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Mith242

Sprawl

   26 members have voted

  1. 1. What do you feel about sprawl?

    • Don't care, doesn't affect me.
      1
    • Not crazy about it, but it's a natural progression.
      8
    • Hate it, we need to do something about it.
      17

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30 posts in this topic

I know sprawl has been mentioned numerous times but I don't believe we're ever really had a topic dealing with it specifically. I even thought I'd throw in a poll question. Hopefully the answers conform to most people's feelings about it. I wanted to do something different than the general yes/no type question.

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Okay I was hoping for a little discussion, but maybe I'll try to get some going. It does make sense that developers look to the outskirts of a city to develop in many instances. Land is cheaper, and you also don't usually have to worry about costs of demolishing a previously existing building. But I think there's some problems that come with sprawl. First of all it continues to thinly spread out city services. It tends to add up exponentially. The city has to first put in the new infrastructure then also has to help maintain it. Many people see density as a 'four letter word' but to me density is what our metro needs. Without density some services like public transportation and such are hard to support and maintain. I'd say just about everyone on UP wants the area to continue to grow. I'd even say a majority of people in the metro want some form of growth. Personally I'd much rather see us grow upward rather than outward. I'd hate to think that the metro just keeps spreading out in all directions. Especially when we're in a rather scenic area. I'd hate to think of the exurbs of NWA extending near the Buffalo Natl River by the time I'm an old man. Perhaps at some point in the future we'll move on towards having vehicles run off other sources than petroleum. But in the meantime I see there being some problems as fuel costs continue to rise. But as I said earlier still most developers are going to choose to built on the outskirts. That is how things tend to be. Even more so in our area. To deal with that I really think the NWA cities need to find ways to encourage developers to redevelop areas more central to the city. Taking into account Fayetteville, you see all sorts of growth on the outskirts of the city. While College Ave continues to become more and more of an eyesore. But if the city doesn't do anything I just don't see the developers necessarily jumping in to fix the matter either. I think Fayetteville should find some sort of financial incentive to get developers to reconsider areas more centrally located in the city. Cities have thought about or actually implemented to some degree impact fees, directed to developers developing on the outskirts. So that the city has a way to try to force others to help shoulder the burden of costs of expanding the infrastructure. But I'd still prefer the cities provide better incentives for developers to look inwards rather than outwards. Anyway I didn't mean to jump on the soapbox, and I've mentioned quite a bit of this in other topics. But I just wanted to throw some things out there to get some discussion going.

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Part of what is so appealing about the NWA area to outsiders is that it offers the suburban American dream at a Wal-Mart price. As I have said in another thread, living in the suburbs is just as much a part of American culture as baseball and Thanksgiving. It was bred into our blood in the generations following WWII. A vast majority of Americans prefer suburbs and car culture, and they will be torn from it kicking and screaming when Peak Oil really starts to become a problem mid-century, if not before. Right now its easy to say "just build higher density", but its not as simple as that. People are addicted to the suburban lifestyle, and because of that high density development will not be an easy sell. Unfortunately for NWA, nearly ALL of its growth is centered around car culture, so there isn't a dense urban core to fall back on like you see in older cities (Tulsa, Little Rock, etc).

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Part of what is so appealing about the NWA area to outsiders is that it offers the suburban American dream at a Wal-Mart price. As I have said in another thread, living in the suburbs is just as much a part of American culture as baseball and Thanksgiving. It was bred into our blood in the generations following WWII. A vast majority of Americans prefer suburbs and car culture, and they will be torn from it kicking and screaming when Peak Oil really starts to become a problem mid-century, if not before. Right now its easy to say "just build higher density", but its not as simple as that. People are addicted to the suburban lifestyle, and because of that high density development will not be an easy sell. Unfortunately for NWA, nearly ALL of its growth is centered around car culture, so there isn't a dense urban core to fall back on like you see in older cities (Tulsa, Little Rock, etc).

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If you define sprawl as a city spreading out into the rural land at it's edges then Fayeteville is actually doing a better job of avoiding it than most. Looking up at Benton County, Bentonville and Rogers are both sprawling out to XNA in a way that will make that area a traffic nightmare in a few years (or more of one I should say). The subdivisions are leapfroging their way all through that area with very little commercial developement or road improvements to serve them. Fayetteville is seeing some sprawl on the west side of I540 although there are some mixed use developments like Woodstock, Forrest Hills and the one on Rupple Road just north of the Boys Club (can't remember the name) that are good projects. Some bad examples are the half-acre lots in springwoods along Deane Solomon and the Heritage subdivison that was miles out away from town when built.

I think as long as single use zoning and low density developments are allowed the economics of sprawl mean it will continue. You can't have huge new subdivisions of large single family lots in the built up sections of town. Until the cities demand/encourage that developers change their ways it will lilely continue. Like you say, we've talked on here about using impact fees to make it more expensive to develop in areas that have no infrastructure and lessening expenses to redevelop and do infill projects. Some cities actually put boundaries past which you can't develop. Portland Or. is a good example of that although I don't think it was as successful as they wanted it to be in increasing density. In other parts of the world it has happened though- European countries are much denser I know. Whether it's because they are so much older or the fact that they have much less open land I don't know- probably a combination.

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If you define sprawl as a city spreading out into the rural land at it's edges then Fayeteville is actually doing a better job of avoiding it than most. Looking up at Benton County, Bentonville and Rogers are both sprawling out to XNA in a way that will make that area a traffic nightmare in a few years (or more of one I should say). The subdivisions are leapfroging their way all through that area with very little commercial developement or road improvements to serve them. Fayetteville is seeing some sprawl on the west side of I540 although there are some mixed use developments like Woodstock, Forrest Hills and the one on Rupple Road just north of the Boys Club (can't remember the name) that are good projects. Some bad examples are the half-acre lots in springwoods along Deane Solomon and the Heritage subdivison that was miles out away from town when built.

I think as long as single use zoning and low density developments are allowed the economics of sprawl mean it will continue. You can't have huge new subdivisions of large single family lots in the built up sections of town. Until the cities demand/encourage that developers change their ways it will lilely continue. Like you say, we've talked on here about using impact fees to make it more expensive to develop in areas that have no infrastructure and lessening expenses to redevelop and do infill projects. Some cities actually put boundaries past which you can't develop. Portland Or. is a good example of that although I don't think it was as successful as they wanted it to be in increasing density. In other parts of the world it has happened though- European countries are much denser I know. Whether it's because they are so much older or the fact that they have much less open land I don't know- probably a combination.

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Part of what is so appealing about the NWA area to outsiders is that it offers the suburban American dream at a Wal-Mart price. As I have said in another thread, living in the suburbs is just as much a part of American culture as baseball and Thanksgiving. It was bred into our blood in the generations following WWII. A vast majority of Americans prefer suburbs and car culture, and they will be torn from it kicking and screaming when Peak Oil really starts to become a problem mid-century, if not before. Right now its easy to say "just build higher density", but its not as simple as that. People are addicted to the suburban lifestyle, and because of that high density development will not be an easy sell. Unfortunately for NWA, nearly ALL of its growth is centered around car culture, so there isn't a dense urban core to fall back on like you see in older cities (Tulsa, Little Rock, etc).

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True, Fayetteville could be worse at sprawl. Although it could also be better. But either way a city is pretty much always going to be expanding outwards to a certain degree. I wasn't aware of Portland doing that. Although I imagine there are other cities around it that are spreading out in it's vicinity. The reason why really old cities like those in Europe are really dense has a lot to do with the fact the cities are old enough that they originally were behind city walls. It wasn't very easy to keep expanding the city walls so you just had to find a way to squeeze in. Either way I'm not trying to say Fayetteville shouldn't grow outwards at all. But there's also areas like along College Ave, that could be redeveloped. But if the city never gives any developers incentives, not a lot will probably happen.

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you don't have a choice for people who like sprawl. ;)

I think for the most part, expansion outward has made sense. It does make sense to expand toward the airport for Rogers and Bentonville. Hotels, restaurants, etc., are tax generators and developing that rural land grows property taxes.

Along those lines, as you touched on, what is sprawl and what is in-fill? To me, the development in west Fayetteville between Wedington and the future Van Ashe is in-fill and makes sense given the access to 540 and existing developments. Also, the commercial development over there actually reduces congestion and gas consumption. I lived out that way for a while, and we drove much less once the Harps opened, once we opened an account at the Bank of Fayetteville and as more and more food options came along.

Far-flung subdivisions should slow down, in my book, as new construction is mostly over and current inventory in completed projects is absorbed. That should encourage more in-fill for the next few years as well. We aren't going to see speculative building much for a while, and projects that do go forward will be pre-sold or pre-leased, which is also good for the economy.

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I agree with almost everything you say with the exception of the assertion that the suburban lifestyle as being a negative. While I'm not an advocate of the "car culture" I do think there are some specific things the suburban lifestyle speaks to and that is truly why it captures our psyche. There are good reasons I think why higher crime and mental illness rates tend to be linked to higher population density. Smaller spaces just do something to us. Families cannot be effectively raised in sub 1000 sq ft. apartments with little to no open space for them without some repercussions on children mentally. We USED to be able to raise families in small homes because everyone had plenty of land around them! Most families did not spend the amount of time we do today indoors. And frankly, most cities do not provide the outdoors amenities to make high density living feasible for a family. This is why we have the huge disparity in demographics between urban core and surburbs. It isn't that parent's REALLY want to drive those extra miles to live in a bigger house, we REALLY want to make sure our kids have some semblance of safe open spaces in which to play so that they can grow into mentally healthy adults. The downside is that in larger urban areas, the amount of one on one time with our children has dropped due to our reliance on the car and we keep children entertained with every manner of electronic device which is equally mentally unhealthy. So, while suburban lifestyle isn't all it's cracked up to be we can't just build urban high density to curtail energy usage without addressing the needs of families which almost NO urban development ever bothers to do. It doesn't do us THAT much good to curtail energy use if a we're all paranoid schizoprenics or suffering from OCD. There has to be some middle ground where we can have the best of both.

Sorry if this is a bit OT but this board seems to sway towards a point of view that all people should be living in postage stamps because some people are convinced they know the better way for humans to live. Not saying you're specifically one of these bchris! And yet, a high percentage of these folks don't have children and have never seen the mental impacts of trying to raise a child in an apartment vs. a real home with a yard! My first-hand experiences tell me that children raised in a home with a yard sleep better, eat better, have a more even temperament, and are in general more happy. I've witnessed it firsthand with 2 children. Humans need space. We need outdoor space that is easily and readily accessible, developing children doubly so. Urban high density living hardly ever meets this need.

Sorry for the rant...back to the evil that is sprawl....

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you don't have a choice for people who like sprawl. ;)

I think for the most part, expansion outward has made sense. It does make sense to expand toward the airport for Rogers and Bentonville. Hotels, restaurants, etc., are tax generators and developing that rural land grows property taxes.

Along those lines, as you touched on, what is sprawl and what is in-fill? To me, the development in west Fayetteville between Wedington and the future Van Ashe is in-fill and makes sense given the access to 540 and existing developments. Also, the commercial development over there actually reduces congestion and gas consumption. I lived out that way for a while, and we drove much less once the Harps opened, once we opened an account at the Bank of Fayetteville and as more and more food options came along.

Far-flung subdivisions should slow down, in my book, as new construction is mostly over and current inventory in completed projects is absorbed. That should encourage more in-fill for the next few years as well. We aren't going to see speculative building much for a while, and projects that do go forward will be pre-sold or pre-leased, which is also good for the economy.

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The only sense behind sprawl is business sense. Unfortunately it is not a good term always. Just as "business sense" is an enabler of good well-thought ideas, it is also a means of corruption and negligence. Note: For those who aren't familiar with the term "business sense", it is the justification of the feasibility of a business endeavor in which the resources invested are matched or exceeded by the resources gained.

So anyways, I say that because I feel like people might assume the demand for sprawl validates a positive conclusion about its existence.

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I see what you're saying and I certainly don't think we need NYC type density. But as far as NWA is concerned it's very spread out and I don't think there's very much density throughout the whole metro. Either way at some point we're going to have to start worrying about becoming more dense at some point. I don't mean this specifically for NWA. But as the human population continues to skyrocket farmland is going to become a much more needed commodity. Ironically in a number of areas (including NWA) the suburbs are taking over some of the better farmland. But back to your points. I do think there are negative aspects to living in big and dense cities. But I think we could easily become more dense without many negative side affects. I think in a number of ways we simply learn to expect that we need a lot of space to live in. I don't mean to direct all of this directly to you by the way. :D I'm curious if anyone has ever talked to many Europeans, particularly people from the Netherlands come to mind. Living in a very dense country they are accustomed to a smaller area. having conversations with them sometimes is a bit 'uncomfortable' for Americans because they have a very small personal space. Sometimes it feels like they are getting right up on you just to converse. :lol: But anyway I can understand that density doesn't appeal to everyone. When I talk about density I'm not even saying I expect everything in the city limits to be touching each other. One thing I hear people from Little Rock often complain about NWA is that there isn't any real 'downtown' area. I just think right now Americans are spreading out more than any of our ancestors since nomadic tribes.

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I've never had the opportunity to talk to many folks from the Netherlands but Germany I have and I know exactly what you mean by the lack of personal space, lol. It's something I've never noticed with Irish or Brits though. I totally know where the density argument is coming from and I agree that what we now consider suburban living is not sustainable. I agree that we take up more space than we need and I'm certainly guilty of this too. However, there seems to be an overly strong agenda for high density at the expense of living spaces for families here and I felt the need to rant about it. I don't think anyone's really ever tried to challenge people to live differently with the expection of a high density urban lifestyle. It seems to be a very binary view, you are either suburban or you're urban. But there's a middle ground that I think we need to look at.

I'm not really trying to defend suburban lifestyle as it is. And I'm definitely NOT trying to belittle high density living or the choice to live that way for those who do. I really don't think modern suburban lifestyle is a result of our ancestry or some addiction. It's an informed choice people are making in metros where the choice actually exists. People are weighing parameters of safety or perceived safety, cost of housing, fuel expense, quality of schools, air quality, and time away from home and making the cognizant decision to drive an hour to work in exchange for the specific qualities afforded by suburban living. One simple fact is that for most families, living in the urban environment in a neighborhood that is adequately safe is out of financial reach in the major urban metros of the US. It's extremely simple, for most of us you live in the suburbs or you wonder when someone will break into your home or car (not if..when). In NWA and to a large extent in LR, you don't have this factor weighed in as heavily. Here, people are just doing what they perceive to be as the "thing to do." It's extremely easy, IMO, to make the judgement that rationality is not in play when seeing the NWA or LR context and perhaps it's a correct conclusion in these cases. Given that, I don't think the rationality or lack thereof in this area is a result of the people but more on the part of the developers.

If you go to the northeast in older communities that have a strong pre-car history and that haven't been gentrified we can find lots of smaller community parks or squares for green space with rowhomes and smaller singles clustered around them. Often times a neighborhood church owns and maintains the greenspace. You rarely have to go more than a handful of blocks of find outdoor spaces. And the homes tend to face the greenspace so they feel very public and safe. These are the types urban livable communites we need to be building. They are higher density than our current suburban homes. While they may not be single family homes they offer many of the same amenities as a single family home while preserving sufficient density that one's workplace need not be out of walking or biking distance. Har-Ber Meadows (or whatever it's called) is a more modern American version of this that tried to mix that older community sensibility with the modern American lifestyle. I'm not sure I view it as a success because I don't think it really increased overall density much at all relative to a standard residential development.

On the specific topic of NWA and sprawl, well, I truly don't see NWA as being more or less sprawl-filled than LR. The main differentiator is of course the high density downtown core of LR and much of LR's sprawl is actually happening in Benton, Cabot, and Conway and not so much in LR.

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I don't like sprawl. That's why I live in town by Wilson Park, invest in other real estate in town, have a lot in Ruskin Heights, and follow Urban Planet. I have lived in many subdivisions in the past, however, and the point is they do make a lot of sense for a lot of folks. You just get more for your money house-wise when you aren't smack dab in the middle of the action. I like the action and am willing to pay a premium for it at this point in my life. I hate strip malls and fast food joints. I think they ruin the character of the area. We have a beautiful natural environment here and it's a shame we have so many bad buildings. I think the brew-ha-ha about tall buildings was absurd. And I also think that with rapidly rising energy prices, real estate close in will go up, and real estate far out will go down. I think this wil happen fairly quickly and catch a lot of people by surprise. That said, I also think it will be a long time before we have a $400 sq/ft condo market around here!

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This is the reason I started this topic to get some different viewpoints going, in a friendly manner of course. :D You do mention some interesting points. I do like what you mention about older communities found along the east coast. While things are more dense there is still green space. I certainly like that idea. I sometimes wonder if having more smaller greenspaces would be nicer than say a really big park that say caters to everyone on one side of the city. I still think some larger parks are needed as well. But unfortunately you don't see a lot of smaller greenspaces as well. I think sometimes cities don't even encourage them. One really park is more convenient and easier to maintain than a bunch of smaller parks scattered all over.

But yeah I'd say any area that's growing a lot in Arkansas right now is experiencing sprawl. It just seems to be the way everything is developed now. But at least with Little Rock there is a distinct dense downtown that's also growing as well.

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Yes! I agree totally. While there is need for larger parks for things like team sports and the like, smaller parks give more access to more people more easily.

So far, I only see the two extremes in evidence in either LR or NWA. Developers are either gobbling up tons of land for McMansions or they're building condos in mid rises. I think we're in a unique position that these types of communities could actually be built as greenfield developments here, particularly NWA.

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So far, I only see the two extremes in evidence in either LR or NWA. Developers are either gobbling up tons of land for McMansions or they're building condos in mid rises. I think we're in a unique position that these types of communities could actually be built as greenfield developments here, particularly NWA.

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I would like to see more medium density development - rowhomes in a walkable setting with a community park and local neighborhood retail. This could also be done even with single family homes, but they would have to be taller and closer together with a smaller footprint, and in a walkable setting - like houses used to be built. Commercial should be built mixed use office and retail. As you said, here in Arkansas it seems to be one extreme or the other. A poll in Little Rock was taken and 91% of the people polled said they preferred suburban living to urban living. The American Dream is living in a 4000 sq foot McMansion in a gated community 30-50 miles from your job and driving the lowest-mpg SUV you can afford.

NWA gets a bad rep for sprawl but Little Rock is just as bad. The only difference is that LR has a dense downtown and also better infrastructure to support true urban renewal when it becomes necessary. Less than 1/3 of the metro's population actually lives in LR, and most of the population of LR proper is in sprawling suburban west LR. I know people who commute to NWA from Ft. Smith and people who commute to LR from as far as Russellville and Arkadelphia.

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I like your medium density idea and also what Stormcrow described in the northeast part of the country. Most suburbs around here become places of isolation with privacy fences and little interaction between the residents. That's not the case always- there are plenty of subdivision neighbors who know each other but more often it seems that if your neighbor uses their garage you may seldom if ever actually see them. Mixed use higher density developments seem to foster more community interaction. I do see the point about raising a family with room for the kids to roam but the demographics these days don't point to as many nuclear family homes that need that space as there once were. It's anecdotal evidence but in my old subdivision neighorhood I had single females on each side of me and a older married couple and only one family with children in my immediate area. Older neighborhoods in Fayetteville like mzweig lives in were built when there was more interaction between the residents- that is one of the attractions for it. Just because someone can afford and is willing to have a McMansion on a huge lot with a long commute should a community (as represented by the city government) encourage it. I would like to see it discouraged and incentives given for infill and redevelopment.

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While in NWA this past weekend I noticed the townhome development going in right off of 540 on Shiloh drive. This development looks like a small scale version of far too many of the newer townhome developments on the east coast right about now: modern single families squashed together with a big parking lot fronting all the units. It may be medium density but the mindset of the development is precisely the same as any other suburban development only with more concrete and less grass to exacerbate runoff issues. I'm not sure it's a step in the right direction at all.

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While in NWA this past weekend I noticed the townhome development going in right off of 540 on Shiloh drive. This development looks like a small scale version of far too many of the newer townhome developments on the east coast right about now: modern single families squashed together with a big parking lot fronting all the units. It may be medium density but the mindset of the development is precisely the same as any other suburban development only with more concrete and less grass to exacerbate runoff issues. I'm not sure it's a step in the right direction at all.

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each of those townhomes has a two-car garage, so I don't think that project will have a huge parking lot. also, those homes are priced at below $100/SF in some models, which is more than competitive in Fayetteville. The company that is building them gears the projects toward upwardly mobile young people, and has "buyback" options in the contract, where Triton will repurchase the home if the owner gets a job and must relocate. as far as runoff, etc., there will be a pond on site, and Fayetteville has plenty of regulation on mitigating stormwater during and after construction. other than the problem of access, I think that project will do ok.

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That buyback option is great! A 2-car garage on the TH would take up probably the entire bottom level! Are those 3 level TH's? I'd think they would need to be priced fairly well below the $100/sq ft marker with the excess inventory in NWA right now to persuade people to go that route over a single. What is the range of square footage they're building?

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I believe they are mostly in the 1100-1500 SF range. They are three levels with the garage on bottom. Here's more about it.

http://www.arkansasbusiness.com/article.as...;k=Triton+Homes

The company also offers a flexible buy-out program that gives home owners a 100 percent buy-out option if they opt to vacate their home because they are transferred out of the area, get married or need to relocate for any reason.

"We want to be flexible," Vermillion said. "We encourage people to move up and, if necessary, to move out if their job requires it. We don't want to hold young professionals back from taking a promotion because they own a home. We want to help everyone succeed."

you can look at floor plans and prices here:

http://www.tritonhomesusa.com/arkansas/Inv...e%20on%20Shiloh

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