Exploring Sprawl Research Series

This six-part series was completed by Smart Growth Vermont (then Vermont Forum on Sprawl) between 1998 and 1999. The series examines Vermonters’ opinions on sprawl, a definition of sprawl in Vermont, the causes and effects of sprawl, state policies and their influence on sprawl, costs for development in downtowns vs. greenfields and social and economic trends in sprawl in Vermont.

(PDF, 159 K)  Smart Growth Vermont conducted a poll of over 2,300 Vermonters on the subject of community values and sprawl. The poll provided information on the relationship between public attitudes and development patterns through a series of questions on quality of life, Vermont values, community, choice of residence, shopping patterns, and sprawl.

(PDF, 299 K)  Many people who have seen sprawling development within and, especially, outside Vermont picture it as fairly homogeneous – a generalized spreading of buildings, roads, and people from city areas into countryside. But in Vermont this is neither the whole nor the most accurate picture of sprawl. It is vital to define what sprawl is to Vermont – and to examine closely what has been happening in Vermont communities. Only when we clearly understand the issue, can we frame workable, practical solutions. The detailed report contains supplemental research.

(PDF, 213 K)  To better understand the particular causes and effects of sprawl in Vermont, it is important to look closely at a cross-section of Vermont communities. During 1998, researchers commissioned by Smart Growth Vermont studied eight sample communities, in four key types of towns. This report looks at the causes and impacts of sprawl within communities, based on the research into the eight case study towns. The detailed report contains supplemental research.

(PDF, 63 K)  Many thousands of decisions contribute to sprawl in Vermont; among them are decisions by the Legislature and state agencies on public investment, laws and policies. An important part of the research by Smart Growth Vermont has been to review state investments and policies, in order to understand the various ways they may promote or restrain sprawl. This report, the fourth in a series, summarizes the findings of this review. The detailed report contains supplemental research.

(PDF, 63 K)  Where businesses and developers choose to place their investments in constructing or renovating buildings – whether downtown or in suburban open spaces – is critical to the pattern of growth in Vermont. As increasing numbers of Vermonters voice concern about the spreading of commercial and residential development across the countryside, it is important to clearly compare the costs of suburban versus downtown development. The detailed report contains supplemental research.

(PDF, 103 K)  As sprawl moves across the landscape, it creates patterns of impact. These include quite visible changes in land use and in vehicle traffic on our roads, along with subtler shifts in the economies and the social composition of our cities and towns. Sprawl is more than a phenomenon of road and building development. Its long-term impacts can range from lengthening the distances that many Vermonters travel to reach their jobs, to widening the physical separation between people of lower and higher incomes. These and other effects may be altering the social and economic character of many Vermont communities, and of our state as a whole. This sixth and concluding publication in a series of research reports by Smart Growth Vermont presents some key indicators that begin, at least, to suggest the wider impacts that sprawl brings to Vermont’s land and communities.