While it is not necessarily true across the board, sprawl and suburban planning can have harmful effects. These include the expensive drain of capital budgets and tax dollars, various harms to the environment (loss of wildlife habitat, groundwater and other contaminants, etc), the need to pack a small area with a lot of development to better serve those who use mass transit and the consumption of land and spoil of natural landscapes. There are methods in use that help mitigate these effects when proper planning, taxing and land use policies occur.
I took a Land Use Planning course in college and we discussed the effects of urban sprawl on the environment often. Sprawl can overtake the existing farmland and wildlife habitats leaving little to no open space. We discussed methods on how suburbia and open space can coexist. One popular method is called cluster development. This involves minimizing the lot size of potential buildings. This is done without decreasing the number of homes that are built, just their yard size. This clustering leaves space for farmland to remain, environmental conservation, or perhaps even a community open space, such as a park.
Planning is an attempt to maximize benefits and minimize detrimental effects. While the plans may not be the best, and they may not fulfill their goals, the act of planning is not detrimental, usually.
Suburban development are farther away from central business and commercial establishments. Inhabitats are no longer a walking distance or a short bus ride from work, eateries, shops, major entertainment areas. This forces inhabitats to be more car-dependent, which increases oil consumption, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions. Suburban development converts land that would otherwise be protected for wildlife habitat or argricultural uses.
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