Largely a post Word-War II phenomenon, the word sprawl describes what its name evokes: formless, spreading, inefficent consumption of land. A “sprawling” landscape generally has no center and few public spaces where people congregate.
Many Americans feel that sprawling development has accrued too many costs: The environment has suffered as Americans make more and more vehicle trips, new houses gobble up farmland and scenic countryside and new sewer lines and septic tanks damage the water supply in many areas. Civic participation also suffers as we spend more time stuck in traffic, know fewer of our neighbors, and inhabit a privatized landscape with few public squares or “third places”. In addition, as varying ethnic groups and social classes live in isolation from each other, there is less of a sense of unity and shared fate.
The sprawl model also negatively affects small locally owned stores. When permissive zoning laws allow large megastores to locate on the outskirts of town (with generous tax breaks often thrown into the deal), money is siphoned away from the local businesses, further undermining a sense of place and community. (See New Rules Project’s Retail Sector for more about this problem. Also see Stacy Mitchell’s book The Hometown Advantage: How to Defend Your Main Street Against Chain Stores and Why it Matters .)
Thissection offers several policy measures that encourage a more efficient use of land that fosters civic participation and social interaction.
The state of Vermont uses a Land Gains Tax to protect rural land from short-term speculation. First effective in 1973, the tax imposes very high taxes on sales of land held a short time and sold for a large profit.
The land gains tax is imposed on the gain from the sale or exchange of Vermont land that was held less than six years, and the land is not part of the first ten acres beneath or contiguous to the seller's principal residence.… Read More
Can a land tax reduce sprawl and strengthen urban economies? The evidence is persuasive though not conclusive. Political economist Henry George first proposed a land value tax over 100 years ago, as a way to eliminate land specualtion and make more land available for production.
Today,some observers hail it as a way to curb sprawl. Current property taxes are based in the value of property, reflecting both the land and structure value, in a proportion determined by local property assessors. Decisions to reinvest or remodel currently result in higher assessment valuations and thus higher taxes.… Read More