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Conservatives should blame the state for sprawl

We all hate suburban sprawl, right? "Wrong." So says libertarian John Stossel as he attempts to debunk the sprawl-is-bad argument in his Myths, Lies and Nasty Behavior series on ABC.

If Stossel wants to to expand Americans' lifestyle choices, he should attack the very thing he was defending," says Austin Bramwell: "For the 101st time: sprawl--an umbrella term for the pattern of development seen virtually everywhere in the United States--is not caused by the free market." Instead, government regulations, zoning laws, building codes, and street design regulations actually "mandate" it. Bramwell is perplexed: "You would think that libertarians would instinctively grasp the deeply statist nature of suburban development."

- Austin Bramwell of the American Conservative

Commenters blame environmental needs for spawl:

consult an engineer (or dab in land development if you've got the cojones.)

The reason why the impervious surface to total lot area is 35% to 50% has more to do with the need to manage storm sewers than any government malefic interference. Lateral setbacks have to do with fire protection. The 20-foot drive way rule basically allows the homeowner to drive off his (or her) own driveway without having to turn into the street and incoming traffic. It also allows for maximum visibility and safety. As for the two parking spots - same thing. Keep what's yours on your property, rather than a county or a city street. As for the "car ownership" argument - get a life.

As for density and zoning - do you have any idea how much money a city needs to spend to raise density zoning to R-8 (the ubiquitous 5000 sqft lot.) Have you even tried to figure out the amount of money cities need to install and/or upgrade utilities to create really dense neighborhoods. Do you even realize that once those upgrades are in place the city needs to be attractive enough to private developers who in theory would come in and develop the raw lots, pay the city for permits and help offset costs with additional tax base? Five years ago I bought a piece of land that has been rezoned to a higher density in 1945. They counted on forty dwellings, and the taxes they would bring, and instead had to wait for one farmer who didn't even want to stub for running water to kick the bucket. He held out to a sweet and ripe 104.


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