Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Urban growth boundaries don't work when you cross state lines

The metropolitan area of Portland, Oregon is unusual in that there is an urban growth boundary designed to limit "sprawl" forms of land use development, as well as an elected Metropolitan Government which also focuses on the UGB and is the designated metropolitan planning organization for transportation purposes.

At the same time, Washington State is just across the Columbia River--it's 9 miles from Downtown Portland to Vancouver, Washington.

And while it is not unprecedented for "metropolitan planning organizations" to cross state lines--it's done in the DC area, where the MPO covers DC, and parts of Maryland and Virginia, the Wilmington, DE MPO also includes part of Maryland, the MPO in the Philadelphia area includes part of New Jersey, etc.--the MPO for Vancouver, Washington is separate from the MPO for Portland, Oregon, and even if combined, likely wouldn't have the same kind of power over land use in the Washington State side of the region.

Development there is further complicated by the fact that Oregon doesn't have retail sales taxes, and Washington State doesn't have an income tax. So retailers do better in the Portland side of the region--Downtown Vancouver's retail is pretty paltry as a result. And many people prefer to live in Washington State, because of the lack of income tax.

The Seattle Times has an article, "California investment firm spurns Seattle area for rural Clark County," about how a financial firm relocated from California to Camas, Washington--15 miles from Downtown Vancouver, so 24 miles from Downtown--to a 170 acre campus that right now has about 400 employees, and adding to sprawl.

So the Washington State side of the Portland metropolitan area is a case study for how sprawl can occur, even in an area with generally stronger laws and regulations against sprawl.

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