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Atlanta Unbound: Enabling Sprawl through Policy and Planning

Carlton Wade Basmajian
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 246
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  • Book Info
    Atlanta Unbound
    Book Description:

    Looking at Atlanta, Georgia, one might conclude that the city's notorious sprawl, degraded air quality, and tenuous water supply is a result of a lack of planning-particularly an absence of coordination at the regional level. InAtlanta Unbound,Carlton Wade Basmajian shows that Atlanta's low-density urban form and its associated problems have been both highly coordinated and regionally planned.

    Basmajian's shrewd analysis shows how regional policies spanned political boundaries and framed local debates over several decades. He examines the role of the Atlanta Regional Commission's planning deliberations that appear to have contributed to the urban sprawl that they were designed to control. Basmajian explores four cases-regional land development plans, water supply strategies, growth management policies, and transportation infrastructure programs-to provide a detailed account of the interactions between citizens, planners, regional commissions, state government, and federal agencies.

    In the process,Atlanta Unboundanswers the question: Toward what end and for whom is Atlanta's regional planning process working?

    In the seriesUrban Life, Landscape, and Policy,edited by Zane L. Miller, David Stradling, and Larry Bennett

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0941-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Architecture and Architectural History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. 1 Introduction: An Intentional Region?
    (pp. 1-14)

    In the summer of 1994, the renowned Brookings Institution economist Anthony Downs delivered what he called an unorthodox speech to members of the Atlanta District Council of the Urban Land Institute. Speaking to a room full of developers, real estate brokers, and politicians, Downs explained that rather than talking about “traditional land-use and real estate issues,” he would instead consider “the major challenges facing all large U.S. metropolitan areas.” Among the challenges he mentioned were the usual suspects: crime, poverty, racial segregation, failing schools, congestion, and low environmental quality. Though he noted that each was important, Downs posited that governance—...

  5. 2 Building the Atlanta Regional Commission
    (pp. 15-46)

    In 1971, by an overwhelming majority and with the strong support of Governor Jimmy Carter, Georgia’s 131st General Assembly passed a bill creating the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC). Responsible for developing regional growth policies, collecting data, and providing technical support to local governments, all while ensuring that local plans meshed with federal transportation and environmental policy, the new commission replaced three existing regional agencies. Building on Atlanta’s legacy of publicly supported regional planning agencies, which had been in place in some form since 1947, ARC was larger and more sophisticated than any of the agencies it replaced and represented a...

  6. 3 The River and the Region: The Chattahoochee River and the Atlanta Regional Commission
    (pp. 47-84)

    From its wellspring in the southern Appalachians to its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico, the Chattahoochee River has long been a critical resource for people in the southeastern United States. Through the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries, cities along the river in Georgia and Alabama freely withdrew water for municipal supply and sent their (often untreated) waste downstream. Farmers drew the river’s water for crop irrigation, and cotton and pulp mills and small hydroelectric dams harnessed the river’s flow to produce fabric, paper, and electricity. Fishermen around Apalachicola Bay needed the briny conditions in the river...

  7. 4 Projecting Sprawl? The 1976 Regional Development Plan of Metropolitan Atlanta
    (pp. 85-110)

    By late 1972 the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) had emerged as a principal institution in Atlanta’s metropolitan governing structure. TheChattahoochee Corridor Studyhad demonstrated ARC’s influence in the regional planning process. Leveraging his deep connections to Atlanta’s political elites, ARC director Dan Sweat had pushed the commission to take on an expanded role in the politics of regional development, somewhat beyond the tasks included in the commission’s founding legislation.¹ Supported by new federal regulations that required designated regional planning agencies to review a wide range of local government applications for federal funds, ARC’s position between federal policy and local...

  8. 5 Growth Management Comes to Georgia
    (pp. 111-136)

    When the ballots had been counted in the 1980 presidential election, Ronald Reagan had won the popular vote by nearly 10 percentage points. In defeating Jimmy Carter, Reagan had carried all but six states, leading to a landslide victory in the Electoral College and dealing Carter a painful defeat. Georgia’s “conservative and progressive” president was sent packing back to Atlanta, and Reagan kicked off his New Federalism revolution on January 20, 1981, with his now infamous inaugural address broadside on government.²

    As Reagan began his ideological battle to free states and local governments from federal oversight, early returns from the...

  9. 6 Atlanta’s Transportation Crisis and the Battle of the Northern Arc
    (pp. 137-172)

    At the beginning of 1990, resistance to the state’s power to regulate land development, a posture long popular among many of Georgia’s rural and suburban politicians, appeared to have softened. The Georgia Planning Act, successfully pushed through the General Assembly by Governor Harris, had significantly increased the state’s oversight of land development decisions and had made local comprehensive planning a new priority. In mid-1990, the Department of Community Affairs finally issued the planning standards that local governments would have to adhere to in preparing their comprehensive plans. By the end of 1991, the first wave of local plans up for...

  10. 7 A Regional Story
    (pp. 173-186)

    This project set out to answer three questions. How have regional planning agencies supported and extended metropolitan decentralization? What role have regional planning agencies played in the expansion of federal and state power over land development decisions? Through what channels have regional planning agencies coordinated planning and development activity? By looking across three decades, from 1970 to 2002, of regional planning and exploring a series of planning events in Atlanta, I have attempted to sketch an answer. An unexpectedly coordinated regional planning process, managed by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) and supported by the state of Georgia, lay behind the...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 187-252)
  12. Index
    (pp. 253-264)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 265-265)