A noted city planning consultant from Asheville on Tuesday told Charlotte leaders that low-density suburban development is the junk food of local government tastes good at first, but ultimately its bad for you.
Speaking at a seminar organized by the Sustain Charlotte advocacy group at UNC Charlottes Center City campus, Joe Minicozzi told about 30 attendees that hes done studies in cities across the country that bear his theory out. He said compact urban development like whats happening in Charlottes South End today produces far more tax revenue per acre than sprawling suburbs and big-box stores.
He used as an example his firms experience redeveloping a six-story building in Asheville. Buncombe County officials originally wanted to put a jail in the area, but Minicozzis firm, Public Interest Properties, argued that the county could get far more value out of the area by redeveloping it.
His firms viewpoint prevailed, and he said the building, worth $300,000 in 1991, is now worth more than $11 million after being redeveloped as a mixed-use center. It generates $634,000 per acre in property taxes, he said, compared to the local Walmart, which yields $6,500 per acre.
Local governments are embracing a money-losing proposition when they embrace suburban sprawl-style development, he added, because it often costs more to deliver utility, police, fire and other services than such properties give back to local government via tax revenues.
Cities are going broke, and wheres all our money gone? he said. Its because weve made all these development decisions that are essentially upside down financial losses.
While it doesnt make sense financially, he said governments keep doing it out of habit, and because they see suburban development as connected to the American dream of having a big house with a spacious yard.
He compared it to his own habit of eating chicken wings while he watches football on the weekends.
Its like eating chicken wings followed by a big load of ice cream and some bacon, he said. It feels great. But theres costs to it.
Frazier: 704-358-5145; @Ericfraz on Twitter
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