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Cost of Sprawl



What is Sprawl?

Sprawl is word that people seem to react to negatively. No one thinks that their community is sprawling. But sprawl is merely a word used to explain a type of development. It is not a judgement.

In Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change, Peter Calthorpe (2011) describes sprawl:

Sprawl is a specific land use pattern of single-use zones, typically made up of subdivisions, office parks, shopping centres’ strung together by arterials and highways…It is the quality of the place that is significant in sprawl: its relentless parking lots, and oversized roads, uniform tracks of houses, isolated office parks, strips of commercial areas, and , above all, its near total dependence on the car. To be against sprawl is not to be against suburbs or small towns, all suburbs are not sprawl.

With rising fuel prices, the feasability of commuting may fall into question. Photo courtesy of Jerry Watson.

It is cheaper to service infill development than it is to expand services at the outskirts of an urban area.

Infill development exists between buildings that already are hooked up to power and water and already have sewer links. Infill development means that vacant lot next to you finally gets a house. Infill means the parking lots fill up with businesses.

Infill development uses already existing roads and sidewalks. The higher the density, meaning the more houses within a specific area, the more cost effective it is for the municipality. The amount of pipes that must be laid and maintained for water to travel must be considered.

The Alliance is not advocating that all persons live in the same place—a different situation, different needs and differing values will lead people to live in a variety of areas. However, the Alliance feels that development should pay for itself. It shouldn’t leave the municipality picking up the bill.

Local governments find that on a per-unit basis, it is cheaper to provide and maintain services like water, sewer, electricity, phone service and other utilities in more compact neighborhoods than in dispersed communities. –Smart Growth Online


For more information, please see: Settlement Pattern and Form with Service Cost Analysis

The Regional Municipal Planning Strategy outlines Capital Cost Contributions that must be paid by a developer. The Alliance sees these charges as a good first step but wants not only the initial construction costs be allocated for, but also wants to see the full or indirect costs of development covered by the developer, such as schools and fire protection.

Larry Uteck Interchange is a great example of this where the federal, provincial and municipal governments all paid. Bedford West and other areas to the west of Halifax are being developed and all residents of the municipality will pay for the costs of the new infrastructure.

The total cost of the Washmill Underpass will be $15 million by the end of the project. At least one third of this will come from the municipality. Photo courtesy of Halifax Regional Municipality.

What others are saying about this issue: