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Defining an Urban Growth Boundary through Preservation: ...

Defining an Urban Growth Boundary through Preservation: A Central Florida Case Study

Throughout history, geological features have shaped our greatest cities. From the rivers that bound the island of Manhattan to the mountains that form Rio de Janeiro, challenging terrain has created many of our densest and most beautiful cities. So, what can a city like Orlando do to control its outward growth? Because Central Floridian cities

Throughout history, geological features have shaped our greatest cities. From the rivers that bound the island of Manhattan to the mountains that form Rio de Janeiro, challenging terrain has created many of our densest and most beautiful cities. So, what can a city like Orlando do to control its outward growth? Because Central Floridian cities like Orlando exist on a plane field, with only small lakes and distant oceans as environmental constraints, they easily fall victim to sprawl. One answer is to create an urban growth boundary, or UGB, through land protection.

Orlando does not have a UGB policy like Portland’s, for example, which is defined by state law. Nonetheless, preservationists have taken a careful look at Central Florida’s most important natural features and taken steps to protect them. In doing so, government agencies and environmental non-profits have created an almost-complete UGB around the metro area.

The protected natural buffer around the Orlando metropolis is an important source for the region’s water supply. Furthermore, it provides migration paths and nesting areas for some of the state’s endangered species, including the Florida panther, the manatee, and the American bald eagle. Some of the most ecologically important lands have been dedicated to a group of sites known as the Seven Jewels of Central Florida.

Despite these strides over the past two decades, a recovering housing market means that many more natural areas will be threatened by sprawling development. However, progressive planning policies in the region’s cities, paired with a continued interest in land preservation and conservation, can help sustain a natural Central Florida.

What do you think are other benefits of preservation or conservation?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

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Alex Lenhoff is a graduate of the Masters of Planning in Civic Urbanism program at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. His other degrees include anthropology and foreign languages, which provide him with a diverse, human-centered perspective on...

  • Sunny Menozzi

    Developers and preservationists and conservationists must work in cooperation, I think. While the latter aim to protect vulnerable wilderness, the former could market proximity to the wilderness to buyers. City planner/architectural designer Jeff Speck (http://jeffspeck.com/) contributed to a project/development called Elkington Forest (http://elkingtonforest.com/).

    The development’s website advertises: “Elkington Forest – Your place in Nature”

    This is the concept:
    “Elkington Forest is a 1000 acre forest, 35 minutes north of Victoria, BC. A full 850 acres is conserved as Forest Stewardship Council certified eco-forestry or outright conservation with limited or restricted access. On the remaining 150 acres, half of the land is in food production, and half is developed as three attractive residential Hamlets with a total of 77 homes and 15 eco-businesses.”

    Perhaps as Orlando’s housing market rebounds, this is the type of development that should be pursued.

  • http://www.theglobalgrid.org/ Alex Lenhoff

    Great find, thanks for posting! Two Orlando-area developments that come to mind are Avalon Park and Celebration. Both are new urbanist designs where about half of the site is preserved. The problem right now is that these developments aren’t integrated with each other, but hopefully future plans will take this into greater consideration.

  • Pingback: Florida’s Pre-Bust Land Preservation Boom | The GRID | Global Site Plans()

  • Rick Geller

    Alex – Orange County, Florida has an Urban Services Area, beyond which development is highly restricted. Expansion of the USA requires a majority vote of the County Commission as a Comprehensive Plan Amendment.

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