, often see the available land to build on does not have sewer access, which considering our rolling terrain makes it harder, and regulations require a min of 25,000 sf (just over half an acre)for a septic system.

Another thing to remember is sprawl is driven by market demand (and lack of education), not everybody wants to live in high density, most people like a home in a subdivision with a culdosac to limit through traffic and 1/4-1/2 acres of land for their children and dog. Which they have every right to

I think we just need to teach people that things like traffic are the such becuase of their own living situations. etc. BUt I am for more education not more restrictions on private property.

People need to learn that traffic problems are caused by how far you live from your work and other destinations not how many homes or busniesses are near your house.

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I understand the negative aspects that are associated with sprawl and I don't like them, BUT just think... If Greenville didn't have sprawl, what would it be like today?

I think we're better off the way we are today. We are able to develop parts of the inner areas that were "forgotten" as we moved outward. So, now instead of having OLD to NEW from the city's core to the subburbs, we have a good mix of OLD and NEW throughout the city. Downtown, for example: we aren't being a Charlotte and tearing down historic buildings-- they were never built. Leaving us available for the growth that we are experiencing today throughout downtown. ICAR is located in the city on undeveloped land and has a nice location. But, without sprawl, that campus could have been forced to be built "OUT THERE" and therefore move a lot of action, so to speak, to the subburbs and attract away from the city. Verdae: Offers a new development to those who seek a home in the Parkins Mill Rd/Gower Area but wants something more reasonably priced and newer...

But that's just my take on the whole issue.

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I'm surprised that existing commercial real estate owners don't act to restrict new sprawling developments; if Woodruff and Haywood Roads hadn't been allowed to have been built, for example, people who owned property in existing areas such as Pleasantburg Drive would have made a lot more money.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Commercial developments are not built to last very long. They tend to move with the population. This plays into that leapfrogging thing I mentioned before.

Another thing to remember is sprawl is driven by market demand (and lack of education), not everybody wants to live in high density, most people like a home in a subdivision with a culdosac to limit through traffic and 1/4-1/2 acres of land for their children and dog.  Which they have every right to

I think we just need to teach people that things like traffic are the such becuase of their own living situations. etc.  BUt I am for more education not more restrictions on private property.

People need to learn that traffic problems are caused by how far you live from your work and other destinations not how many homes or busniesses are near your house.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Fair enough. Nobody is saying that you have to force people to live in a super dense area. But the sprawl should be controlled enough to where it can be molded to fit the area better. You can have subdivisions with multiple access points and a through road.

I agree with your last statements completely.

I understand the negative aspects that are associated with sprawl and I don't like them, BUT just think... If Greenville didn't have sprawl, what would it be like today?

I think we're better off the way we are today. We are able to develop parts of the inner areas that were "forgotten" as we moved outward. So, now instead of having OLD to NEW from the city's core to the subburbs, we have a good mix of OLD and NEW throughout the city. Downtown, for example: we aren't being a Charlotte and tearing down historic buildings-- they were never built. Leaving us available for the growth that we are experiencing today throughout downtown. ICAR is located in the city on undeveloped land and has a nice location. But, without sprawl, that campus could have been forced to be built "OUT THERE" and therefore move a lot of action, so to speak, to the subburbs and attract away from the city. Verdae: Offers a new development to those who seek a home in the Parkins Mill Rd/Gower Area but wants something more reasonably priced and newer...

But that's just my take on the whole issue.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Its not so much the the growth is unwelcome, just that it is uncontrolled.

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Its not so much the the growth is unwelcome, just that it is uncontrolled.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That's not what I was saying if it came across that way. I have no problem with growth, I just think that the way it happened, leaving the city for the subburbs back when, helped the city become who it is today--which is POSITIVE.

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I understand the negative aspects that are associated with sprawl and I don't like them, BUT just think... If Greenville didn't have sprawl, what would it be like today?

I think we're better off the way we are today. We are able to develop parts of the inner areas that were "forgotten" as we moved outward. So, now instead of having OLD to NEW from the city's core to the subburbs, we have a good mix of OLD and NEW throughout the city. Downtown, for example: we aren't being a Charlotte and tearing down historic buildings-- they were never built. Leaving us available for the growth that we are experiencing today throughout downtown. ICAR is located in the city on undeveloped land and has a nice location. But, without sprawl, that campus could have been forced to be built "OUT THERE" and therefore move a lot of action, so to speak, to the subburbs and attract away from the city. Verdae: Offers a new development to those who seek a home in the Parkins Mill Rd/Gower Area but wants something more reasonably priced and newer...

But that's just my take on the whole issue.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Good points. Greenville does seem to have a nice amount of infill going on compared to some cities. ICAR, Verdae, new homes on Augusta, Pelham Road around Haywood, etc, etc.

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You can have subdivisions with multiple access points and a through road.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

YOur right, on larger parcels you can, lots of subdivisions are going up on parcels in which that is not the case, but even when it is it is often avoided.

Take Riverdowns II for example, when phase two built not only was it supposed to have a second entrance but was also supposed to connect to Silverleaf. But both of those ideas the developer had were nixed by the residents of phase I who thought it would cuase an increase in traffic w/ people using the neighborhoods as a cut through. And they are probubly right, look at the old neightborhoods off Hudson, Devenger, East North St. or Edwards Rd. etc. ..these old neighborhoods with multiple entrance are often used as cut throughs I can understand why residents would not want that. But I agree it does force more people on to the main roads, which also is bad. Both situations lead to unsafe conditions, it is a lose lose situation.

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Its really a chicken and egg situation. People move out to get away from the city traffic, but then as more of them move out the traffic and the city comes with.

Can developers no piece smaller lots together? Obviously that won't always work, but its a start.

I think the real problem is that whever process was used to laying out the original parts of our cities was abandoned once the need for compact ness was not longer necessary. The only real way to fix it would be to start over :rolleyes:

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Its really a chicken and egg situation. People move out to get away from the city traffic, but then as more of them move out the traffic and the city comes with.

Can developers no piece smaller lots together? Obviously that won't always work, but its a start.

I think the real problem is that whever process was used to laying out the original parts of our cities was abandoned once the need for compact ness was not longer necessary. The only real way to fix it would be to start over :rolleyes:

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Thanks for the responses, guys. I see that this issue can be viewed from different angles, each with its own validity. Some great opinions have been expressed thus far.

So what can Greenville do about sprawl? Is anything currently being done to improve the situation?

I suppose the city and county would need to work together on this (which further emphasizes my desire for the city of Greenville and Greenville county to merge into one, like Jacksonville did). That would eliminate a lot of the wasteful red tape that we see in government. But anyway, we would almost need for government reps from each county in the upstate metro to come together and discuss ways to improve things. How likely is this, though? This is when progressive people need to be involved, and I am not holding my breath that they are.

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Its really a chicken and egg situation. People move out to get away from the city traffic, but then as more of them move out the traffic and the city comes with.

Can developers no piece smaller lots together? Obviously that won't always work, but its a start.

I think the real problem is that whever process was used to laying out the original parts of our cities was abandoned once the need for compact ness was not longer necessary. The only real way to fix it would be to start over :rolleyes:

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

They can peace smaller pieces together, but it can get expensive, smaller parcels tend to cost more per acre than larger, also, when people realize your are assembling something they tend to raise prices.

Also, remember many developers are not big companies but regular people just trying to make a living, they don't all have deep pockets so they can only take on smaller projects.

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