This Op-Ed supporting LVT comes as the Connecticut LVT Bill gets closer to a vote.
Arrest Connecticut Sprawl
April 17 2005
Despite growing awareness of the damaging effects of uncontrolled development scattered over the countryside, Connecticut has done little to address the problems posed by sprawl.
We hope lawmakers get serious this legislative session about giving the state and municipalities effective tools to cope with random development. Proposed legislation would:
Permit cities of more than 100,000 to adopt a two-tier property tax system under which urban land would be taxed at a higher rate than buildings. This hybrid approach discourages owners from holding vacant parcels and encourages commercial or residential development because of the tax bonus. The system has produced spectacular results in Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania.
Authorize a tax burden analysis. Connecticut is among a minority of states that fail to take advantage of computer analyses to show how proposed taxes would affect people in each income group. Without this valuable tool, lawmakers operate in the dark about the real impact of new taxes.
Create a coordinated state-local geographic information system - a computer method that overlays data about taxes, sewers, power lines, soil type and other information to give a snapshot of land parcels.
Update and expand state, regional and local plans of development to facilitate rational decisions and maximize the economic potential of, for example, rail and bus lines. Significantly, the bill would require "integration of planning across all levels of government" to bring about smart growth.
Unfortunately, one key legislative ingredient was dropped under pressure from homebuilders. It would have authorized a statewide "build-out" analysis to show what towns might look like if every parcel were developed to the maximum permitted by current zoning. Such a survey would expose the impact of unrestrained growth on schools, roads, water, open space and public safety. That provision should be included.
Of course, each town could hire consultants to carry out such a study, but that would subvert the desirable goal of regional and statewide anti-sprawl planning. A statewide study might cost $1 million, but it will be money well spent if the result is increased awareness and better planning.
A broad coalition of civic, religious and business groups now recognizes the dangers of random sprawl and the need to channel development in reasonable ways.
Scattered housing and commercial projects flung across the landscape require a huge public investment in added roads, sewers, police protection and other services. They also require longer commutes - clogging highways and worsening air pollution. Moreover, random development in one of the smallest states in the nation chews up farmland, destroys open space and damages scenic vistas.
Steering development to urban areas with existing infrastructure is the sensible approach. There is nothing draconian about the proposed smart growth legislation. It would give the state additional tools and authority to make rational decisions about the future of Connecticut's landscape.
Copyright 2005, Hartford Courant<about:blank>
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