Thursday, April 12, 2012

Is Sprawl by Another Name Any Greener?

Suburban neighborhood developers want a piece of the "green" market. They're building sprawling neighborhoods far from city centers and declaring them "green and sustainable" by virtue of the fact that the National Association of Home Builders says they are.

For example, the 95-acre "The Lakes of Orange" outside of Cleveland, Ohio boasts that it is "Ohio's FIRST Green Certified Residential Community." That means that it satisfied the requirements set by the NAHB's Green Building Program. But if you live there, and happen to work in downtown Cleveland, it's a 19-mile drive each way. There's a bus stop a 15-minute walk from the neighborhood entrance, but since the bus doesn't use the interstate, it takes three times as long to get downtown. It's also a purely residential and recreational development, so you have to drive to buy groceries or meet a friend for lunch. Is this really green living?

As Angie Schmitt points out in her blog, mixed-use developments like "Saxony" outside of Indianapolis are an improvement over the bedroom community model. But sprawl is sprawl. And so long as public policy makes it cheaper to build on farmland than in-fill locations in urban centers, these new developments will funnel more cars onto our already choking highways.

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