NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

States Attempt To Revitalize Urban Areas And Halt Sprawl

May 4, 2001

State policies that sink millions of dollars into new roads and schools may unwittingly exacerbate not only the declining economies and quality of life of central cities and older suburbs, but also the flip side: traffic congestion, air pollution and loss of open space in rapidly growing suburbs. The problem, as perceived by planners and many government officials, is integrating concerns over sprawl and declining urban tax bases into coherent growth management policies with regional benefits.

States are recognizing the relationship between the plight of urban centers and the newer growth-related problems that accompany sprawl, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some recent legislation has included the following:

  • Maryland has shifted its state aid for local school construction in the last few years, so that two-thirds of state funds now go to renovate existing schools in urban or locally designated growth areas rather than build new schools on the undeveloped urban-rural fringe.
  • Minnesota has adopted a tax-base sharing program for the Minneapolis-St. Paul area that pools 40 percent of the increased commercial and industrial property tax revenue from growth and reallocates it to help meet the infrastructure needs of less affluent communities.
  • A new law in Pennsylvania allows municipalities that undertake joint planning to share revenue generated from new projects and impact development fees assessed by local governments to help cover the necessary public services costs.

In addition, recent legislation in Florida, Arizona and Maine provides incentives for downtown redevelopment, while "brownfields" laws in Colorado and Pennsylvania seek to clean up old industrial sites. Legislatures are becoming more active in trying to incorporate urban revitalization into growth management. The solutions they are crafting emphasize incentives, both for the private sector and local governments promoting urban revitalization.

Source: Larry Morandi, "Urban Revitalization and Sprawl," LegisBrief, Vol. 9, No. 6, January 2001, National Conference of State Legislatures.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues