Causes of Sprawl

There is no one factor that determines how our landscape and settlement patterns change over time.  Various policies and public decisions at the local, state and federal level, as well as individual preferences and actions, have served to foster sprawl.  These include:

  • Public investments in roads, public buildings, water, sewer and other infrastructure in peripheral areas; disinvestment in existing centers
  • Land regulations that promote spread out, land consumptive development
  • Increases in our population
  • Consumer desire for rural lifestyle with large homes and large yards, sense of security and less traffic congestion
  • Preference of business and industry for easy highway access, plenty of free parking and corporate identity
  • Demands of commercial tenants for particular locations and standardized designs for buildings and sites
  • Other public policies, including tax policies and utility rate structures
  • Higher costs of development in older, traditional centers
  • Lower land prices in peripheral areas
  • Commercial lending practices that favor suburban development
  • Weakening farm and forestry sectors