(October 12, 2016) – Traditional "Large Lot Zoning" is "Greener" than "Smart Growth" within Urban Growth Boundaries . . . Copyright 2009 – 2016 . . . Tom Lane . . . Photographing California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.
Farmland Preservation: A Paradigm Shift
(Nov. 20, 2010) Under Construction, without photos and references.
An admirable goal of smart growth proponents is “farmland preservation.” This has been a tough one for me, since I am a lifelong gardener, would love to buy an organic farm, yet am also a proponent of the free market. However, recently a French study sparked my imagination of a method to treat farmland as an amenity valued by cities, rather than a commodity relegated beyond urban growth boundaries.
A recent French study (reference) showed that home values increased when they had views of farms or forests within 300 yards (verify). In addition, the homeowners benefited from the produce from the farms (i.e. wine).
In the United States, frequently urban growth boundaries are in circular or rectangular shapes, separating farmland from forest. Current land commissioners believe that “Seperating farm from forest” w/ UGB’s sets the gold standard in land conservations (ref: Greg McPherson, Bend Bulletin paper).
One can observe distinct boundaries with intersecting straight lines up and down the West Coast, from the PSRC boundary near Seattle, to Metro in Portland, and numerous smaller towns in Oregon and California.
However, this forms an artificial divide between two groups that used to intermingle on the edges of suburbia. There are fewer opportunities for “roadside stands” of produce for farmers, since their roads are often not traveled by residential dwellers who spend their time inside the urban growth boundary. In fact, roads are often not maintained for bicyclists and pedestrians outside the urban growth boundary. Look at this wider sidewalk on the urban side of a street, and a narrow lane with no sidewalk on the rural side! (photo)
The presence of farms provides economic benefits to both sides. In places like Boulder, Colorado where there probably are no farms left within the UGB, one must drive outside the boundary to obtain organic free range (cage free) eggs. However, because Boulder’s density and traffic are so high, residents will shop at whole foods. In this case, the farmers don’t benefit at all, because of the traditional UGB.
However, if UGB’s were irregular in shape, allowing mixing of farms and homes, then farmers would benefit with increased sales of organic produce.
In addition, home values would increase, due to scenic views. Indeed, an irregular boundary between farms and homes is similar to a golf course. In this scenario, I would presume that landscape architects increase the total length between grass and homes, in order to maximize home values along the boundary. This would be done by creating an undulating boundary.
However, can this new vision for farmland preservation take place w/o some sort of government intervention with an UGB? There is only one way to find out … try it. Cancel part of the UGB in a city with high demand and a significant interest in organic food products, and see if the market responds. If it does, then fantastic. If not, then I’ll have to think of something else. The key is to try it in a market with a high demand for organic products, such as Boulder, Colorado; Ashland, Oregon; Santa Fe, NM, etc.
However, I think it could work. Overall, people are tired of “leapfrogging” (intercity commuting) past miles of agricultural land to work. For example, Boulder is very expensive, and many residents must drive 15-30 miles past agricultural land from Lyons, Longmont, Golden, and Lafayette. The commutes are ridiculous, and everyone complains. Long distance bicyclists along SR-XXX (verify #) between Lyons and Boulder compete with traffic
Boulder has even stated (ref.) that it will not increase its UGB, but will increase density.
If the boundary and agricultural lands were opened to large lots, we would decrease green house gas emissions, commute times, and stress. And, local farms would become scenic amenities, incorporated into a landscape of homes on acreage.
A similar situation occurs north of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, where residents of Santa Rosa cross a large area of open space. Fischel finds this unusual since homes could be built over this open space, decreasing driving times.
and this is commented on by Fischel (date).
I’ll continue to expand this post as I think of more ideas to preserve farms, treating them as amenities rather than relegating them as irrelevant beyond the UGB. A mix of farms and homes increases the value of both farmers and homeowners, and this could solve many local problems.