||The word sprawl
can be defined in many ways. Most definitions contain
some or all of these elements: Sprawl is a form of
low-density development that uses land in a wasteful
manner, saps the vitality of traditional downtowns,
encourages the use of automobiles, and occurs along
highways and in the rural countryside.
The issue of how to control sprawl in Vermont
has become an increasingly important question as
Vermonters see portions of their state looking more and
more like other parts of the nation. Sprawl also has
serious environmental consequences. For example, it
contributes to air pollution, as Vermonters are driving
more to shop and commute. Sprawl also degrades wildlife
habitat and contributes to water pollution, as run-off
from large parking lots and the roofs of big-box retail
stores can stress rivers and streams.
Fortunately, much of Vermont has
retained its historic character, marked by small villages
surrounded by farmland and working forests. The challenge
before us is how we can protect our states
landscape while retaining a healthy economy.
Sprawl has many causes, but the
individual choices we make every day can contribute to
Consider these one dozen ways you can
help fight sprawl in Vermont:
- Live close to where
you work and shop. Walk or bike to work or,
if possible, use public transportation.
downtown to keep your community economically
- Buy from local
farmers. One of the surest ways to keep
sprawl from spreading in your community is to
strengthen the traditional uses of Vermonts
landscape. Farmers markets and neighborhood
cooperatives help keep land open and can provide
you with healthy, locally grown food.
local loggers and the states wood products
industry. If we support Vermonts wood
products manufacturers who use sustainable forest
practices, we help conserve and propagate our
- Support your local
your local legislators that you favor state
funding for the purchase of development
rights on farmland and other innovative ways to
preserve open space.
- If youre
thinking about building a home in the country,
remember the hidden costs of longer drives to
work, school, and the homes of friends. Living in
a village setting can save you money and hundreds
of hours of driving time over the course of
years, as well as reduce your impacts on the
that building in woodlands where there
hasnt been a house before may harm some
wildlife species. Suburbanization often leads
to the disappearance of predators such as
bobcats, which will result in an increase in the
local raccoon and skunk populations. The
populations of less-visible species, such as
reptiles and amphibians, may also decline due to
new development in outlying areas.
- Serve on a local
planning commission and participate in the
revision of your town plan.
the revision of local zoning ordinances and state
regulations to reduce sprawl.
- Remember how sprawl
can increase local property taxes as growth
in undeveloped areas of your community often
requires new sewer lines and more road
incentives to locate new government buildings, including
schools and post offices, in existing villages
and to use existing buildings when possible.
To learn more about sprawl, contact the
Vermont Forum on Sprawl at (802) 864-6310. Or visit
their Web site at www.vtsprawl.org.