Knoxville rated as one of the country's most sprawling cities 2002-10-18

The Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times 10-18-2002

by Genaro Armas, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Knoxville is one of the most sprawling metro regions in the country, according to a study released by Smart Growth America. The city came in eighth on a list of ten most sprawling metro regions.

The report ranked areas by population and housing density; the mix of homes, jobs and services; the availability and use of town centers or downtowns; and the street network. Knoxville's weakest score was for its lack of compact, convenient housing and was identified by the group as the single most spread-out metro area in the entire nation.

The report also cited that its street network was marked by long blocks and poor accessibility. Smart Growth America promotes the protection of open space, neighborhood revitalization, affordable housing and more transportation options.

The Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif. metropolitan area was rated the most sprawling metro region in the country, according to the study. The next two areas on the list are both in North Carolina: Greensboro-Winston Salem-High Point and Raleigh-Durham. Another southern metropolis -- Atlanta -- is the hub of the fourth most sprawling area.

The group ranked Memphis, Tennessee's largest city, at 31st among the 83 metro areas studied. It said it didn't have enough information to provide a ranking of the state's second-largest city, Nashville. The only northeastern area in the top 10 of Smart Growth's rankings is the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk-Danbury area of Connecticut, home to many suburban commuters to New York City.

More sprawling metro areas tend to have more fatal traffic accidents and worse pollution, in large part because of an increased reliance on cars to get to work and do errands, the report said. People drive more miles and mass transit options are often limited. ``People define sprawl and smart growth in a lot of different ways and we want to bring rigor to the debate,'' said Don Chen, Smart Growth's executive director. ``What we hope people will gain is a better understanding of how sprawl affects people's quality of life.'' To fight sprawl, the report said, planners should focus on reviving abandoned properties and neglected communities, create places where homes and businesses are in close proximity and encourage development in already built-up areas.

Kevin Palmer, economic development manager for the city of Riverside, Calif., said area officials have already looked at such things. ``These are things that cities have practiced for many years, and we are pleased that the counties have recognized these issues, too,'' Palmer said. The Riverside-San Bernardino metropolitan area had a big growth spurt in the 1980s as people from Los Angeles and other communities closer to the coast came inland to buy cheaper homes. A housing and business boom followed the recession of the early 1990s.

The rankings were based on analysis of federal data for 83 metropolitan areas around the country.

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All materials Copyright 2002 Horvitz Newspapers.

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On the Net: Smart Growth America: http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/