UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The effectiveness of land use controls in curbing urban sprawl. A case study in Richmond, B.C. Foerstel, Hans-Joachim Fritz Otto Arthur


The movement of population from rural to urban areas has been accompanied in North America by the explosive dispersal of the urban population into suburban areas. Much of the resulting low-density suburban residential growth has developed in an uncoordinated, inefficient pattern destroying the amenities and appearance of, and interfering with, the agricultural and recreational use of the countryside, yet not providing adequate urban amenities. This phenomenon of "urban sprawl" is undesirable since it devours vast areas of land in an uneconomic pattern, creates problems for both the residential and agricultural use of the land in urbanizing areas, and compromises future urban development. The most direct means of minimizing urban sprawl and promoting better land use is the strict enforcement of rational land-use controls. It is essential to examine the applicability of specific land-use controls to the urban sprawl problem, and to test the effectiveness of these controls in specific situations in order to arrive at a municipal policy for curbing urban sprawl. Since social and economic circumstances influence the use of and development on land, a comprehensive view must be taken of the function and application of land-use controls, and their inter-relationships to combat urban sprawl. Although controls directly applicable to the use of land appear to influence the pattern of its development most significantly, a number of "indirect" controls may be -of use in guiding the pattern of development and the use of land. Although the causes of urban sprawl and their relationships are many and still under discussion and study, it is generally acknowledged that the lack of control over land use and development is the most significant, permissive, cause of urban sprawl. The hypothesis is advanced "that the responsibility for curbing urban sprawl lies with the Provincial Government, which should ensure that its municipalities implement a comprehensive land development policy". Following a general review of land-use controls and urban sprawl, direct land-use controls, such as residential and agricultural zoning, subdivision regulations, and municipal servicing policies, are examined with the intention of incorporating them in a municipal policy aimed at curbing urban sprawl. To arrive at a method for evaluating the effectiveness of selected land-use controls for their normal, designed purpose, potential indicators of the incidence of and changes in the character and location of urban sprawl are discussed. A simplified method is then proposed and applied to an urbanizing area to evaluate the effectiveness of its land-use controls in curbing urban sprawl. It is found that the waste of land and the pattern of land uses characteristic of urban sprawl have serious implications for the future as well as for the present. Urban sprawl, a regional phenomenon, requires a regional, coordinated land development policy; zoning subdivision regulations and servicing policies can be used to curb urban sprawl on a local scale. The complex interrelationships found to exist between controls directly and indirectly influencing the use of land make further study necessary and, to a degree, frustrate the attempt to devise a methodology for investigating the effectiveness of direct land-use controls in curbing urban sprawl. It is concluded that remedial provincial and municipal legislation can be drawn up immediately on the basis of experience gained so far with urban sprawl. However, a policy directed at curbing urban sprawl ought to be a component part of a larger policy having the objective of promoting desirable forms of urban development. The Provincial Government is fully and solely responsible for provincial affairs and therefore has the solemn duty to ensure that urban sprawl is curbed effectively and immediately.

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