by Gary Brown

Expanding population and resulting suburban sprawl are placing more and more pressure on our land resources. Government is reluctant to keep expanding our roadway and utility infrastructure to support more sprawl, as roadways only recently built become more and more clogged at rush hour. "Greenfields" commercial and industrial land has all but disappeared from large sections of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. What does the future hold?

Global Perspective

We in American have a unique constitutional right to develop land we own. Throughout most of the world, central government has the right to control development through central planning. Our population continues to grow, but infrastructure funding increasingly isn't keeping up with development induced needs. Many industrialized countries add gasoline taxes to help build infrastructures, and subsidize non-roadway transportation. In a recent poll, a majority of Americans would surprisingly support such initiatives here.

Pressure on Wetlands

One of the biggest current pressures suburban sprawl and development causes is on wetlands. Many remaining underdeveloped parcels near urban areas are not developed because they contain wetlands. Recent trends in planning include options to "cluster" developments on residential land, allowing smaller lot sizes in exchange for preserving wetlands at a site and in leaving a buffer zone for enhanced wetlands protection.

Future Trends

Among the biggest developments in recent years to help address the suburban sprawl issue are Brownfields and Land Recycling issues. As these programs continue to expand, look for more and more Brownfields and Land Recycling projects in the coming years. Reuse of urban land helps ease suburban sprawl. Realistic environmental cleanup objectives in combination with the availability of good remedial technology means that more and more contaminated sites an actually be converted to residential use, affording highest and best use of the land.

These programs will particularly help in riverfront and harbor areas, as many U.S. cities are seeing a return to interest in the original reason for the city's being - the waterfront. Many waterfront areas used to be industrial sites, so the initiatives are promoting reuse of what can now become valuable property. Many of America's cities are now beginning to see the fruits of these initiatives as they revive their links to their water commerce past through Brownfields and Land Recycling initiatives.

We at RT are proud to have been chosen to be a part of so many Brownfields and Land Recycling projects. From the Philadelphia riverfront to Newark to Pittsburgh., we've been able to help commercial and industrial sites find a new life. The latest trend - upgrading to residential reuse through the implementation of sound remedial technology proves that we're moving into a new era in smart reuse of our land.

January/February 1998