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The Sprawl Debate:Let Markets Plan

Peter Gordon and Harry W. Richardson
Sprawl issues ought not be a federal issue because land-use control is local. Americans have been moving to both suburban and private communities for many years, an expression of the constitutional right to travel. They seek more direct control over their personal property rights. Both trends are at odds with the desire of planners to impose more controls via land-use and growth controls. Planners base their arguments on the need to control urban sprawl. Examining their arguments one-by-one shows that they are empirically weak. The controls are ineffective and will do little to slow down these shifts in residential location. The logic of the planners’ position would be to control development everywhere via state and even federal legislation, but this is undesirable, unattainable, and probably unconstitutional. Sprawl will remain an issue over which state and local jurisdictions will either continue to fight or find an uneasy accommodation.