A nonprofit consortium in northeast Ohio is tackling the tough issue of suburban expansion, where farmland is being taken over by new residential centers and traditional cities are shrinking from declining population.
The Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium says the pattern, repeated in once thriving urban areas across the country, is hurting the region’s economy because fewer taxpayers are being asked to pay for roads, schools, and other public infrastructure, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer
. The sprawl is also hurting the environment and driving up gas prices.
The consortium, made up of local and regional agencies, is backed by a $4.25 million federal grant and charged with making recommendations about how the state’s northeast region should be implementing future development plans.
The group, which has been working for more than a year, plans to present its first major public report in June about the challenges posed by outward migration from the region’s shrinking cities of Cleveland, Youngstown, and Akron.
According to the Plain Dealer, the region’s population fell by 7 percent from 1970 to 2010, even as the outer suburban areas were expanding. As a result, more governments were formed, new and often duplicative services were established, and the cost of keeping them operational became a burden for the smaller population.
The consortium is hoping to convince what now amounts to hundreds of municipalities and governments to change their development practices to take into account the costs and consequences of continued outward growth.
“We’re growing our footprint but not the population to pay for it,” consortium planner Hunter Morrison told the Plain Dealer. “We need to make some choices about where to focus and where to concentrate.”
A number of other regions around the country, where sprawl has become an issue, are also being studied with the help of federal grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities. They include Salt Lake City, Utah; Hartford, Conn.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Dallas-Fort Worth; and Kansas City, Mo.
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