|April 2, 2014 - A report on sprawl development released today by the national nonprofit group Smart Growth America has both bad and good news for the Knoxville Metropolitan Statistical Area. The bad news is that the MSA - which in the report includes Knox, Blount, Anderson, Union and Loudon counties - ranks among the most sprawling in the United States. The good news is that many of the anti-sprawl strategies suggested in the report are already being implemented in the City of Knoxville.
The report, "Measuring Sprawl 2014," is available on the website of Smart Growth America (smartgrowthamerica.org), a coalition dedicated to advocating for "building urban, suburban and rural communities with housing and transportation choices near jobs, shops and schools." Of 221 MSAs with populations over 200,000, ranked from least sprawl to most, Knoxville ranked 199th.
Other Tennessee metro areas fared similarly, with Memphis ranked 196th, Chattanooga 207th, Kingsport 212th, Nashville 217th and Clarksville 219th.
"This report tells us that in our major Tennessee metro areas, population density is low, people tend to live a long way from where they work, they tend to drive everywhere, and they often don't have good transportation or affordable housing alternatives available," said Mayor Madeline Rogero, who is a member of the Local Leaders Council of Smart Growth America.
The report cites studies that link sprawl to lower quality of life, including less economic mobility, higher combined costs for housing and transportation, higher rates of obesity and lower life expectancy. To counter sprawl, the report suggests several strategies including zoning to allow more residential density and mixed-use development; developing comprehensive transportation plans, including mass transit, bicycle and pedestrian networks; using tax-increment financing and other incentives to encourage redevelopment of blighted areas.
"This is why we in Knoxville have placed so much emphasis on smart growth in our own city," Mayor Rogero said. "We are focused on redeveloping our neglected urban areas from the core of the city outward, and on encouraging mixed-use development downtown and along key corridors. Our regional Transportation Planning Organization has comprehensive bicycle and transit plans, and we have increased KAT bus frequency on major routes to provide better transportation options for dependent and choice riders."
In addition, elected and community leaders from the five counties included in the MSA for the report have worked together for the last three years in a regional sustainability planning process called Plan East Tennessee, which gathered community input and sought ways to address issues of access to transportation, housing and employment.
"The recommendations from Smart Growth America are very much in line with what we have been working toward with Plan East Tennessee," said Mark Donaldson, Executive Director of the Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission. "We know that our growth patterns over the last 50 or 60 years have created a lot of disconnects between where people live, work, go to school or go to the grocery store. Smart growth ideas are about building or strengthening those connections, which can give us more sustainable and economically viable communities."
For more information about the Plan ET process, visit the website at www.planeasttn.org.
(NOTE: The five-county Knoxville MSA used in the report is based on the 2010 Census. In 2013, federal guidelines redefined the Knoxville MSA to also include Campbell, Grainger, Morgan and Roane counties.)