"Smart Growth" and "New Urbanism" Compared with "Large Lot Zoning" (Tom Lane) [ Home Page – Click Here]

(May 17, 2017) – Traditional "Large Lot Zoning" is "Greener" than "Smart Growth" within Urban Growth Boundaries . . . Copyright 2009 – 2017 . . . Tom Lane . . . Photographing California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington.

Arizona Revised Statutes Encourage Smart Growth, Light Rail, and Discourage Sprawl – Vote No on 104


High Street Smart Growth Tower in the Desert Ridge area of North Phoenix. The Featured image seen on the post is Smart Growth Towers in downtown Scottsdale.

(Tom Lane, August 22, 2015) UNDER CONSTRUCTION  In the last 10 years, Arizona has passed a number of laws that encourage smart growth and light rail, that increase density in city centers, and that discourage sprawl.

One would think that Arizona is a Republican state, with Libertarian policies on land use. However, several state laws actually encourage smart growth towers within downtown areas.

The most significant law is the “Infill Incentive District.” This allows City Councils to vote to declare part of their city as high density infill, where developers of smart growth towers may not have to pay impact fees.  This may occur along proposed light rail lines, so VOTE NO on 104.

But cancelling impact fees for smart growth towers encourages even more of them.  Do Arizonans really want their downtown areas to turn into Tempe and Scottsdale, which in the past 10 years now are full of dozens of towers?

Indeed, Seattle, Washington has no impact fees and smart growth towers are built at an alarming rate, upsetting residents and raising the cost of rental housing.  Traffic is horrible, infrastructure is failing, and families must move over 20 miles down to Pierce County to find affordable housing.  John Fox of the Seattle Displacement Coalition writes:

” The most recent city data indicates that through 2012, Seattle has added 43,309 units, including units now going through the permitting process.  In just 8 and a half years we’ve reached 94% of our city’s 20-year regional growth target. We’re averaging over 5000 new units added per year–an unprecedented level of new construction. The only practical limit is insufficient city staff to process permits and not enough workers and firms out there to build them at this rate. This soaring growth rate puts enormous strains on Seattle’s infrastructure, with a $1-2 billion backlog of road and bridge repairs. Yet Seattle remains one of the few cities in the four-county region that doesn’t require developers to pay impact fees to help cover the intense infrastructure demands caused by their projects. “

All of this is relevant to the Phoenix Prop. 104 Light Rail debate (see my MovePHX, Vote No on 104 page), since impact fees have been waived along light rail lines in Phoenix and Tempe, in order to encourage smart growth development.

In Scottsdale, where 10,000 units have either been built or are approved, voters will decide if they will raise property taxes this fall, for failing infrastructure.

I don’t like to refer to someone’s house or apartment as a “unit.” Just because it’s in a tower doesn’t mean it’s a “unit.” We just need to stop building these towers, and give people an acre or more in the countryside, as Frank Lloyd Wright wanted for all of us. Nobody listened to him, and look at the mess that we have in our high density, crime ridden cities with horrible schools.  But urban sprawl with nice ranches in the countryside will decline, due to the responsibilities of the Arizona Land Commissioner (see below).

Arizona State Land Commissioner Shall Discourage Sprawl

The Arizona State Land Commissioner must discourage sprawl. This is unfortunate, since most of us would like to live on large 1 to 5 acre properties with big backyards:

37-132. Powers and duties

A. The commissioner shall:

1. Exercise and perform all powers and duties vested in or imposed upon the department, and prescribe such rules as are necessary to discharge those duties.

2. Exercise the powers of surveyor-general except for the powers of the surveyor-general exercised by the treasurer as a member of the selection board pursuant to section 37-202.

3. Make long-range plans for the future use of state lands in cooperation with other state agencies, local planning authorities and political subdivisions.

4. Promote the infill and orderly development of state lands in areas beneficial to the trust and prevent urban sprawl or leapfrog development on state lands.

That is unfortunate, since leapfrog development essentially means that a developer could build a couple dozen homes on 2 acre lots, seperated away from other homes placed closer together. Most people would prefer to live on 2 acre lots in the middle of the desert surrounded by cacti and wildlife, instead of living in an HOA with tiny backyards.

Other Western States have already banned leapfrog development.  For example, under the Washington and Oregon Growth Management Acts, every city has an urban growth boundary. Outside of the UGB, properties are between one and forty acres, depending on the location, and farmland – including grazing land – is off limits to development.

California, however, does not ban leapfrog development, at least not yet. Although, various laws require that comprehensive planning take place in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions driving long distances.

It is unclear how California’s smart growth laws are enforced, if at all.  And, it’s also unclear how Arizona’s smart growth laws are enforced.  However, a City Council can legally, under Arizona State Law, cancel taxes on developers of smart growth towers (see below).

Infill Incentive Districts

This law allows City Councils to declare part of their city as an infill incentive district, where taxes can be waived for developers that want to build smart growth towers.  I do not know the motivation of the law, but clearly, some of the legislatures saw some benefit to high density smart growth. In the Phoenix area, this has occurred with Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Casa Grande, and perhaps other cities.  The Tucson city council has also passed such a district.

9-499.10. Infill incentive districts 
A. The governing body of a city or town may designate an infill incentive district in an area in the city or town that meets at least three of the following requirements:
1. There is a large number of vacant older or dilapidated buildings or structures.
2. There is a large number of vacant or underused parcels of property, obsolete or inappropriate lot or parcel sizes or environmentally contaminated sites.
3. There is a large number of buildings or other places where nuisances exist or occur.
4. There is an absence of development and investment activity compared to other areas in the city or town.
5. There is a high occurrence of crime.
6. There is a continuing decline in population.
B. If the governing body establishes an infill incentive district, it shall adopt an infill incentive plan to encourage redevelopment in the district. The plan may include:
1. Expedited zoning or rezoning procedures.
2. Expedited processing of plans and proposals.
3. Waivers of municipal fees for development activities as long as the waivers are not funded by other development fees.
4. Relief from development standards.
Infill Incentive Districts will Discourage Sprawl and Single Family Housing
City councils may elect to cancel impact fees for smart growth towers, however, developers in the suburbs must still charge them to build single family housing, due to state law.  The infill law encourages transit oriented developments, encourages smart growth, mixed use, and discourages single family housing at the urban fringe – since developers would rather build tall towers without impact fees, where they can collect huge rents – the average for such towers in Scottsdale is $1600 a month, same as Irvine, California !
This statute is a form of exclusionary zoning, most likely. They want to keep prices higher, so that only “the rich” can move to Arizona, in expensive “smart growth towers.” They don’t want undocumented workers, etc. etc. causing crime in Arizona downtown areas.  Indeed, Scottsdale is much safer than its rival Palm Springs.  Scottsdale is trying to become the next Irvine, California.
Scottsdale’s average downtown rent is now several hundred dollars above that of rival Palm Springs ($1500 versus $1050), due to the tall smart growth towers that have been built since Mayor W. J. “Jim” Lane signed the Infill law in 2010.  Palm Springs does not have smart growth, although certain developers are given money from the “Measure J” sales tax increase.

County Infill Incentive Districts

Board of supervisors in Arizona counties can also designate infill incentive districts within unincorporated areas:

11-254.06. County infill incentive districts
A. The board of supervisors may designate an infill incentive district in any unincorporated area of the county that meets at least three of the following requirements:
1. There is a large number of vacant, older or dilapidated structures.
2. There is a large number of vacant or underused parcels of property that are of small or inappropriate sizes or that are environmentally contaminated, that are owned by different owners and that are located in an area that lacks the presence of development and investment activity compared to other areas in the county.
3. There is a large number of parcels of property or buildings where nuisances exist or occur.
4. There is a high occurrence of crime.
5. There is a continuing decline in population.
B. Before establishing an infill incentive district, the board of supervisors shall:
1. Identify the boundaries of the proposed district.
2. Notify the owners of private property in the proposed district and property managers of federal and state land in the proposed district by first class mail sent to the addresses on the most recent tax roll. The notice shall be mailed at least fifteen days before the hearing held to adopt the infill incentive plan.
C. If the board of supervisors establishes an infill incentive district, it shall adopt an infill incentive plan to encourage redevelopment in the district. The plan shall emphasize voluntary incentives, including, if appropriate, continuing traditional rural and agricultural enterprises. The plan may include:
1. Expedited zoning or rezoning procedures.
2. Expedited processing of plans and proposals.
3. Waivers of county and county improvement district fees and assessments for development activities.
4. Waivers of development standards and procedural requirements.
D. The infill incentive plan shall not impair the ability of utilities to provide electricity, water, natural gas or other services in accordance with health, safety and industry standards, including meeting electric service load growth demand by customers.
E. Infill incentives established pursuant to this section shall not be in violation of the requirements of the county comprehensive plan pursuant to section 11-804.

Arizona Growing Smarter Acts of 1998 and 2000

I have searched for links to these acts on many occasions, and much of the information is outdated. Apparently, the Department of Commerce, who was administering the act, has closed.

Here is a 1998 Senate version of the Growing Smarter Act –


Again it is unclear how these bills are “enforced.”  Arizona is not like Oregon or Washington, where urban growth boundaries are required for every city.

However, comprehensive plans are required for every Arizona city, see below.

Scottsdale, Tempe, and Phoenix Infill Incentive Districts

Please refer to my “Vote No on 104” post for more details on these, along with maps.

Click here – https://smartgrowthusa.wordpress.com/2015/07/08/vote-no-on-move-phx-104-phoenix-light-rail-smart-growth/

Here is what Scottsdale Mayor W. J. “Jim” Lane signed, in 2010. Since then, 10,000 units have been approved or already built, not only downtown, but in North Scottsdale near the Scottsdale Quarter, Greyhawk, and D.C. Ranch.

Scottsdale Mayor W. J. “Jim” Lane signed the City’s downtown Infill Incentive District in 2010. CLICK TO ENLARGE and READ TEXT within your web browser.

Comprehensive Plans for Every City – Plans “May” Include Designating where Smart Growth Occurs

Below, in bold, it is optional for cities to include smart growth for their cities.

9-461.05General plans; authority; scope

A. Each planning agency shall prepare and the governing body of each municipality shall adopt a comprehensive, long-range general plan for the development of the municipality. The planning agency shall coordinate the production of its general plan with the creation of the state land department conceptual land use plans under title 37, chapter 2, article 5.1 and shall cooperate with the state land department regarding integrating the conceptual state land use plans into the municipality’s general land use plan. The general plan shall include provisions that identify changes or modifications to the plan that constitute amendments and major amendments. The plan shall be adopted and readopted in the manner prescribed by section 9-461.06.

B. The general plan shall be so prepared that all or individual elements of it may be adopted by the governing body and that it may be made applicable to all or part of the territory of the municipality.

C. The general plan shall consist of a statement of community goals and development policies. It shall include maps, any necessary diagrams and text setting forth objectives, principles, standards and plan proposals. The plan shall include the following elements:

1. A land use element that:

(a) Designates the proposed general distribution and location and extent of such uses of the land for housing, business, industry, agriculture, recreation, education, public buildings and grounds, open space and other categories of public and private uses of land as may be appropriate to the municipality.

(b) Includes a statement of the standards of population density and building intensity recommended for the various land use categories covered by the plan.

(c) Identifies specific programs and policies that the municipality may use to promote infill or compact form development activity and locations where those development patterns should be encouraged.

(d) Includes consideration of air quality and access to incident solar energy for all general categories of land use.

(e) Includes policies that address maintaining a broad variety of land uses, including the range of uses existing in the municipality when the plan is adopted, readopted or amended.

(f) For cities and towns with territory in the vicinity of a military airport or ancillary military facility as defined in section 28-8461, includes consideration of military airport or ancillary military facility operations. On or before December 31, 2005, if a city or town includes land in a high noise or accident potential zone as defined in section 28-8461, the city or town shall identify the boundaries of the high noise or accident potential zone in its general plan for purposes of planning land uses in the high noise or accident potential zone that are compatible with the operation of the military airport or ancillary military facility pursuant to section 28-8481, subsection J.

(g) Includes sources of currently identified aggregates from maps that are available from state agencies, policies to preserve currently identified aggregates sufficient for future development and policies to avoid incompatible land uses, except that this subdivision shall not be construed to affect any permitted underground storage facility or limit any person’s right to obtain a permit for an underground storage facility pursuant to title 45, chapter 3.1.

2. A circulation element consisting of the general location and extent of existing and proposed freeways, arterial and collector streets, bicycle routes and any other modes of transportation as may be appropriate, all correlated with the land use element of the plan.

D. For cities and towns having a population of more than two thousand five hundred persons but less than ten thousand persons and whose population growth rate exceeded an average of two per cent per year for the ten year period before the most recent United States decennial census and for cities and towns having a population of ten thousand or more persons according to the most recent United States decennial census, the general plan shall include, and for other cities and towns the general plan may include:

1. An open space element that includes:

(a) A comprehensive inventory of open space areas, recreational resources and designations of access points to open space areas and resources.

(b) An analysis of forecasted needs, policies for managing and protecting open space areas and resources and implementation strategies to acquire additional open space areas and further establish recreational resources.

(c) Policies and implementation strategies designed to promote a regional system of integrated open space and recreational resources and a consideration of any existing regional open space plans.

2. A growth area element, specifically identifying those areas, if any, that are particularly suitable for planned multimodal transportation and infrastructure expansion and improvements designed to support a planned concentration of a variety of uses, such as residential, office, commercial, tourism and industrial uses. This element shall include policies and implementation strategies that are designed to:

(a) Make automobile, transit and other multimodal circulation more efficient, make infrastructure expansion more economical and provide for a rational pattern of land development.

(b) Conserve significant natural resources and open space areas in the growth area and coordinate their location to similar areas outside the growth area’s boundaries.

(c) Promote the public and private construction of timely and financially sound infrastructure expansion through the use of infrastructure funding and financing planning that is coordinated with development activity.

3. An environmental planning element that contains analyses, policies and strategies to address anticipated effects, if any, of plan elements on air quality, water quality and natural resources associated with proposed development under the general plan. The policies and strategies to be developed under this element shall be designed to have community-wide applicability and shall not require the production of an additional environmental impact statement or similar analysis beyond the requirements of state and federal law.

4. A cost of development element that identifies policies and strategies that the municipality will use to require development to pay its fair share toward the cost of additional public service needs generated by new development, with appropriate exceptions when in the public interest. This element shall include:

(a) A component that identifies various mechanisms that are allowed by law and that can be used to fund and finance additional public services necessary to serve the development, including bonding, special taxing districts, development fees, in lieu fees, facility construction, dedications and service privatization.

(b) A component that identifies policies to ensure that any mechanisms that are adopted by the municipality under this element result in a beneficial use to the development, bear a reasonable relationship to the burden imposed on the municipality to provide additional necessary public services to the development and otherwise are imposed according to law.

5. A water resources element that addresses:

(a) The known legally and physically available surface water, groundwater and effluent supplies.

(b) The demand for water that will result from future growth projected in the general plan, added to existing uses.

(c) An analysis of how the demand for water that will result from future growth projected in the general plan will be served by the water supplies identified in subdivision (a) of this paragraph or a plan to obtain additional necessary water supplies.

E. The general plan shall include for cities of fifty thousand persons or more and may include for cities of less than fifty thousand persons the following elements or any part or phase of the following elements:

1. A conservation element for the conservation, development and utilization of natural resources, including forests, soils, rivers and other waters, harbors, fisheries, wildlife, minerals and other natural resources. The conservation element may also cover:

(a) The reclamation of land.

(b) Flood control.

(c) Prevention and control of the pollution of streams and other waters.

(d) Regulation of the use of land in stream channels and other areas required for the accomplishment of the conservation plan.

(e) Prevention, control and correction of the erosion of soils, beaches and shores.

(f) Protection of watersheds.

2. A recreation element showing a comprehensive system of areas and public sites for recreation, including the following and, if practicable, their locations and proposed development:

(a) Natural reservations.

(b) Parks.

(c) Parkways and scenic drives.

(d) Beaches.

(e) Playgrounds and playfields.

(f) Open space.

(g) Bicycle routes.

(h) Other recreation areas.

3. The circulation element provided for in subsection C, paragraph 2 of this section shall also include for cities of fifty thousand persons or more and may include for cities of less than fifty thousand persons recommendations concerning parking facilities, building setback requirements and the delineations of such systems on the land, a system of street naming and house and building numbering and other matters as may be related to the improvement of circulation of traffic. The circulation element may also include:

(a) A transportation element showing a comprehensive transportation system, including locations of rights-of-way, terminals, viaducts and grade separations. This element of the plan may also include port, harbor, aviation and related facilities.

(b) A transit element showing a proposed system of rail or transit lines or other mode of transportation as may be appropriate.

4. A public services and facilities element showing general plans for police, fire, emergency services, sewage, refuse disposal, drainage, local utilities, rights-of-way, easements and facilities for them.

5. A public buildings element showing locations of civic and community centers, public schools, libraries, police and fire stations and other public buildings.

6. A housing element consisting of standards and programs for the elimination of substandard dwelling conditions, for the improvement of housing quality, variety and affordability and for provision of adequate sites for housing. This element shall contain an identification and analysis of existing and forecasted housing needs. This element shall be designed to make equal provision for the housing needs of all segments of the community regardless of race, color, creed or economic level.

7. A conservation, rehabilitation and redevelopment element consisting of plans and programs for:

(a) The elimination of slums and blighted areas.

(b) Community redevelopment, including housing sites, business and industrial sites and public building sites.

(c) Other purposes authorized by law.

8. A safety element for the protection of the community from natural and artificial hazards, including features necessary for such protection as evacuation routes, peak load water supply requirements, minimum road widths according to function, clearances around structures and geologic hazard mapping in areas of known geologic hazards.

9. A bicycling element consisting of proposed bicycle facilities such as bicycle routes, bicycle parking areas and designated bicycle street crossing areas.

10. An energy element that includes:

(a) A component that identifies policies that encourage and provide incentives for efficient use of energy.

(b) An assessment that identifies policies and practices that provide for greater uses of renewable energy sources.

11. A neighborhood preservation and revitalization element, including:

(a) A component that identifies city programs that promote home ownership, that provide assistance for improving the appearance of neighborhoods and that promote maintenance of both commercial and residential buildings in neighborhoods.

(b) A component that identifies city programs that provide for the safety and security of neighborhoods.

F. The water resources element of the general plan does not require:

1. New independent hydrogeologic studies.

2. The city or town to be a water service provider.

G. The land use element of a general plan of a city with a population of more than one million persons shall include protections from encroaching development for any shooting range that is owned by this state and that is located within or adjacent to the exterior municipal boundaries on or before January 1, 2004. The general plan shall establish land use categories within at least one-half mile from the exterior boundaries of the shooting range that are consistent with the continued existence of the shooting range and that exclude incompatible uses such as residences, schools, hotels, motels, hospitals or churches except that land zoned to permit these incompatible uses on August 25, 2004 are exempt from this exclusion. For the purposes of this subsection, “shooting range” means a permanently located and improved area that is designed and operated for the use of rifles, shotguns, pistols, silhouettes, skeet, trap, black powder or any other similar sport shooting in an outdoor environment. Shooting range does not include:

1. Any area for the exclusive use of archery or air guns.

2. An enclosed indoor facility that is designed to offer a totally controlled shooting environment and that includes impenetrable walls, floor and ceiling, adequate ventilation, lighting systems and acoustical treatment for sound attenuation suitable for the range’s approved use.

3. A national guard facility located in a city or town with a population of more than one million persons.

4. A facility that was not owned by this state before January 1, 2002.

H. The policies and strategies to be developed under these elements shall be designed to have community-wide applicability and this section does not authorize the imposition of dedications, exactions, fees or other requirements that are not otherwise authorized by law.


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