Put on your thinking caps: Population density decrease + land expansion = disaster

MVRPC has its “regional land use planning initiative” in full planning force. However it’s kinda like fixing the fence after the cows left the pasture.

The Kettering Oakwood Times has a really long (by DDN standards) article by Paul Collins about the changes the region has gone through and how we ended up in this mess. The numbers make it really clear: slight rise in population, spread over 1.5x the space, with a huge shift to commercial real estate and an infrastructure cost that’s skyrocketed. A lot of his info is from the director of planning at MVRPC, Martin H. Kim.

Take a look at the numbers:

…in 1970, Dayton’s urban population was 606,549 and the total amount of urbanized area was 185.9 square miles.

The total population density in that urbanized area was 3,263 population per square mile. In 2000, Dayton’s urban population was 723,955 and the total amount of urbanized area was 327.6 square miles.

The total population density in that urbanized area was 2,209 population per square mile, which represented a 1,054 decline from the year 1970. Kim explained that this decline has led to a disproportion between the region’s population and land usage.

“We are using more and more land per capita,” Kim said. “The population grew, but the rate of growth was lower than the physical expansion of the urban area. In other words, the land consumption per capita increased between 1970 and 2000.”

Kim stated that, if these urbanization trends hold sway, Dayton’s population density in 2030 will only amount to 1,291 population per square mile. Simultaneously, urbanized area will have grown to 531.1 square miles. According to Kim, commercial development will probably constitute a sizable portion of this larger urban area, as is evidenced by the 150 percent increase in commercial land use between 1970 and 2000. Thus, projected land use, particularly commercial development, will exceed the needs of the population.

According to Kim, Dayton’s demographic decline means a thinner tax base for larger areas. In turn, this thinner tax base will affect the quality of life and economic prosperity of the Dayton region. The effects include: Higher infrastructure and service delivery costs. Longer commutes. Less open space and farmland. Longer police, EMT, and fire runs. Spending more money on gas….

Land development has not been tied to population changes. Between 1970 and 2000, population in the region remained relatively stable while total developed land in the region increased by 44.6 percent.

“Geographically, development has been uneven and development has been shifting among land use types,” Kim said.

Indeed, land use has shifted within the region considerably between 1975 and 2000. Residential land use increased 36.3 percent. Industrial land use increased 22 percent. And, of course, commercial land use increased 148.1 percent. Meanwhile, agricultural/open space land use declined 9.3 percent.

via Population decline predicted in region.

If you think about it- we’re spending millions to eliminate interchanges downtown, where we have a 33%+ commercial vacancy rate, and spending millions more to build an interchange to what were cornfields at Austin Pike. The problem cited by businesses is that they don’t want to pay for parking for employees in those empty towers- so instead, they build asphalt fields around low, new, boring buildings and pat themselves on the back.

Thankfully, Mayor Leitzell seems to be the only one thinking about this – suggesting we provide free bus service in Montgomery County. It would be a competitive advantage- considering Greene and Warren County have no real public transit- and, it would decrease the cost of living in Dayton further. Owning a car is your second highest household expense after housing. Had we done this 25 year ago- maybe Downtown wouldn’t be on life support now. After all- aren’t we paying for RTA already with the .5% sales tax? Shouldn’t we get something for our money?

This is today’s topic for the Dayton Grassroots Daily Show- watch and enjoy:

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