Farm versus Factory: Battles for open space

Where are the fights over land use in your part of the world?

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Seavey Loop farmland. In the fog: a proposed addition to the city of Springfield, Oregon’s, growth boundary. Agricultural land would be rezoned as industrial.

Cities are required by law to incorporate enough land to accommodate future growth. In accordance with the law, the next town over from mine is making plans to expand its boundary. The current proposal would swallow farmland.

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One of the businesses looking to expand if Seavey Loop property is rezoned. Photo source: No Industrial Pisgah

It has set off a firestorm of criticism, particularly in one area with several small farms, that borders an arboretum and is visited by about 500,000 people a year.

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Photo source: No Industrial Pisgah

City officials say that the arboretum, waterways and most farmland will be protected. Farmers, hikers and residents cry foul.

Fights like these are going on everywhere.

“We are like people living in the penthouse of a hundred-story building. Every day we go downstairs and at random knock out 150 bricks to take upstairs to increase the size of our penthouse. Since the building below consists of millions of bricks, this seems harmless enough … Eventually — inevitably — the streams of vacancy we have created in the fabric of the walls below will come together to produce a complete structural collapse.

When this happens — if it is allowed to happen — we will join the general collapse, and our lofty position at the top of the structure will not save us.”  Daniel Quinn, “The Danger of Human Exceptionalism”

With economic growth a priority and population growth on a steady upward trajectory, it’s inevitable that we’ll chip away at forests and farmland.

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Still, many are willing to question, and push back.

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Proposed expansion area marked in red. Photo Source: Friends of Buford Park

As discouraging as it is, small fights matter. Open space, clean water and the survival of other species — usually its local groups who are affected first by development, who draw attention to these.

This development a done deal? We’ll see.

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Farm land, industrial land, from Mt. Pisgah arboretum.

Have you been involved in land use planning? Have you worked to save open space, or to change zoning for or against industrial use?

24 comments

  • This is a serious issue, Julia, in most countries. Here in Singapore where land is scarce the government
    has for years be reclaiming land from the sea – in fact the entire East Coast Park was once the sea; it’s an expensive and complex venture but it gives us more space for housing and for recreation. i’m sure others will have different points to add to this post.

    Best wishes

    john

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s why in regions like ours, where land is still plentiful, carbon credit trades seem like a good idea. The carbon we store can help make up for the carbon you release. I’m less worried about Singapore, which is pretty efficient with its land and water usage, and more worried about Indonesia where great swaths of jungle are being decimated, and peat bogs smolder for weeks, sending clouds of smoke your way. Visited Singapore a year ago in May. You have a lot of innovative ways of coping with high population in a small space. It was fascinating, and fun.

      Liked by 2 people

  • I think you and John make a really good point, J.B.–that there is so much we can learn from one another, from both successful and unsuccessful ventures in land usage, planning and reclamation. It saddens me that money has the loudest voice in casting the deciding vote more often than not, but I can’t see this pattern changing in our neck of the woods any time soon.
    My hope is that your efforts do not go unheard.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can’t see things changing much either. We’re on a slow, but rapidly speeding up tilt toward humans everywhere and humans only. The desire to provide homes, food, transportation for all of us is only natural. Giving money the loudest voice encourages us to focus on gathering and refashioning resources rather than on planning long-term for ourselves as a species. Still, the market economy is fairly new in relative terms, and as we saw during the industrial revolution, things can change very, very rapidly, given the right circumstances, and probably, the right leadership. Looking for that leadership …

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  • In the county where I live, the commissioners applauded the proposed “superstore” warehouse that was to be built in an area of farmland and houses. The residents fought it, but the commissioners saw dollar signs. What actually killed the plans to build it? The 2008 economic depression and the fact that the warehouse was back to back with farmland from another county (who sued my county over the issue).

    The taxes on my property in the country are a lot less than the taxes on property in the largest city in this county (which is also the county seat). When I look at the expanse of property that your city wants to seize, I wonder how the property owners are going to manage the increase in taxes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good point. The proposal will incorporate county land to city property. Surely the value of adjoining properties will increase, and so will taxes.

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  • We have farmland not far from where I live and a Karst.
    Farmland is being eaten up for industrial expansion here as well. What I hate is the sprawl and spread of the human footprint. Builders wanted to built a sub-division across from the Karst. Thank goodness we won that one. As well we have an airport surrounded by farmland. After a long and bitter fight, land has been set aside for airport expansion and industrial businesses.

    Okay, build, build, build on every square inch of land. Who will feed the hungry? 👿

    Liked by 1 person

    • Me too. I’m sure you’ve seen the same charts of exponential growth I have. We know this about ourselves, and still hold “growth” as the highest good. Our reptilian cortexes stronger than our good sense?

      Liked by 1 person

  • For me this is sad, because open land is disappearing slowly in some parts here and very rapidly with urban spread. Disneyland and other big developments wiped out acres of citrus groves. The L.A. basin is so congested we don’t even go there anymore and what used to be open farm lands from where I live to there 60 miles, is now valley housing and auto congested. Thankfully, I live in an area that values and protects nature, its sanctuaries and open meadows. We’ve been bless with a few families of means donating these lands to conservatories. ‘Nuff from moi. Happy Sunday.

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    • Happy Sunday to you! Hurrah for you and your neighbors. I think everyone values sanctuaries and open space, but most worry first about financial security. It’s almost as if we’re at war with ourselves, and the side that likes to buy things on sale is winning. Glad to hear that in your area there are protected places, especially in Southern California, where population pressure is especially intense. Cheers —

      Liked by 1 person

  • Southcenter mall in western Washington reminds me of this, another premium topsoil agricultural area that went commercial. (Sorry I don’t see how to paste the image) https://www.google.com/search?site=&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1366&bih=643&q=southcenter&oq=southcenter&gs_l=img.3..0l10.3710.5540.0.5768.11.9.0.2.2.0.91.455.9.9.0.msedr…0…1ac.1.61.img..0.11.461.RKSgeOWpz4E#imgdii=_&imgrc=39-D09gjsRs0NM%253A%3Bk7ETwYbRWfVeVM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.bayley.net%252Fportals%252F0%252FImages%252FProjects%252FSouthcenter-Expansion%252FSouthcenter-aerial-lrg.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.bayley.net%252FProjectPortfolio%252FRetail%252FRenovatedMajorRetail.aspx%253Fudt_546_param_detail%253D5489%3B400%3B285

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    • Chipping away, a mall here, a Hyundai plant there. Probably the soil under our house is pretty good, too. (Using a WordPress.com template — doesn’t allow pasted images in comments. Got the link, though.)

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  • There isn’t much of a fight here. Idaho is proudly “open for business”, which translates as there aren’t any rules to get in the way of development of any kind. Recently some cities have passed their own ordinances, but there is a move in the legislature to outlaw such un-American efforts.

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    • Our own little Texas, right next door. Idaho is carrying on the opposite-of-Oregon experiment. If we’re lucky, we’ll live long enough to see how it plays out.

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  • I fought to have a piece of open space by my home from becoming a parking lot. What I learned from the whole experience was “not everyone thinks like me”, which is unfortunate, and people want change, however they would like to receive that from the comfort of their homes without lifting a finger. It needed with a win/win.
    People really do not understand the importance of open space!!

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    • You won that fight, didn’t you? Hurrah.

      I agree. It’s too easy to let a piece go here, another go there. Life goes on, not so bad, huh? But it’s kind of a shock to see how quickly everything is speeding up here, more people, more development, everybody in a panic if “housing starts” aren’t growing. Hang on!

      Liked by 1 person

      • We compromised, but it was a win. My biggest beef with the whole thing was the laziness of the neighborhood. At least a hundred people showed up to voice their concerns, however only 3 really hit the streets to bring awareness to a serious issue.
        They are building like crazy here too. If there is a patch of grass vacant, suddenly it’s big enough for yet another housing development.
        Houses don’t grow and self serve cashiers don’t pay into social security (that’s a whole other concern).
        I feel a bumper sticker coming on ….

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  • Do you sometimes want to hit your head against the wall Julia? Here’s the problem. People are unable to think into the future. Oh, will do this now and worry about it later. It drives me nuts! Look what they’ve done in California. They’ve just about killed agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley. All over a Smelt fish and polluting ground water? I don’t think so. How about Fracking? It is insane what they’re doing with that. Earthquakes in places that we’ve never heard of happening before. And don’t even get me started on Chem Trails. They’re spraying us to death in SoCal.

    Okay, I’m stopping now. My rant is over. lol. I hope y’all have success with this current situation in your neck of the woods. May the force be with you my friend!!! 🙂

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  • Thank you Karen. Somehow when the press stories come out, the people fighting against the city expansion look kind of sad and powerless. Drives me crazy. Yes, we’ve sadly watched the pave-over of Southern California, too. My Dad grew up in San Diego, used to pick oranges off the trees in the orchards. Fingers crossed though for this little haven. It is quite beautiful.

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  • Honest, your area’s proposed development will not preserve the green space, etc. as claimed.
    Where was the photo of that highrise taken from?

    In cycling infrastructure planning, there is often a synergistic relationship with land use. Often, developments are built, then cycling is thought of years down the road.

    Living in a large sprawly prairie city of 1.3 million is a stunning bad example of developers gleefully going amok over agricultural land and creating suburban car-dependent communities where still transit hasn’t reached some areas.

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