Cuyahoga County Planning Commission

Historical Development
Conditions and Trends
Impacts on Land Use
Table of Contents


The consequences of increased development induced by transportation investments include added service delivery costs to township, village, city and county governments.

Fiscal impact analysis of land use changes such as in the previous section has been widely used since the 1970's. For example, the publication of the Fiscal Impact Handbook (1978) by Burchell and Listokins and its many updated versions (now available on CD ROM) have made these analysis tools and techniques readily available to local government decision-makers when addressing development and land use issues.

However, the awareness that alternative land use patterns have different fiscal impacts has evolved, beginning with the famous study Costs of Sprawl (1974) prepared by the Real Estate Research Corporation (RERC) for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The study concluded that "sprawl" is the most expensive form of residential development, especially for those costs which are to be borne by local governments.

In a follow-up RERC study in Wisconsin using three different growth scenarios (compact, high density "containment"; "suburban expansion"; and "exurban dispersion"), there was another demonstration that dense, non-leapfrog development will save significant moneys spent on community facilities.

In 1992, the Rutgers University Center for Urban Policy Research (CUPR) issued a report which calculated the public costs that would accrue from the New Jersey growth management plan, compared to continuing the historical patterns of sprawl. Conclusion: over a 20-year period, following the State plan could save $1.3 billion in road, water, sewer and school facility costs. Not only would there be staggering financial benefits, but environmental and social benefits as well: maintaining farmland and open space, reducing air and water pollution, protecting environmental resources, and increasing social equity by enabling older urban centers to capture a greater share of future growth.

A similar study in Maryland found that the public costs of the "Vision" plan, when compared to the "Trend" plan, reported that the costs per single-family unit were $4,104 and $9,141, respectively, or twice as expensive for the sprawl scenario.

The Builders Association of the Twin Cities sponsored a study (1996) comparing different development scenarios in terms of their aggregate local government infrastructure costs. The conclusion was that sprawl densities and small amounts of land developed at "urban densities" contributed significantly increased infrastructure costs for local governments. The cost variation between sprawl and the preferred scenario was $1.78 billion.

The Cost of Community Service (COCS) studies by the American Farmland Trust are the most widely known examples of fiscal analysis studies related to land use and development. Of the eight initial COSC studies in four states, the results were that for every dollar in tax revenue paid by farmland and open space, the cost of municipal services averaged only thirty-five cents.

As fiscal impact studies accumulate, the results have been increasingly negative regarding the benefits of development:

  • Ladd (1990) evaluated 1978-85 data from 248 counties and found that counties with high rates of growth and large increases in taxpaying new development had higher levels of public expenditure and higher tax rates than slower growing communities.

  • Landis (1991) found that in California, slow growth communities enjoyed greater revenue increases over expenditures than faster growing, pro-growth cities.

  • In DuPage County, Illinois, west of Chicago, where rapid growth occurred from the 1960's through the 1980's, including commercial, office and industrial development, the results of a study attracted national attention because it challenged the conventional wisdom about the benefits of commercial development. The tax levies in communities that experienced above average growth were greater than in communities that were primarily experiencing residential growth.

  • In a soon-to-be released study sponsored by the USEPA, the costs of water and wastewater services were analyzed for low and higher density communities in Greater Cleveland. The results clearly indicate that the public bears higher costs when development is at the metropolitan fringe.
By 1997, it has become evident that in most cases, new development, including non-residential development previously thought to be net contributors to the cost of providing public services, have proven to be fiscally negative.

  Page 1: General Patterns of Growth
Page 2: Land Use Impacts
Page 3: Cost of Community Services
Page 4: Environmental Effects
Page 5: Social Impacts
Page 6: Social Impacts on Areas Experiencing Decline

  © 1998 Cuyahoga County Planning Commission
323 Lakeside Ave West, Suite 400
Cleveland, OH 44113-1009
Tel: (216) 443-3700
Fax: (216) 443-3737