Working for Smart Growth:
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New Report Highlights Fiscal Benefits of Smart-Growth Development

May 21st, 2013 by

The Highlands at Morristown Station, an example of smart-growth, mixed-use development.

A new report titled “Building Better Budgets: A National Examination of the Fiscal Benefits of Smart Growth Development,” was released May 21 by Smart Growth America and examines a range of development cost and revenue studies conducted at various levels of government across the country. The report concludes that different patterns of growth can affect as much as one-third of a municipality’s budget – namely, the portion devoted to capital expenditures on infrastructure and on delivery of services. In every case reviewed in the report, smart-growth-style development – described as compact and higher-density with a mix of uses – offered significant savings over traditional low-density development, both on the upfront costs of infrastructure and on the cost of ongoing delivery of municipal services. In addition, the study looked at areas that had calculated the tax revenue per acre of various development styles and concluded that smart-growth-style development offered substantially higher revenue per acre than other forms.

“The current severe local budget constraints highlight why it’s important for municipalities to understand how much the development decisions they make can affect their long-term finances,” said New Jersey Future Executive Director Peter Kasabach. “This report demonstrates that in every municipality studied – regardless of the differences among them – the decision to manage development using a smart-growth approach yielded both higher revenues per acre and lower capital and operating costs than an equivalent level of low-density development would have. The message of the report is clear: Sprawl development is expensive.

“This report should be good news for residents anywhere who are complaining about municipal costs,” Kasabach continued. “It shows how our expensive our traditional patterns of development become, and it provides a clear framework for municipalities that want to grow without incurring those high costs. Elected officials and planning board members would do well to add it to their reading lists.”

The report, “Building Better Budgets: A National Examination of the Fiscal Benefits of Smart Growth Development,” can be downloaded from the Smart Growth America website.

To accompany the report’s release Smart Growth America will host an online panel discussion (free, but registration required) about the findings on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 11:00 AM EDT.

Speaking on the call will be Rick Bernhardt, FAICP, CNU-A, executive director of the Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County, TN, planning department; William Fulton, Smart Growth America’s vice president of policy and research; and Chris Zimmerman, a member of the Arlington County, VA, board. Municipal leaders, members of the press and advocates are invited to join the call and participate, or to follow the conversation on Twitter at the hashtag #BuildBetterBudgets.

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