The Effects of Urban Growth Boundaries on Florida Urban Densities

9 September 2016

The Effects of Urban Growth Boundaries on Florida Urban Densities Prepared by Submitted to ___ Executive Summary Urban growth boundaries (UGB) are a growth management tool adopted from early English land use traditions to categorize land use. UGB’s are boundaries that clearly delineate the limit of the urban density growth permitted and supported by the issuing municipality. Florida instituted the Growth Management Act in 1985, mandating local comprehensive planning and recommending cities implement urban service areas, motivating many cities to go a step further and clearly outline the limit of growth.

This study seeks to identify the effectiveness of UGB’s on compact development in urbanized cities within the state of Florida. There are 38 cities in Florida with populations greater than 50,000 people, or which are urbanized areas. The study will collect data and organize case studies on eight cities with urban growth boundaries of the 38 possible cities. The data, both through secondary data analysis and survey research, will measure the impact of the urban growth boundary to impact key compact development factors.

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Since compact development is described as growth up instead of out, indicators of an increase in compact development include use of infrastructure, mass transportation capacity, undeveloped land, building standards, and zoning densities. The surveys will measure the administrative perception of the impact or effectiveness by gauging the same indicators from an administrative point of view. The collection of data will then be analyzed using SPSS or a similar social science statistical analysis program to determine any significance between the changes among cities.

The expected results will outline the cities’ perceptions on the UGB as well as the quantitative changes that occurred over the measured time period. The quasi-experimental time-lapse design faces internal validity issues because of the political nature of the policy. External validity within the study is questioned because of the diverse sample population and the small sample size. The heterogeneous nature of the sample slightly counters the small sample size but nevertheless the results will not be generalizable to the entire population.

Still, the case study design is the best method for analysis because it will allow the researchers to highlight any statistically significant factors as well as any frequently occurring tendencies among case study cities. Ethical considerations for the research include the condition of anonymity among survey respondents. The level of political influence asserted with the municipal administration may affect the survey responses if the respondents are not satisfied with the level of anonymity.

Further research options that merit further evaluation include the influence of supplementary growth management tools and a UGB within a city and the influence of other growth management policies minus the implementation of the UGB. Density Matters: The effects of urban growth boundaries on Florida urban densities Introduction The urban growth boundary is a popular growth management tool that was implemented in the United States as early as the 1950’s.

Widely used in the United States today, over 100 cities and counties have implemented a form of the urban growth boundary in order to limit sprawl, preserve government resources, and conserve open space and natural resources. Florida implemented the Growth Management Act of 1985 and mandated that cities and counties create comprehensive plans to guide local planning of future growth and resources. Since 1985, all cities and counties have implemented comprehensive plans and in turn, a few cities have implemented urban growth boundaries as a growth management tool.

In order to determine the effectiveness of urban growth boundaries as a growth management policy, this study will evaluate urbanized cities with populations of 50,000 people or larger that have implemented a boundary around the city to limit growth and designate between urban and rural areas. Urban growth boundaries (UGB) have become synonymous with forward thinking urban areas such as Portland, Oregon and Boulder, Colorado. Individuals familiar with these areas might recognize the use of urban growth boundaries as the distinct “line” which separates urban and rural development.

A visual of the UGB might show dense a residential neighborhood on one side of the street and open pastures with cows grazing on the other. In general terms the urban growth boundary is a land use planning tool in which a municipality forecasts population growth for a future period of time and creates a growth boundary accordingly. Essentially a line drawn in the sand, the UGB was instituted in early 1970’s and has set precedence in growth management in the United States.

The primary goals of this growth management strategy are to increase compact urban development, preserve and protect agricultural, environmental, and open space, and reduce fragmented development on the fringe (Paradise n. d. ). American Planning Association (APA) contributing authors, Uri Avin and Michael Bayer initiated a small study of nearly 146 cities and counties that had implemented UGB’s and found that “communities are not expanding their UGB’s in any significant way. Nor do communities appear to be densifying their undeveloped land with the UGB’s as an alternative to expansion” (2003, p. 22).

Their initial results provide introductory evidence that urban growth boundaries have not acted as a means to an end after all. There are still many cities and counties that have implemented urban growth boundaries and have not seen a substantial increase urban density or in overall compact urban development. This study questions the effectiveness of urban growth boundaries as a growth containment policy. Currently, urban growth boundaries are a hot topic both in Florida and the U. S. , but research has been limited to the effect of urban growth boundaries on the housing market and growth management tools and urban development.

Specifically identifying the causal relationship between the urban growth boundary and urban development will be beneficial to the field of planning and public administration. If planners and administrators have more empirical data regarding the effectiveness of UBG’s as a tool they will be able to use it more efficiently and in correlation with other growth management tools. The study seeks to gather information to evaluate and measure the effect urban growth boundaries have had on increasing density within the designated urban areas.

Effectiveness of the policy is defined as a positive impact on overall density within the urban boundary and is being measured through the quantitative change in usage of infrastructure, building code limitations or allowances, access and use of mass transportation, and zoning densities within the city. The measurement of these individual variables is to show the causal relationship between limited land resource and a more efficient use of space inside the boundary if the boundary is positively effective. The research intends to evaluate the urban structure within Florida cities hat have implemented urban growth boundaries and identify any impacts on “compact” development through density. In doing so, the intention is to highlight common occurrences among the cities after the implementation of the UGB, and ultimately, evaluate the performance of the growth management tool Florida. According the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), compact development “refers to the act of constructing buildings vertically rather than horizontally, and configuring them on a block or neighborhood scale that makes efficient use of land and resources” (2004, para. 4).

In order to quantify impacts on density as a factor of compact development, the research will look at indicators such as use of infrastructure, mass transportation capacity, undeveloped land, building standards, and zoning densities in and out of the urban growth boundary. Research questions? Literature Review Urban growth boundaries are the evolutionary product of greenbelts around garden cities, created to separate cities into varying land uses. Early examples of cities using boundary lines to limit growth include the 1972 “Petaluma Plan” of Petaluma, California and the 1976 “Danish Plan” in Boulder, Colorado (Jurie 2004).

These early examples introduced growth management in terms of limiting services in an effort to conserve open space and create continuity within the cities’ boundaries. Other cities have chosen to use the UGB to “limit the long-term location of growth to land within a designated boundary” (Kelly 1993, pp. 23-24) including Portland, Oregon and Knoxville, Tennessee (Jurie 2004). Extensive research has been done to determine the effect urban growth boundaries have had on factors such as housing prices, fringe growth, sprawl, development patterns, and commuting (Edgens, Mildner, & Staley 1999, Jun 2004, Knaap & Song 2004).

Proponents of the UGB’s effectiveness as a growth management policy argue that it has improved internal connectivity, pedestrian access, and density, contained sprawl and protected natural resources and open space (Nelson 1994, Knaap & Song 2004). Opponents argue that it has increased housing prices and diverted new growth outside of the boundary instead of drawing it in (Jun 2004, Edgens, Mildner, & Staley 1999). Contentions volley between the immediate and the long-term impact of urban growth boundaries.

The implementation of an urban growth boundary creates pressure on all areas of the market as scarcity of resources is heightened. Immediate response to the increased pressure forces new development to find open and uninhibited areas to locate leaving behind the defined urban area and boundary. Kelly (1993) suggests that UGB’s work best in a regional context because of the tendency for development to jump over the UGB, or so-called ‘leapfrogging. ’ The State of Florida’s 1985 Growth Management Act mandated the implementation of an urban growth policy in the form of a comprehensive plan for each city and county in the state.

Florida’s regional view on growth management has set the stage for implementation of urban growth boundaries in cities within the state. Research suggests that implementation of an urban growth boundary on a regional scale has a greater impact than implemented locally and without cooperation among municipalities (Kelly 1993). Comprehensive planning is a state-mandated local government responsibility. Despite contention among researchers about the best way to implement growth management, many municipalities have relied on prior examples and legislation to guide their planning process.

Although there is evidence that urban growth boundaries have not had a great impact on growth management, the tool is still utilized because of its prominence among legislators and in the field. In addition, the evidence provided has not negated a causal relationship between the urban growth boundary and increased compact development. The proposed study will attempt to use aggregate data of state supported growth management policies, specifically the urban growth boundary, and its effect on compact urban density. Urban growth boundaries directly influence increased compact development.

Assuming the following premise is true, the next logical step is to determine the variables that make up compact development and determine any change in total compact development since the implementation of the urban growth boundary. The results are expected to either support or negate the assumed causal relationship. Methods Sampling In order to evaluate the effectiveness of urban growth boundaries in Florida’s urban environment as an effective policy, the study’s population of interest will be urbanized environments that have implemented urban growth boundaries or similar urban containment policy.

For purposes of this research, the study urban environment is limited to Florida cities with a population of 50,000 or greater (EPA 2004, para. 22). The sampling framework will then be constructed using MapStats information on the FEDSTATS website. FEDSTATS is the central source of public information regarding federal government organizations (FEDSTATS 2004). The sampling frame once compiled will consist of Florida cities with a 2000 Census population of 50,000 or greater with an urban growth boundary. The chief planning administrator of each city will be contacted to verify the city’s use of an urban growth boundary.

According to the MapStats website based on 2000 Census data, 38 cities in Florida have populations greater than 50,000 people (FEDSTATS 2004). The 38-city sampling frame can be found in Appendix A. There is an extensive amount of time involved in gathering the final sampling frame and for proposal purposes the study assumes that 50 percent of the sampling frame will have implemented some form of urban growth boundary. According to this assumption, 16 cities make up the sampling frame, and eight cities will be identified for an extensive case study based on survey research.

The sample population groups together highly diverse cities within the state classified by population size and policy implementation. This classification creates a sample that is highly heterogeneous with variables such as type of city government, city statues, economic resources, and citizen preferences, all enormously affecting the research results. Overall the results are expected to be moderately generalizable to the larger population because unpredictable political factors play a key role in the development of effective policy outcomes.

The results are likely to exhibit common characteristics of the effectiveness between the case study cities but will not offer any sweeping generalizations on the outcome of all Florida cities implementing of urban growth boundaries. Measures The objective of the research is to determine the performance of urban growth boundaries in urban areas. Effectiveness is defined as having impacted compact development or caused an increase in compact development in the urbanized area. Each city implemented urban growth boundaries with a set of expectations different from one another.

In order to account for those differences this research is limiting effectiveness to represent only the quantifiable impacts. Performance will be measured by gathering data on the following indicators: infrastructure usage, units per acre, vacant land in city limits, maximum building height, mass transportation access and usage, and road widths. The data for each of the previous indicators is available through each city’s governmental departments. Each department has information regarding its operations.

The data will be requested from each of the sample cities’ departments, which include planning, zoning, and public works. Information regarding density and population growth can be taken from the most recent Census data. The measures associated with increased density and compact development will measure an increased population in a restricted land environment. Compact development refers to building up rather than out and so these measures will quantify any impact on fitting more people in less space. The first measure of density is equal to total population divided by total landmass.

This measure will indicate whether the city has fit more residents into a limited land space. The next measure, infrastructure usage, seeks to identify how many people are using one unit of infrastructure. For example, this measure will identify users per mile of sewer line and users per mile of water line. By measuring user per mile of infrastructure we can compare between cities and not be impacted by size differences. An increased number of users per infrastructure mile may indicate more compact development.

Unit per acre density will be measured with residential units per acre because the change in residential units per acre may indicate a change in development type or changing zoning regulations. Measurement of the vacant land within city limits before and after the implementation of the urban growth boundary may indicate the level of growth and where that has occurred since implementation. Another indicator of changing regulations supporting or negating compact urban development is the affect on maximum building heights within the city. Another indicator, mass transportation access and usage, may indicate an impact on compact development.

It requires higher densities to support forms of mass transportation such as bus routes, subways, and light rail and a change in this measurement would indicate a possible effect. On the other side of increased mass transportation usage, a change in the physical widths of new or existing roads may indicate a change in planning emphasis toward more compact development. In addition to analyzing existing historical data, a survey will be handed out to the cities of the sample to gather data from the city administrator and from the Planning Department.

Each city will be sent five surveys, two to the city administrator and three to the Planning Department, in order to gather multiple perspectives regarding the basis for the implementation of the policy. An example of the type of survey questions to be distributed can be found in Appendix A. The survey focuses on the details about the urban growth boundary, goals for implementation, and the community response since implementation as well as demographic data about the city. The surveys will be kept anonymous and the results will be used aggregately to show trends in administrative perspectives.

Design The design chosen for this research is quasi-experimental, before and after design as described by Carol Weiss (1998). The research is designed to evaluate five cities before and after the implementation of an urban growth boundary without comparison to any control group in order to measure the effectiveness of the UGB policy. This research recognizes that non-experimental before and after evaluation is not necessarily “authoritative” for determining effectiveness, but serves the function of the research topic well (Weiss 1998, pp. 193).

One group before and after analysis has validity issues because outside elements are occurring during the same time frame that the policy is being evaluated and are not being measured for their impact. The unknown impact of outside environmental factors negates the validity of any causal relationship determined from the research unless it can otherwise be accounted. The research regarding the impact of urban growth boundaries recognizes that multiple growth management tools may be in play during the time period of evaluation in a political and unpredictable environment.

It may be impossible to separate the impact of those tools from the impact of an urban growth boundary and so this research seeks to identify factors that are specifically related to limited land area for development. Additional variables that could possibly be used to measure the impact of the UGB on compact density, but could possibly be influenced by the unpredictable nature of the profession have not been included for evaluation. Procedures and Analyses This research design seeks to determine the cause and effect relationship between urban growth boundaries and compact development.

Earl Babbie (2004) outlines the criteria to determine nomothetic causality relationships in three factors: “the variables must be correlated, the cause takes place before the effect, and the variables are nonspurious” (p. 90). Compact development and growth management tools are in fact both descendants of the planning communities desire to create livable and sustainable communities. This research seeks to identify both a direct cause and effect relationship and confirm the nonspurious nature of the variables. The choice to use quasi-experimental time-lapse analysis is only appropriate based on the nature of the topic in discussion.

Ultimately, analyzing the process in action and any changes made without comparison to any level of control group will provide a base to begin interpretation of effectiveness. Ideally once the information is compiled, whether the data shows a substantial change inside or outside of the UGB, there will be information for comparison. This examination will measure the previous indicators, before and after the implementation an urban growth boundary, and determine if the policy has impacted density and compact development in the case study cities.

First, the sample population will be identified and quartered into the cities that meet the urban criteria of 50,000 people or greater. After the initial list is identified, they will be contacted for confirmation of implementation of an urban growth boundary eight cities will systematically be chosen. Two methods of data collection will be used to gather the data. The survey instrument will measure the planners and administrators’ perceptions of the effectiveness of the UGB while the questionnaire will serve as the main vehicle for data regarding changes in the cities before and after implementation.

The survey instrument will be administered by mail and Internet access for convenience for the administrators. Ten surveys will be sent to both the lead planning administrators and non-planning managers within the cities’ departments which will be distributed in confidentiality. The survey responder will be expected to identify the municipality they represent but not their name or position. In order to access the Internet website and complete the survey, the responder will be required to enter a code identifying their respective city.

The expected return rate for the surveys is six surveys from each of the eight cities on approximately a four-week time frame. The second data collection method, questionnaire, will be compiled of existing data on the eight sample cities. In order to fairly gauge the effectiveness of implementation time will be controlled for during data collection. The specific sample cities will determine the time frames used to measure between the sample cities. This is expected to take between one and two weeks.

Once the data collection is complete and the surveys have been returned the data will be entered into social science research software, such as SPSS, for statistical computation of the quantitative changes in indicated variables as well as the managers/planners perceptions of effectiveness. The data will be analyzed to highlight statistical similarities or outstanding characteristics of high frequency that occurs in the time series data. The ability of the design to actually measure the indicators poses a serious concern to this research team (Babbie 2004).

The team recognizes that the chosen indicators may not create a comprehensive picture of the forces molding compact growth but feel confident that the indicators chosen are the best available. Secondly, the design uses content analysis coupled with survey research to paint a picture of urban growth boundaries from both the administrative and practical perspectives. Ultimately, the political nature of policies leave room for indiscretions in measurement but according to supporting research this is the best method identified. Ethical Considerations

Ethical considerations relevant to this study focus on the individual cities of the sample. The information requested for the research is public access information and will not require explicit approval or volunteering from any participants in the sample cities. This research intends to work closely with the sample organizations and prefers willing organizations but will not compromise the validity of the study by simply replacing an uncooperative respondent with a cooperative one. If necessary, the study will report that information is incomplete because it was inaccessible.

Conclusion Research regarding the effectiveness of urban growth boundaries as a growth management policy is imperative. Cities and counties around the nation are looking for established means of regulating the relationships between society, the environment, and the economy and the urban growth boundary has potential to be a highly influential implementation tool. Especially in Florida as migration continues to the southern region and precious resources are being compromised, objective evaluation of the policy’s effects in urban areas to meet predetermined goals is required.

The discovery of a strong causal relationship (or the lack thereof) between the implementation of the UGB and compact development within Florida cities is open to influence future state growth management policy in highly contested arenas such as water management, utility management, and future development rights. The key identifiers of compact development, including but not limited to density per acre, density per infrastructure mile, and number of users per mass transportation option, combined with administrative perceptions of effectiveness and impact serve as the main data source for this research.

Because this study is focused solely on the UGB it is unable to clarify the impact of other growth management policies or tools in collaboration with the UGB. The results of this research would provide basis to further discuss the impact of supplementary growth management policies individual and in coordination with the urban growth boundary as well as the effect of compact development without the UGB as a catalyst. This research relies on the belief that sustainable, compact development is the key to creating communities that provide future generations with the same opportunities as the previous generations had.

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