Urban Growth Boundaries

By Byrd, Rodney | The Humanist, July 1999 | Go to article overview

Urban Growth Boundaries


Byrd, Rodney, The Humanist


A Humanistic Success Story

"We not only have some responsibility to the present world community but to future generations yet to be born, and this should transcend that which divides us."

--Paul Kurtz, "Beyond Humanist Manifesto II" in the September/October 1998 Humanist

The world has evolved rapidly in the past fifty years. There has been an enormous development of technology, and globalization is now a household word. This tremendous surge in technological advancement is accompanied by a host of economic and social problems ranging from overpopulation to pollution to the threat of nuclear war. Therefore, we must step up to the plate and combat these social and economic woes so that future generations can continue to reap the benefits of human technological evolution. This type of planning and attitude is evident in Oregon and many other areas of the world. More and more cities have adopted urban growth boundaries (UGBs) to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy and appreciate the land surrounding them.

UGBs are planning tools used by states and cities to forecast where a city expects to grow. The boundaries mark the separation between rural and urbanized land. They are intended to promote the efficient use of urban land, improve the efficiency of public facilities and services, and preserve prime farm and forest lands outside the boundaries. The program has been extremely useful and the advantages are very visible and tangible. UGBs allow citizens to affirm their community's identity. They save the taxpayers thousands of dollars by using land and facilities more efficiently. Housing becomes more affordable. Diversity in the community is also encouraged because people of many different interests and backgrounds are brought together for a common purpose.

Drawing UGBs is a joint effort. The city that will be surrounded by the boundaries plays a key role. The adjoining county also plays a vital part because it is jointly responsible for planning and zoning the area outside of the city limits. Citizens of the area play an important role, as well. Since they are the ones who have to live with the decision for years to come, it is essential that they participate in all phases of the project. They must lend a voice in the amount of land that is needed, the location, and who will manage the growth of the boundaries.

The expected growth of the city is used to decide how much land will be allocated to the UGBs. The city that plans to implement the boundaries estimates the growth of the city by using projections made by the state and federal governments. These projections are then compared with other surrounding cities to make sure they are consistent with the growth projections for the area.

The next step is deciding how much vacant land will be needed to accommodate the percentage of growth the city expects to attain. Everyone involved in the process must come to a decision on the amount of land to be used to build new houses, apartments, mobile homes, stores, factories, and other infrastructure. Numerous factors affect this estimate, including vacancy rates, household sizes, and density of population. Thus, careful consideration must be given to this phase of the process in order for the optimum amount of land to be allocated. …

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