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Expert says area needs to contain urban sprawl

One of the best weapons against urban sprawl gobbling up farmland and open fields in northwest Ohio is cooperation by various branches of government, a national expert on development said yesterday.

Myron Orfield, a state senator from Minnesota who has conducted urban studies on several major metropolitan areas including Detroit, made his comments during a presentation sponsored by the Common Ground Coalition.

The coalition is spearheaded by the University of Toledo's Urban Affairs Center in conjunction with 25 other government offices and organizations to help enhance regional cooperation in planning and development.

Mr. Orfield spoke to about 230 people at the McMaster Family Center for Lifelong Learning at the main branch of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library.

He said northwest Ohio is losing land to urban sprawl four times faster than the population growth.

The rapid loss of land threatens to harm Toledo as the area's core city and could begin to eat away at front-line suburban areas around the city, he said.

He will discuss similar issues during a taping of The Editors television program. The Editors will be broadcast at 9 p.m. Friday on WGTE-TV, Channel 30, and 12:30 p.m. Sunday on WBGU-TV, Channel 27.

“The metropolitan areas are fighting each other instead of working together,” Mr. Orfield said after his speech. “What they don't realize is that they are hurting one another and don't know what the impact of their growth is on the other.”

Mr. Orfield said that throughout the country metropolitan areas that experienced the strongest economic growth all had major cities with strong urban centers. He said that a strong urban center in Toledo would be beneficial to the entire region.

He also said that housing discrimination remains pervasive in many areas, locking minorities - mainly African-Americans and Latinos - out of some areas of the city and the suburbs.

Mr. Orfield said to build a spirit for mutual cooperation, governments can:

  • Enact tax reform that would reduce the local dependence on property taxes.

  • Cooperate more in land-use planning decisions.

  • Provide more public input into regional conferences.

    Dr. Patrick McGuire, executive director of the university's Urban Affair Center, said the growth of sprawl compared with the population was “scary,” but Toledo's sprawl has not progressed like many major cities in the state.

    The presentation by Mr. Orfield “was something that was way overdue,” Dr. McGuire said. “He gave us examples from around the country of how other areas worked together and became stronger and gave us hope that we can do the same.”

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