Failed model of growth, all around you

Photo: Kick-Kick

Wonder how sprawl happens?

This blog is about Columbus, OH, but it could be anywhere, including Colorado. Look around you, and you’ll see the same thing: undeveloped lands (including farmlands) further from downtowns being turned endlessly into the next mall or big box retail center.  A few years or a decade later, those once-new shopping centers decline as fancier new shopping centers open a little further out. Downtowns or urban centers die along with the old malls, leaving vacant areas blighting up the community. And the pattern continues.

If you’re a thinking person, you probably shake your head when you see it, and think it’s a shame. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about what decisions lead us there, take a minute and read the blog. It describes how our model of economic development and growth makes this happen, by perpetually giving tax breaks and subsidies to private developers to build the next great shopping center in hopes of creating benefits for everyone through new jobs and new sales tax revenue for cities.

Too often this doesn’t pan out.  Discussing a new proposed mall in Columbus, the article makes this point very well:

The truth is this development won’t create almost a billion dollars in new economic activity. Some older mall or retail center will be closed: maybe struggling Polaris. The new interchange will simply transfer commerce further from municipal boundaries onto undeveloped farmland.

Not only will taxpayers be asked to foot the cost of expanding I-71, they will be asked to clean up the wreckage left behind, the way they have with a $25 million commitment at City Center and millions morefor demolition and redevelopment at the Northland site.

What will taxpayers have to show for their investment in a new retail center for Delaware County? Columbus will have a larger carbon footprint. There will be less farmland. The central city will be weaker. More people will be utterly dependent on cars. Oh, and a few developers will have made a lot of money.

As I said, look around you and you can see countless examples of exactly what is described here. This long-standing model of growth in Colorado (and everywhere) is a fail. It has created a need for taxpayers to pay to build highways, sewer lines, and water lines ever further out and forcing us to have to drive ever further to go shopping and meet daily needs. We can’t afford it anymore.

Wouldn’t you rather have communities where you can walk, bike, take transit, or drive a shorter distance to work and meet your daily needs, while feeling a part of the community around you? Wouldn’t you rather waste less of your time in traffic, and see your tax dollars go to improve your community rather than build the next big mall? I’m betting that you, like me, would!

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