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Newnan

Is sprawl really so bad?

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I'm fairly new to Urban Planet and since I've been here I've noticed that pretty much all of you HATE sprawl. I agree with you to some extent, sprawl can be ugly and scattered and unpleasant. But I think if these developments are done the right way than sprawl can be all right. if there's not a lot of it and it has trees and grass and incorporates itself with the surroundings than I don't think it's so bad. Am I totally off? Tell me what you think

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Well, I'm no expert on this subject (still learning about it myself), but I think that some of the misinformation/confusion stems from the lack of an adequate definition of "sprawl."

I'll let someone else more knowledgeable about the subject step in now. :thumbsup:

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It's not so much the physical aspects of sprawl that I hate (I mean subdivisions with huge yards are nice looking at least), its the side effects that it causes which I hate, including segregation, traffic congestion, lack of physical activity, auto-dependency, loss of open space, anti-social behavior, etc. and I could go on and on.

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When I think of sprawl, I think of every house looking almost the same with that cheap vinyl siding and being once inch apart from each other, with no trees left in the lot.. and I'd really like to see "smart growth" as opposed to sprawl as I described it. Save some trees perhaps, it wouldn't hurt to put a little room between the houses and make the community a little more connected/walkable

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Sprawl creates places without a sense of place. I can't see how anyone could defend the smear of WalMarts and JiffyLubes across the land. There MUST be a better way to live.....Suburbs are a fact of life, but they should be connected to cities with alternatives to the automobile.

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Sprawl is something that all cities have to deal with in some form or another. The question is how do we deal with it? If you let it go unconrolled you will end up with an Atlanta situation. Some suburban areas are indeed attractive asthetically, but in form and function they may not be. That varies from place to place. It is entirley possible to have good suburban growth. For example, most people consider the old streetcar suburbs of the 20's to be good suburban growth. We don't consider them suburbs anymore, but they were at one point. The problem is that developers dont seem to want to take any action against the bad sprawl.

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In order to have streetcar suburbs you must have streetcars....not SUVs. Why people tolerate sitting in their cars for hours on end is simply beyond me. What I find most frustrating is that there appears to be absolutely NO public dialogue about mass transportation in most places across this country. Perhaps when gasoline costs $10 per gallon, people might begin to consider alternatives. To return to the subject, suburbs per se aren't bad, but careful planning has been thrown out the window in favor of mere profit and design at the hands of builders, not architects or designers. However luxurious, most of our suburbs are full of wretchedly designed buildings. One has only to witness Great Falls, Virginia to see this in action. Sorry for the rant here, but I feel that there is little thought or planning across the land.

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I understand. I hate ugly, unplannned sprawl. But I haven't really seen too much of that in my town

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Sprawl creates places without a sense of place.  I can't see how anyone could defend the smear of WalMarts and JiffyLubes across the land.  There MUST be a better way to live.....Suburbs are a fact of life, but they should be connected to cities with alternatives to the automobile.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I'm not defending ugly sprawl, I'm just saying that if done right, sprawl can be all right. But you're right. I wish there were other ways to go from place to place

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The town of Newnan itself is a very nice town, but to the east & north of Newnan that would be sprawl.

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Sprawl is in the eyes of the beholder, but generally in the USA spawl means the creation of living spaces that require the automobile exclusively to exist. It has the following characteristics: (This is my list so it is an opinion.)

  • Almost always single use development. i.e. residential, retail, schools and industrial areas are all separated from each other on purpose. This means that people have to use some kind of transit for day to day living. It's not possible to walk and transit almost always means the car.

  • Cul-de-sac neighborhoods, no sidewalks, one connecting street in/out of the neighborhood. No connection between adjoining neighborhoods. As a result people have to get in the car and travel onto a main highway just to go to their neighbor's house.

  • Retail surrounded by huge parking lots. Very pedestrial unfriendly and people have to use their cars just to get to the store across the street.

  • Work locations spread out onto college campus like settings, or in industrial parks. Again there is no way to get to these places except by car.

  • Vast majority of retail is of the national chain store variety. Much of it big box and fast food. As a result there is no longer any distinctiveness. People have no ties to areas such as this, and it is constantly being rebuilt or abandoned for the next great store.

  • Many suburbs have a core town. Most of these are dead of activity.

  • Descriptions of the housing. McMansions, Snout Houses, Vinyl Starter Home. All have at least 2 car garages.

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Just to be the devil's advocate - here are some positive aspects of sprawl (which I would consider not centralized development):

* Lowers the cost of living for homes

* Economic generator

* Conceptually it desegregates racial & economic groups by decentralizing their living choices

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All excellent points. Suburbs can be very, very appealing. I just wish we could spend more time in planning them instead of leaving everything to the wiles of builders. A builder isn't going to "waste" money on "niceties" which might reduce profit. Until people take notice and express a desire for change, we will likely see more sprawl. One has only to see the devastation in the New Orleans suburbs to witness the peril of depending upon the car as the only viable transportation alternative. I will grant that other transportation systems there have failed as well, so this may not be a fair example.

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Suburban living can have its advantages. I think "sprawl" as in post 1945 suburbs however are a net negative, in every case. A Much better model to follow are the "Streetcar suburbs" of approx. 1890-1920. These offer medium-density single family houses often near existing business districts/downtown/mainstreets. Also many are near rail or transit lines. Of course all such neighborhoods were once served by streetcars, hence the name. Then the streetcar lines were removed and roads were installed. But the important thing is these such neighborhoods were designed for light rail transit. So it would be a simple matter of reinstating the streetcar lines in the future.

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Exactly. Most of Boston's "streetcar suburbs" flourish today. Places like Brookline and Newton continue to have working downtown areas served by transit lines, The same could be said for many cities in the northeast. Sadly, most light rail lines didn't survive the buyout by the automobile, trucking, bus and tire industries in the 1940's. Remember "National City Lines" and the systematic destructiuon of transit lines?

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In addition to the superlatives regarding streetcar suburbs is their design. Though some streetcar suburbs remained intact based on their original plan, most organically developed over the years - starting in the 1920's, as Victorian houses were then unpopular & starting in the 1930's & into the mid 1900's as a housing shortage developed.

Due to those social & economic patterns, a variety of housing can be found in the typical street car suburb - ranging from the high income geared mansions, to middle to lower income bungalows. Apartment buildings, built at a smaller scale complimented the neighborhood with their smaller scale (typically 2 to 4 stories). Thus, not only is the architectual style unique, but a wide spectrum of social & economic groups have been allowed living in close proximity.

Another important point is the significance of the neighborhood commercial center, which provided sundry shops & entertainment within walking distance to those neighbors.

The streetcar suburb was the ultimate mixed use development.

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Surely many people are happy to live in single-family, residential areas a fair distance from the urban core. And at a certain distance from the center of a metro area that kind of development might be appropriate, though I would probably rather see it more mixed-use. But I am more concerned about inner suburbs that are quite close to a downtown area yet are quite suburban and remain so because of large-lot zoning which I consider quite innappropriate for the location. An example I know well is the area of Cambridge, MA right outside my dense, mixed-use neighborhood of Porter Square. The area I mention is predominantly single-family on surprisingly large lots. Many of these homes are now worth over $1 million. I figure that if Cambridge cares about affordable housing, it will take a good look at its zoning laws.

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I'm fairly new to Urban Planet and since I've been here I've noticed that pretty much all of you HATE sprawl. I agree with you to some extent, sprawl can be ugly and scattered and unpleasant. But I think if these developments are done the right way than sprawl can be all right. if there's not a lot of it and it has trees and grass and incorporates itself with the surroundings than I don't think it's so bad. Am I totally off? Tell me what you think

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I would wager that in the southern forum a solid majority of these sprawl-hating, density-loving forumers in fact live in a subdivision somewhere in the suburbs

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FYI- I live in an apartment in downtown Washington, D.C.. I also have a condo in Fort Lauderdale, FL- in a high-rise in a semi-urban area. I have also railed against the automobile. I do not own one. I use a Segway to get around.

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I would wager that in the southern forum a solid majority of these sprawl-hating, density-loving forumers in fact live in a subdivision somewhere in the suburbs

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I don't and I ride the bus.

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In order to have streetcar suburbs you must have streetcars....not SUVs.  Why people tolerate sitting in their cars for hours on end is simply beyond me.  What I find most frustrating is that there appears to be absolutely NO public dialogue about mass transportation in most places across this country.  Perhaps when gasoline costs $10 per gallon, people might begin to consider alternatives.  To return to the subject, suburbs per se aren't bad, but careful planning has been thrown out the window in favor of mere profit and design at the hands of builders, not architects or designers.  However luxurious, most of our suburbs are full of wretchedly designed buildings.  One has only to witness Great Falls, Virginia to see this in action.  Sorry for the rant here, but I feel that there is little thought or planning across the land.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

My point was that they used to be much more suburban in the eyes of people at that time. The neighborhood and city development has always reflected the primary mode of transportation. So for the time being the car has to be accepted as the primary mode of transportation. 91 percent of people commuting to work use personal vehicles. That doesn't mean the new communities they live in can't be pedestrian friendly, like the old streetcar neighborhoods are.

I would wager that in the southern forum a solid majority of these sprawl-hating, density-loving forumers in fact live in a subdivision somewhere in the suburbs

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I don't, but like someone mentioned before, it is much less expensive to live in the burbs than it is to live in an urban/downtown setting. Particularly when in the South the majority of the new urban housing units are upscale luxury.

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