Ohio called flush with cropland

43 percent of state remains under cultivation, report says

April 07, 2002|By COX NEWS SERVICE

DAYTON, Ohio - Less than 14 percent of Ohio is developed, while 43 percent remains cropland, according to a new report on sprawl in the state.

From 1949 to 1992, Ohio acreage in forests grew faster than development- which has lagged behind the rest of the nation since 1982.

These are among the findings of the report released recently by the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions in Columbus, which flies in the face of smart-growth initiatives aimed at controlling suburban sprawl, while stemming flight from Ohio's largest cities.

"Most media and growth-control advocates rely on slogans and faulty intuition to support calls for more comprehensive planning on the local and regional level," according to the report co-authored by Samuel Staley, a Bellbrook Planning Commission member and director of conservative think tank's Quality Growth Initiative.

While cities have been emptying, the surrounding regions have been growing in response to changing needs of Ohioans, according to the report.

"Suburbs and central cities may well be converging toward an `optimal' density [or optimal range of densities] that suit households in the 21st century more effectively than the old model of a high-density, mixed-use core," Staley and policy analyst Matthew Hisrich conclude in the report.

Some smart-growth advocates dismissed the report. Glenn Brand of the Sierra Club's Cincinnati chapter likened it to "loony, anti-global warming propaganda in its misuse and distortion of information in an effort to confuse the public and prevent positive change." The Sierra Club ranks southwest Ohio, and the Mason-Deerfield Township area of Warren County in particular, as one of the worst examples of sprawl in the country.

The report states that calculations suggesting suburbanization wastes public funds are "fundamentally flawed," while pointing out traffic congestion around large Ohio cities is sporadic and lighter than in other parts of the country.

Smart-growth initiatives, such as regional governance, "are unlikely to succeed" in Ohio, because of the popularity of local control, the limitations of regionalism in addressing local problems and a lack of consensus on "solutions" to suburbanization, according to the report.

Instead, Staley and Hisrich suggest "freeing up" land-use regulations to allow for developments meeting various consumer demands, as well as new policies, such as cluster housing, to refocus development approval processes on consumers.

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