Giving Compass’ Take:
• When cities begin to spread into farmland, county services experience strain and often struggle to keep pace with growth.
• How can policy shape growth so that it does not overburden unprepared public services? How can government funding help growing cities keep up with demands?
• Find out how urban sprawl impacts climate.
Big cities in the Midwest are gaining ground on the rural communities that, for many decades, have thrived on the edges of urban development.
Since 1980, the amount of land being farmed or grazed in the U.S. has dropped 13 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Much of it now is covered by housing subdivisions, big-box stores, and computer-server farms.
Outward growth from metropolitan areas can strain courts, schools, and traffic. It also can change the cultural and regional identity of once-rural communities — something visible on the outskirts of two metro areas connected by Interstate 35 and an agricultural heritage.
Urban areas have expanded in Dallas County, west of Des Moines, from 1950 to last year. About 11 percent of county land has been annexed by cities. And the county population grew from just over 66,000 in 2010 to more than 84,500 in 2016, according to Census Bureau figures.
County planner Murray McConnell noted that the county tries to discourage development on prime farmland. But once a city annexes county land, development is likely, he said. And it puts a strain on county services.
The historic courthouse in Adel, 30 minutes west of Des Moines, is bursting at the seams. Two new courtrooms were added a decade ago, but county clerk Anna Butler said there’s already not enough space.
Read the full article on urban sprawl by Amy Mayer andErica Hunzinger at Harvest Public Media
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