Sustainable development and growth management :

controlling urban sprawl through adaptive use of existing structures

while preserving the integrity of historically significant buildings.

Unpublished M.P.A. Thesis

Thesis 1996pBedna,JN THESIS-M Penn State Harrisburg - Theses - Stacks - 2 Fl

THESIS-M Penn State Harrisburg - Theses - Stacks - 2 Fl

by Jeffrey Neil Bednar, 1996 (email:




Recently, there has been extensive development of and migration to suburban areas which has threatened quality of life, traditional lifestyles and future food supplies.  Pennsylvania, for example, has experienced modest population growth (less than one percent from 1980 to 1990) overall, but growth in suburban and rural areas has exploded.  The result is urban sprawl and an inefficient use of land that has serious and harmful impacts on environmental, ecological and financial concerns.  This paper will examine the problem, resulting consequences and methods for combating the problem.  One method, adaptive use of buildings, will be examined closely.  General information regarding adaptive use, along with more detailed examples and studies of specific buildings will be provided.


Definition and Overview


Sustainable development is a controversial political concept that is not easily defined.  On a global level,  sustainable development efforts are often viewed by lesser developed countries as a restraint imposed by more developed countries.  Locally, sustainable development may refer to a community's ability to guarantee adequate services and infrastructure while preserving or enhancing quality of life and the environment.  Indeed, if a consensus were created concerning the many definitions of sustainable development, it would probably include the ability to meet the needs of current generations without compromising the needs of future generations. 


Certainly, an important consideration of sustainable development is the concept of overpopulation and the earth's carrying capacity.  Concerns about overpopulation have occurred relatively recently, particularly as population growth has increased.  In the 1950's Aldo Leopold expounded on the idea of the carrying capacity of the environment, or its "ability to absorb human influence and still sustain all of its life forms and processes" (Geis, 5).  While efforts to combat global population growth have been only modestly successful, structured plans of action are needed to ensure that the burgeoning population has among other concerns:  food to eat, places to live and adequate infrastructure all while preserving or contributing to open space and quality of life. 


Locally, Pennsylvania has experienced a modest population growth overall (less than one percent from 1980 to 1990).  However,  growth in suburban and rural areas has exploded.  Pike and Monroe counties, for example, have projected growth rates of 82 and 69% respectively (Guiding Growth 1-1).  Other states are not exempt from these problems.  In the New York tri-state region, there has been one-third as much consumption of land in the past 25 years as in the previous 350 years (DeGrove, 29).  Suburbs have been growing so expeditiously in relation to other areas that more Americans are now living in suburban areas than big cities or rural areas (Popper, 50).  Therefore, growth management, a continuously evolving practice, was developed to effectively deal with the pressures of an expanding population. 


Growth Management and Urban Sprawl


Growth management, which has garnered international, national and local attention, intends to provide strategies for coping with the problems associated with growth.  It can be defined as a "calculated effort by a local government to achieve a balance between natural systems... and residential, commercial and industrial development" (DeGrove, xiii).  However, growth management is not an effort to stop or slow growth, but can actually encourage growth and divert it to where it is needed.  Thus, growth management is essential in down economic times, as well as favorable economic times (DeGrove, xviii). 


Sustainable development and managed growth are both global and local concerns that have warranted much attention in recent years, despite having a relatively short history on the policy agenda.  The international community began to recognize environmental problems- such as loss of farmland, erosion, climate change and economic costs- and concluded the situation merited attention.  A global "call to arms" was issued, and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was held in Rio

de Janeiro, Brazil, in June, 1992.  The purpose of the conference was to create an action plan to halt the effects of environmental degradation associated with development in the world.  Most of the international community complied with the U.N.'s request (U.N. conference).  


World leaders and other representatives worked together to formulate a blueprint for action, entitled Agenda 21.  The 800 page document discusses all of the major issues from the Earth Summit and stipulates the necessary support required from the international community to direct future development on a sustainable path.  Agenda 21 attempts to detail assessments and needs in both developing and developed countries and is designed to facilitate the transition of the economies of all nations to sustainable development.  Central planning is coordinated by a United Nations Commission on sustainable development, whose main task is to monitor how countries implement Agenda 21 (Lewis).


Nationally, growth management programs have been implemented in various forms and with varying degrees of success since the 1950's, although most action has occurred since the 70's.  Efforts from pioneer states such as Vermont, Oregon and New Jersey have been successful, while Pennsylvania has lagged behind (Waters, p.2).  However, Pennsylvania has been astute enough to recognize resulting problems, and attempts to institute effective growth management programs continue.  For instance, the subject warranted action by a House Select Committee on Land Use and Growth Management which was conducted from March, 1991 to June, 1992.  Even though state measures are increasing, growth management and land use continues to be primarily a concern to be dealt with on the local level, a fact that will be examined in more detail later in the paper.


Land is a finite resource and must be treated as such.  As mentioned, unwise use of this resource can have far reaching implications that threaten the prosperity and survival of future generations.  As communities recognize the potential harm done by unwise or insufficiently planned land use, growth management programs become more important.  Communities use growth management as a land use planning tool whose programs are designed to regulate the location, timing and rate of community growth.  In a political context, growth management intends to guide development by policies, plans, incentives and regulations (Godschalk, 422).


The intentions of growth management programs have been focused on containing and preventing urban sprawl from threatening sensitive lands by reaching open areas and farmland on the outskirts of cities.  Urban sprawl is characterized as low-density development emanating from edges of cities that is "poorly planned, land consumptive, automobile-oriented and designed without regard to its surroundings" (Moe, 2).  In addition, it can be severely destructive.  Ironically, sprawl is not always recognized as such, and often communities implement practices that encourage sprawl under the guise of economic development.  Often community leaders are attracted by the prospects of new business, an increased tax base and new jobs, without considering the long term effects on the community.  Struggling retailers appeal for growth in order to fill stores and developers welcome the opportunity to accommodate growth by building more houses.  Fast growth attracts not only more retail customers, but also "brings more competitors and an upward of spiral costs, higher rents, higher taxes, and demands for higher wages to meet the higher cost of living" (Kinsley, 7).


In the 1970's, growth management initiatives resulted from the public's concern over losses of farm and forest land.  Other objectives, such as improving quality of life for a community through growth management, were established in the 1980's and 90's.  Thus, growth management has progressed from its inception- where communities used it to protect sensitive and threatened lands- to the present, where it now addresses a wide range of issues.  Now included is protection of historic buildings, supplies of affordable housing and the assuaging of transportation problems (Kane, 195).


Despite the problems that can result from growth, it is not inherently bad and is often necessary.  Growth must be adequately planned for, however, for communities to benefit.  The results of planned growth can be more jobs, more tax money and lower taxes, therefore a distinction must be made between managed and unmanaged growth.


Managed growth involves municipality's gaining control over development, not simply reacting to proposals of developers.  Managing growth involves officials ensuring that development is environmentally, aesthetically and fiscally responsible while managing the "fundamental patterns in the built and natural environment instead of merely approving or rejecting developer's applications" (Guiding Growth, 1-2).  Ultimately, managed growth directs the location, character and timing of development so that it is environmentally sensitive, economically beneficial, and socially equitable (Guiding Growth, 1-2).  The consequences of unmanaged growth are devastating and are outlined in the next section. 


Deleterious Effects from Unmanaged Growth


The consequences of unmanaged growth are not limited to the exploitation of open space and land.  Serious ancillary effects exist from unmanaged growth which can disrupt community well-being.  A clever analogy expresses the similarity between human beings and communities-  both grow to maturity.  However, human growth after maturity is cancer.  Similarly, community growth after maturity results in a cancer not of growing cells, but of environmental degradation, insufficient services and infrastructure, and a loss of sense of community (Kinsley, 8).    




First and foremost, sprawl is costly.  In the fervor to recruit new businesses and tax money, many planners and officials fail to appreciate the long-term costs associated with unmanaged growth.  To accommodate inefficient land use, infrastructure must be built.  This includes providing adequate transportation systems, sewer and water lines, and new schools.  Often, new infrastructure is built as existing infrastructure is under utilized.  For example, a business locating on converted land may have vacated an existing site, or elected not to locate in an existing site.


Low density residential development is particularly costly.  One study in Virginia concluded that the "annual revenue shortfall of net public cost to the county would be approximately three times as large from the lowest-density residential community... from the highest density community" (Guiding Growth, 1-3).  This particular study was limited to the costs of direct services such as schools, fire and police services.  It did not include the costs of water, sewer and road infrastructure, which would increase the disparity.  Finally, New Jersey, through state implemented plans designed to manage growth estimates savings of $1.3 billion in capital infrastructure costs over the next 20 years.  Pennsylvania, for whatever reason, has yet to undertake a similar assessment of the costs of sprawl (Waters, 2).


Loss of Farmland


Sprawl poses a serious threat to future food supplies.  As noted, most sprawl takes place immediately outside of large metropolitan areas, dangerously close to deposits of prime farmland.  In fact, "most prime farmland (in the United States) is located within the suburban and exurban counties of metropolitan areas" (Nelson, 467).  This land is targeted by developers because of its proximity to major metropolitan areas, and the ease with which it can be converted.  Farmland is usually flat and devoid of trees, which makes it inexpensive and easy to develop.  An alarming statistic is that each year 2.5 million acres of agricultural land is "converted to nonagricultural uses in the United States" (Smith, 193).  Once farmland is converted, the soil is lost forever, as is the potential for future agricultural supply.


Compounding the problem is the synergistic effect that sprawl has on farmland.  As urban spill-over impedes upon farmland, the land becomes less attractive to farming due to air pollution damage, increased taxes on the farmers, and restrictions (legal and otherwise) on farming activity instigated by non-farming neighbors.  Therefore, farming is less attractive and less lucrative, and selling land to developers becomes a temptation that can propagate sprawl (Nelson, 468).  Loss of farmland also threatens traditional lifestyles and cultures such as those of the Amish, Mennonites and American Indians.                                                 


Sensitive Ecological Lands


Unwise growth threatens important and often irreplaceable ecological lands, jeopardizing not only the land itself, but also animal species and food supplies.  One example is coastal development which destroys breeding areas for sea life.  It also is intrusive on the landscape, is aesthetically unappealing and perpetuates beach erosion.


Similarly, sprawl claims many important wetland areas.  Wetlands are "transitional lands between terrestrial and aquatic systems where the water table is at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water" (Guiding Growth, 2-27).  During the country's infancy, major cities were built upon wetlands or even entire bodies of water to accommodate the preferred travel method of the time (Kelly, 149).  Thus, cities tended to be positioned near rivers, lakes and oceans. The ramifications of this practice is the loss of natural flood plains, a problem exacerbated by subsequent sprawl.  Flood plains serve as a natural and effective flood prevention technique.  When flood plains are built on or paved over, the result can be terrific and costly floods, as witnessed recently along the Mississippi river, in California and along the Susquehanna.  Perhaps it is no coincidence that the "flood of the century" seems to occur every few years.


The benefits of wetlands go far beyond flood protection.  Wetlands filter out contaminants and improve water quality, serve as water supply storage areas and contribute to erosion control.  Wetlands are a source of products such as timber, blueberries, and peat and serve as recreational areas for sportsmen (Guiding Growth, 2-28).  Wetlands are important habitats for a wide variety of fish and wildlife many of which use the areas for spawning grounds.  Unfortunately, for many years the importance of wetlands was overlooked.  They were viewed as swamps- nuisance areas to be filled in, paved over and built upon.  As a result, many wetland areas have been lost forever.  Although regulation has helped preserve wetlands, sprawl continues to threaten these areas.


Traffic Problems


Another effect of sprawl, and in fact a recent catalyst for  officials to institute growth management programs is traffic congestion.  When growth occurs too fast or is not controlled, existing roads and highways are often unable to accommodate automobile use.  As a result, traffic congestion increases, creating increased air pollution and commuter stress and lowering quality of life.  As workers relocate further and further from central industrial or downtown areas, there are longer commutes, more miles of highway and increased gasoline consumption.  Hence, the problem of sprawl and traffic patterns becomes more complicated and abstract.  Sprawl increases our dependency on the automobile and foreign oil.  The latter contributes to the volatile situation in the Middle East and necessitates intrusive oil extrication practices (such as off-shore drilling) that threaten species and lands.


As stated, many officials react to sprawl only after traffic problems become acute.  Clearly, only allowing growth where adequate infrastructure already exists or can be afforded will prevent costly, after-the-fact "damage control" growth program implementation.


Further Decaying of Cities and Downtowns


Unfortunately sprawl does not only affect the land which it consumes.  The effects of sprawl usually reach the heart of towns and cities whose residents, businesses, economic activity and history are imperiled.  Obviously, as residents flee cities for suburban and exurban areas, downtowns lose tax base and businesses lose customers.  As competition from suburban businesses grows and downtown populations shrink, downtown stores are forced to close or relocate.  Property owners become lax in maintenance, governments reduce services and buildings are allowed to crumble or are demolished.  Eventually, this cycle results in downtowns resembling ghost towns (Moe, 2).


The social implications of the deterioration of downtowns are staggering.  As sprawl renders cities similar to doughnuts- with the hole ever expanding- the residents that are left suffer most.  Economic segregation, stagnant property values and declining public services all correspond to higher crime, greater disparity between rich and poor, decreased quality of education, and increased sense of hopelessness (Moe, 3).  Not to be overlooked is the diminished sense of community which can pervade economic development programs and undermine the prosperity of a community. 


Loss of Sense of Place and Open Space


Important to quality of life is open space, recreational availability and sense of place.  As communities are beset by financial problems, often compounded by  unmanaged growth, they often under fund recreational and open space programs, threatening quality of life.  Too often, these important assets are replaced by strip malls and parking lots.  If leaders fail to appreciate the importance of open space, the community suffers as a whole.


Likewise, sprawl detracts from sense of place by robbing downtowns and communities of historical and cultural uniqueness.   When sense of place and quality of life decrease, the economic effects on a community can be staggering.  The formula is simple:  When a decrease in sense of place and quality of life occurs, community sources of income are lost.  Tourists will no longer visit the area or spend money, the area will no longer be attractive to second home buyers and retirees searching for the ideal place to settle will look elsewhere or relocate (Kinsley, 7).


Environmental Problems


One must remember that the nature of environmental problems is global.  Practices have far reaching implications and actions of one area are likely to affect others.  Pollution does not respect boundaries, natural or man-made and when land is affected, so too is water and air. Therefore, when inappropriate growth is allowed, the environment as a whole suffers. A loss of wetlands causes a decrease in water and air quality.  More highways and farther commutes correspond to a decrease in air quality. Likewise, land run off and sewage discharge from a poorly planned area threatens quality of water downstream.  Unfortunately, some communities who implement effective growth management programs may suffer consequences from the practices (or lack thereof) of less ambitious neighbors (Kasowski, 3).



II. Attaining Sustainable Development and Managed Growth


Government and the Political System


Since planning and managing growth are ultimately political acts, it is essential to consider the nature and implications of politics when managing growth. The majority of growth management policy activity takes place at the local level of government. Local governments often develop "comprehensive plans designed to provide a blueprint for land use and development in future years," and implement zoning and subdivision regulations "designed to carry out the plans" (Smith, 190).


Since public opinion polls "uniformly indicate that the general public is strongly in favor of protecting the environment, saving farmland and open space, (and) preserving historic and cultural buildings and landscapes," efforts to manage growth will benefit from the political process provided there is active citizen involvement (Guiding Growth 5-1).  Although the combination of saliency with regards to public opinion and the nature of the local political system (which enables citizen participation) is encouraging for the potential to manage growth, there are characteristics of local government which inhibit efforts.  These will be discussed later.


State and regional governments have witnessed an increased role in growth management.  State involvement in the field is relatively recent- pioneer states (such as Oregon and Florida) have become models for other states- and still involves a great deal of trial and error.  States have become more active in developing "legislation to help manage growth through land policy" and some states often use the "carrots and sticks" approach on local governments when there exists a possible regional impact from the policy (Holway, 4). 


States are usually responsible for the primary funding of major growth management projects (Stein, 18).  Also, states usually establish a broad set of goals, which include environmental and economic development objectives as well as goals for public infrastructure and affordable housing (Stein, 22).  Goals also differ by state and usually reflect specific problems or policy aimed at unique or sensitive land.  States also intend to "improve the quality and increase the prevalence of local and regional planning" and to require or encourage consistency with state goals.  More frequently states are becoming involved with regional planning committees and activities (Stein, 23).


Regardless, in Pennsylvania there is ample room for increased state effort.  For instance, the state does virtually no state comprehensive planning (Guiding Growth, 3-1).  Participants in the Challenging Sprawl Symposium held in December, 1995 recommended a more "effective state framework for planning and zoning in the Commonwealth."  Also, members agreed that there is latitude for the state to establish clear state policies to guide decisions regarding land use.  In failing to do so, some localities are making land use decisions detrimental to the neighboring community's goals and the health of future generations (Waters, 2).  Similarly, the Final Report of the 1991-2 House Select Committee on Land Use and Growth Management in Pennsylvania recommended that there should be a revitalization of the state planning board.  Ideally, the board would be made stronger and possess authority to establish goals for managing growth.

The federal government, often overlooked in the role of land use, is usually responsible for making decisions on the disposition of the land.  In fact, the federal government is the largest holder of land in the country, which delineates its role in land use.  The feds can influence the timing and location of growth in a variety of ways.  For instance, federal capital expenditures "on such public works as highways and sewer plants" can actually dictate the growth of a community (Kelly, 10).  In general, however, the federal role is similar to the role assumed by most states, and characterized by little involvement in planning and a "number of decisions on funding public projects that may or may not comport with local plans" (Kelly, 11).


The Pros and Cons of Government Action


The General Assembly of Pennsylvania gives municipalities primary responsibility for regulating land use and development through the Municipalities Planning Code (MPC).  As stated, citizen participation is more conducive to local government than state or federal government.  However, effective growth management can be undermined by lack of participation, and may allow an unscrupulous, incompetent or self-serving official to promote unwise growth.  Without adequate citizen participation, developers interested merely in building houses and not sustainable development may wield a disproportionate amount of power.  Thus, the process can actually compromise the goals and intentions of growth management programs while fostering the interests of a few.


Another potential pitfall involves under funding of local government.  Local governments are often left with the major task of implementing "top down" systems devised by state or regional governments (Stein, 13).  These implementation obligations frequently create fiscal burdens for financially-strapped and often rural local governments, and resulting tensions can impede necessary interaction.  The preparation and implementation of successful growth management programs costs money that local governments often do not have or are reluctant to part with.  Local government must rely on local and property taxes for income, most of which is used to finance schools.  The lack of revenue often causes local officials to overlook growth management programs, despite the staggering long-term costs of unwise growth. 


In response to the under funding of government, there have been proposed solutions involving tax reform.  Some maintain tax reform would extend much needed revenue to local governments who shoulder most of the responsibility for managing growth.  Members of the Challenging Sprawl symposium identified the need to seek tax policy reform to encourage regional planning, investment in existing communities and resource conservation.  Some suggestions to help attain sustainable development include enabling counties to adopt differential taxing structures;  eliminating tax incentives for leap frog development;  and creating tax incentives for investment in existing towns and cities (Waters, 5).


Included in the recommendations was the enabling of regional revenue sharing.  Revenue sharing would allow a "means for local jurisdictions to work together to avoid competition among different jurisdictions for new tax dollars" (Kasowski, 10).  Innovative revenue sharing partnerships can also be encouraged.  For example,  counties that possess healthy tax bases but lack employers can be matched with urban areas that have a lack of tax base but possess a large pool of workers and abandon houses.  Then, by "investing in public transit and the renovation of abandoned urban housing, counties could save the cost of subsidizing new construction of low-income housing" (Kasowski, 10). Urban areas would then become revitalized and both areas would ultimately benefit from the arrangement.


Use of the split-rate or two-tier property tax rate system may help mitigate the effects of sprawl.  In this system, the tax is "decreased on buildings, thereby giving property owners the incentive to build and to maintain and improve their properties."  Meanwhile, the levy on land values is increased, thus discouraging land speculation and encouraging in-fill development (Hartzok).


Moreover, fragmentation and a lack of cohesion among local governments may impede the cooperative efforts to fight sprawl over the entire Commonwealth.  In fact, many participants in the challenging sprawl symposium recognized fragmentation of local government as the main impediment to Pennsylvanian efforts to fight sprawl.  Turf battles, competition for tax dollars and failure to recognize that most problems do not stop at town and county lines were cited as preventing localities from "working collaboratively to address problems" (Waters, 2).


Growth management requires difficult coordination and is affected by the "building of infrastructure, land and environmental regulation and the actions of businesses and individuals" (Stein, 18).  As a result, many intergovernmental conflicts can arise.  Inter-local conflict can occur as one community takes action to limit urban sprawl which causes development to shift to another community, thereby intensifying sprawl at the regional level (Stein, 52).  At the state level, state environmental and economic incentives may conflict with local objectives just as federal government actions can conflict with state and local objectives.  For example, federal highway construction and defense spending can "direct growth, create jobs, and encourage growth in locations where it is not sought" (Stein, 51-52).  Compounding the problem of growth management is the political difficulty for local public officials and planners to say no to developers.  Also, state government has historically been tepid towards growth management issues, a fact which has delayed the devising and implementation of programs.


Other Forces Available




Planning is the basis of growth and development practices.  Growth management and sustainable development programs need to consider how to improve planning so it can be used to guide growth.  Traditionally, local governments have used a variety of approaches to regulate development including general plans, subdivision controls, zoning ordinances and building codes, each of which can manage growth to some degree.  However, despite becoming more comprehensive and complex, these tools are "considered weak, (and) most experts view them as lacking in significant ability to shape growth, control its timing or deal with many of its impacts, particularly financial and environmental ones" (DeGrove, 4). 


Therefore, it behooves officials and planners to be creative in attempting to solve growth problems, and new innovative solutions should be encouraged.  A wide array of growth control measures do exist though, and many can be adapted to fit municipality goals and objectives.  These include "limitations on the level of intensity of development; stringent design and performance standards for lots and buildings; shifting of costs from the public to the development project; reductions in the supply of developable land and/or restrictions on the locations where development is permitted; and reductions of the amount of growth permitted" (DeGrove, 5). 


To sufficiently plan for growth and discourage urban sprawl, it is imperative to prepare a plan that is based on accurate population projections and thorough data and analyses.  These plans should designate land for development based on the projected need (DeGrove, 36).  Development rights should be assigned consistent to the objectives of the local plan.  Hence, it is critical to adequately outline goals and objectives. Timing is also extremely important, as development should be coordinated with the provision of public facilities (DeGrove, 37).


Many other effective planning techniques can be used to discourage urban sprawl.  These include establishing moderate densities and varied housing opportunities in urban areas; mixed- use and clustering requirements (which encourage the containment of traffic); transferable development rights programs designed to encourage a developer to build above otherwise available densities; and controlling access to arterial roadways (DeGrove, 38).  Development patterns often dictate whether or not land is used efficiently and growth is managed.


Urban growth (UGB) boundaries can also be instrumental in preventing sprawl.  Urban growth boundaries establish a boundary line within which urban infrastructure and development is to be encouraged and outside of which is not to be encouraged.  Successful implementation of UGB's has occurred in Oregon, Lexington, Kentucky and Minneapolis-St. Paul.  Pennsylvania has no law authorizing UGB's but the Lancaster County Planning Commission has been pioneering UGB use (Guiding Growth A-10,11).


Land Acquisition


By purchasing undeveloped land, governments directly control how it is used.  In Pennsylvania, this practice is used mainly to preserve farmland through the purchasing of easements.


Perhaps the best example of land purchasing involves the city of Boulder, Colorado, which instituted a one cent city sales tax, 40% of which went for open space acquisition.  Since the practice started in the 1950's, 17,500 acres have been purchased.  This land is owned and managed by the city's real estate and open space department and is used as ranchland, farmland and prairie (DeGrove, 19-20).  Boulder seems to prosper as a result, spending $75 an acre a year to manage the property, compared with $3200 an acre per year to provide city services to land (DeGrove, 26).  In addition, unemployment is low, quality of life is high, sense of place is maintained and the city has actually been attracting business on its own terms, despite not allowing development outside the city.  Realistically, however, land acquisition is not a solution to urban sprawl.  The practice can be politically unpopular, viewed as socialist, and funding such efforts can be difficult. 




Court decisions that uphold legislation or practices involving guiding growth can strengthen a community's ability to do so.  Adjudication of public good versus private rights has a long legal and philosophical history.  The government's ability to protect the public good is a balancing act with the rights of the individual, where courts are able to significantly affect the balance with their decisions.  Although Pennsylvania court decisions have been "regarded by many as the most 'pro-development' in the country," they are consistent with what most experts agree is critical to managing growth- a program based on "timing development to accompany coordinated infrastructure" (Guiding Growth, 4-15).


The courts have recognized historic preservation, so important to revitalizing downtowns, recycling buildings and controlling sprawl, as a legitimate exercise of police power to regulate private property.  In fact, in many cases court decisions have found that historic preservation designation does not constitute a taking of property without just compensation (Guiding Growth, A-37).


User Fees


Perhaps the most effective means for preventing urban sprawl and unwanted growth is not to provide the infrastructure required.  Boulder, Colorado, which has been very successful in preserving open space, has been reluctant to provide infrastructure.  In fact, most development that occurs outside of city borders- in the few lots that do not belong to the city, must rely on septic tanks, wells, or even have water trucked in (DeGrove, 21).


User fees, or impact fees, are fees that are charged to developers by local officials as a means of offsetting costs from new development incurred by local government (Kasowski, 10).  Developers are more likely to reconsider haphazard, inefficient development practices when required to pay user fees.


Requiring impact fees in Pennsylvania has become more difficult with the passing of a 1990 amendment to the MPC.  Prior to the amendment, municipalities imposed impact fees for a broad range of municipal cost and services.  However, municipalities must now conform any impact fee ordinance to the requirement of the amendment.  As a result, impact fees are limited to improvements such as "traffic lights, road widening, and new roads" but not for upgrading or maintenance of existing roads (Guiding Growth, 4-6).


Forces Inhibiting


As previously noted, the characteristics that can typify local government- inadequate financial resources and staff and lack of citizen participation- often inhibit effective growth management programs.  There are other forces, though, that inhibit growth management and sustainable development.




Although planning is the most basic means for controlling sprawl (provided it is used appropriately), inadequate, ineffective or non-existent local planning can be detrimental to growth management efforts.  Indeed, shortcomings in Pennsylvania planning practices have aggravated the problem of sprawl.  In Pennsylvania, the MPC has granted power to plan and- in the absence of local municipal zoning- to zone to all 67 counties (Guiding Growth 3-9).  A consensus reached by the Committee on Land Use and Growth Management concluded that there is a need for increased planning activity at every level.  The committee also acknowledged a lack of a clear comprehensive or coordinated state policy, plan or strategy to control growth (Final Report, 11).


There exist other reasons besides those previously cited why a lack of appropriate planning may occur, not the least of which is a limited perspective by local land-use officials.  Many base decisions solely on local impacts such as increasing tax base.  Myopic tendencies can sabotage effective long-term planning, especially in a state like Pennsylvania that has a deficiency of state planning goals and contains over 2,000 separate cities, boroughs and townships (Kasowski, 4).


The participants in the challenging sprawl symposium found areas of planning that could be improved.  Some suggestions included a requirement that plans be binding on all parties once adapted; incentives to make participation attractive to localities; a clear statement of state goals and policies with regard to planning; and a requirement that zoning ordinances be consistent with adapted plans (Waters, 4).




Court decisions can aid or hinder growth management efforts.  Particularly detrimental can be decisions involving private property rights.  The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that no private property will be taken for public use without just  compensation (Kasowski, 5).  Many specific terms are still open to interpretation, however but takings issues can impede government's ability to protect the common or public good.


In addition, courts have been active in setting precedence in snob-zoning and anti-exclusionary cases that can affect growth management programs.  One example is with Boulder, Colorado, where a court decision has impeded Boulder's stringent growth policies.  The case which Boulder lost required the city to extend water and sewer lines to a subdivision that was inconsistent with the city's growth policies, thus compromising their goals and visions (DeGrove, 20).


Political Climate and the Dominant Social Paradigm


The nature of politics is mercurial, and issues hop on and off front burners seemingly at will.  The current political attitude is anti-big government and anti-regulatory.  At best, these political sentiments force officials to search for other solutions.  At worst, they can obscure growth management goals.  Critics argue that growth management efforts are narrowly conceived restrictions that inhibit growth while delivering detrimental effects to the local economy and threatening affordable housing (DeGrove, xiii).  Growth restrictions are sometimes viewed as inflationary, exclusive and ineffective- merely diverting growth from one area to others that may be unprepared to handle it.


Even as the practice of growth management develops and is refined, criticism persists.  The dominant social paradigm contends that private land is sacred and should be utilized at the discretion of the owner.  Programs developed to confront the problem of growth- however beneficial in the long term- are sometimes viewed as socialist, un-American, draconian or contrary to the vision of our forefathers.  Many factions hold with high regard the freedom of consumer choice in the marketplace and public choice in local land use policy, and perceive growth management as a threat to these ideals (Chinitz, 6). 


The dominant social paradigm also holds in high regard a trust in science.  Some maintain science is a panacea that can undue tomorrow any problem created today.  The reaction tendency remains reactive rather than proactive:  When floodplains are paved over, engineers will simply build higher retention walls.  When farmland is developed and agricultural production is needed in the future, the development will be "undone."  Unfortunately, this solution is simplistic, and it is doubtful whether soil can be restored to its original productive quality (Smith, 194).  Ironically, those that hold science in such high regard often dismiss such scientific theories as global warming as inane and unfounded.


III. Reusing and Preserving Buildings


Relationship to Sustainable Development


Whether or not sprawl is a cause or effect or both of urban sprawl, it undoubtedly contributes to the economic and social deterioration of cities and towns.  Sprawl leaves older cities with empty storefronts, abandoned industrial sites and an inability to provide services to the citizens that remain, all while threatening historic neighborhoods.  When historic buildings are vacant, become dilapidated or are torn down, the community loses its sense of history so important for economic health and identity.  Urban renewal projects of the 50's and 60's claimed many older, historic buildings from towns in the name of progress-  thereby denying them any potential benefits. 


Physical preservation and  rehabilitation of remaining buildings should aim to preserve the building's important or "character defining" architectural materials or features while making possible an efficient contemporary use.  Rehabilitation is defined as "the process of returning a property to a state of utility, through repair or alteration, which makes possible an efficient contemporary use while preserving those portions and features of the property which are significant to its historic, architectural, and cultural values" (Standards for Rehabilitation, 5).  Historic preservation and adaptive use are viable solutions that can help ameliorate sprawl by offering an alternative to building or locating on convertible land.  Adaptive use has many other benefits. 


Benefits of Historic Preservation and Adaptive Use


Economic Development and Preservation


The idea that buildings, like cans and bottles, should be recycled is not a new one.  Preserving and adapting older buildings makes sound economic sense.  A widely accepted definition of preservation perspicuously includes the idea:  Preservation is the economically functional rebuilding of the urban environment (The Economic Benefits of Preservation).


Whereas sprawl creates a needless duplication of services and infrastructure, preservation and adaptive use aim to reuse existing infrastructure (Waters, 2).  Building rehabilitation is labor intensive.  Two to five times more jobs are required for rehabilitation than for new construction.  Ultimately it costs less, however, to rehabilitate than to build.  When incorporating new material cost, rehabilitation runs 25-33% less than new construction (Economic benefits of preservation). Continuing, rehabilitation saves money by requiring less time than new construction, ensuring that a company is "up and running" faster.


There are also many related, ancillary economic benefits from historic preservation.  For instance, it may be a catalyst for reinvestment in a neighborhood or town.  As a structure is rehabilitated and becomes economically functional, spill-over occurs.  The building may attract restaurants, laundromats or newsstands and eventually property values increase.  With renewed interest in the area, a multiplier effect occurs and further investment is more likely. 


With historic preservation, money is more likely to remain in the community.  New construction requires cost of materials usually manufactured or produced elsewhere.  Rehabilitation is labor intensive and hiring local workers ensures money remains in the community.  Finally, the benefits of older buildings- including solid construction, large spaces and charm and character- cannot be duplicated easily since these amenities are cost and time prohibitive.  Practically, the only feasible way to reap the benefits of older buildings is through rehabilitation (Wright, 9).  The advantages of adaptive use do not end with those already outlined.


Environmental Benefits


There are also environmental benefits to building rehabilitation and adaptive use.  Rehabilitation uses 23% less energy than new construction, saving money and energy (Economic Benefits of Preservation).  Also, many older structures contain toxins or pollutants (such as asbestos) that, without rehabilitation, could continue to endanger the environment.  Rehabilitation can promote environmental clean-up.  Many laws require new owners to eliminate pollution prior to inhabitation.  Although designed with the best intentions, costs associated with these requirements sometimes dissuade new owners from reusing the sites.  Thus, laws and regulations are being amended to find an acceptable balance.


Actually, streamlining codes and permits required for rehabilitation was a recommendation for controlling sprawl in the Challenging sprawl symposium.  Also, there was concern expressed that Pennsylvania lacks policies to encourage development of brownfield sites and discourage development of greenfields.  One recommendation suggested using direct state subsidies for investment in brownfield sites (Waters, A-3).


National Register of Historic Places


An integral part of historical preservation is the National Register of Historic Places.  The national register is the nation's inventory of historic places and the beginning of a national census of historic properties.  It was authorized under the national historic preservation act of 1966 (National Register Bulletin, 1).  The criteria used for evaluating a building is whether or not it possesses integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association.  For a property to qualify, it must be "associated with an important historical context" and retain historic integrity of those features necessary to convey its significance (Register, 2-3).  Listing in the National Register does not ensure a building will not be torn down, but merely that federal funds cannot be used for the demolition.  Likewise, listing does not "require that the building be preserved, but does establish a historic and/or architectural significance of the building or site, and establishes that it is worthy of preservation (Van Wieren, 9).  Listing does qualify a property for certain federal historic preservation grants.  A 20% tax credit exists for rehabilitating a building listed on the Register (Wright, 9). 


Difficult Adaptive Use Buildings


Brewing Complexes


Historic preservation and adaptive use makes good economical sense and is necessary for fighting urban sprawl. However, not all buildings are used as efficiently or are preserved as they could.  Buildings that were once part of the brewing industry, both in Pennsylvania and nationally, present a particular challenge and an interesting study for adaptive use.  Before examining what are the has been done with abandoned brewery complexes, it is necessary to shed some light on why so many have become vacant.


The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, known as prohibition, lasted 14 years. Prior to prohibition, the brewing industry was characterized by many small independent brewing companies and a few rather large ones.  In fact, in 1910, the nation had 1,568 breweries in operation.  Some survived prohibition by making non-alcoholic beer or by producing other products, however, after repeal only 703 were active.  In the next 50 years, the industry was to undergo a massive consolidation, due to many different factors.


With the advent of television following World War Two, larger, national breweries were able to use the medium as an effective advertising tool.  In addition, larger national brewers utilized predatory pricing tactics, lowering their prices to get consumers to switch their loyalties from local beers.  Packaging- particularly cans and bottles- became more popular, required expensive equipment that local breweries often could not afford, and became lighter, thereby lowering costs of shipping for national brewers.  The national's enjoyed a lower cost of raw materials from buying in larger quantities.  All of these factors contributed to crippling local and regional brewers. 


Compounding the problem of the locals was that the barrel tax was raised three times- from $5 to $9 per barrel from 1940 to 1951, causing struggling locals to feel more of an economic pinch.  The result was that of the 703 brewers nationally after prohibition by 1950 there was only 407.  By 1960 230 survived, with only 140 operating independently (O'Connor, 50).  The trend continued- the nationals stole market share, the cost of raw materials escalated and the fall of the local brewer was precipitous.  Consolidation continued and by January of 1983, 51 brewing concerns remained, operating only 83 breweries (Van Wieren, 7-8). 


Although these are national figures, there existed a similar pattern in Pennsylvania.  In fact, Pennsylvania was a brewing leader.  In 1937, Pennsylvania had 98 breweries (the most in the nation) located in small towns such as Smithton and Shenandoah as well as large cities.  At the turn of the century, Reading had a dozen and Philadelphia alone had hundreds.  By 1980, however, the number of active breweries in Pennsylvania had dwindled to 9 (Wagner). 


The closings did not go unfelt.  Local officials were left with losses of jobs, tax revenue and the recognition the product brought to their communities.  Moreover, many complexes were vacated in downtown areas that were already hurting financially and suffering the effects of sprawl.  Officials and owners were left with the perplexing problem of what to do with the buildings themselves- most were very old, sprawling complexes (sometimes entire city blocks), in various states of dilapidation that were not easily adaptable since they were built specifically for brewing purposes.  Most had gaping holes in walls, inflicted to salvage huge brewing kettles and other equipment.  Some had environmental damage such as asbestos. 


Oftentimes complexes were razed.  However, when lack of funds existed, they sat vacant and were ravaged by time, too costly to rehabilitate and too costly to demolish.  Since surrounding neighborhoods were dependant on the breweries for jobs, unemployment in the immediate area became prevalent and brought with it all of its deleterious side effects. The buildings themselves became targets for vandals and arsonists and served as an incubator for criminal activity.


For many of these reasons, brewery complex adaptive use poses a challenge to officials, preservationists and investors.  As noted, the buildings are not easily adaptable.  The brew houses in particular, are typically expansive, behemoth structures with very high walls, built narrow at the top and broad at the base to accommodate the gravity-fed brewing process. Typically bottling houses, with a more conventional shape, are more likely to be adapted. 


Obviously, it is beneficial for many reasons to reuse these buildings.  However, one may question the need to historically preserve brewery buildings.  As outlined, the brewing industry in Pennsylvania in may ways led the nation.  Thus, it is a significant part of its history and is associated with an important historical context- a qualification outlined in the Registry.  Many people (often hundreds) were employed by a single plant, imbibed in the product, or remember fondly the smell of the brewing process, the advertising, or the delivery trucks.  Hence, there is a fond recollection of the company.  Continuing, many of the former businesses were run by families prominent within and historically relevant to the community.  Many of the buildings, particularly the offices, were designed ornately to convey the community status of the owners.


So what has become of the buildings of Pennsylvania's defunct breweries?  To closely preserve the integrity of the buildings, the ideal adaptive use of the structures is for a new brewing concern.  Unfortunately, this is not usually practical.  Therefore, many have been razed or adapted for other uses and many more simply stagnate, sinking further into decay while awaiting salvation or demolition.  Some have had architectural craftsmanship diligently preserved while others have lost forever unique architectural details to the elements or demolition.   All hold a certain sense of history, and nine in Pennsylvania- and many more nationwide- have been listed on the national register.  The next section will detail a few example.


Case Studies


Stegmaier Brewery of Wilkes-Barre


The Stegmaier Brewery of Wilkes-Barre has a storied past and played a prominent economic role in the city.  The brewery was the most famous in the area- an area once renowned for its brewing industry- and won several medals at international competitions.  The local population took pride in the brewery and the Stegmaier family gave back to the community.  Besides employing 350 and boosting local coal and rail industries, the company offered scholarships to local students.  The wife of the founder's son was even made a countess by Pope Pius in recognition of her charitable work (Kitsock, 8). 


Stegmaier was a large regional brewer, producing 510,000 barrels annually in 1943, large even by today's standards but minuscule compared to Anheuser-Busch's production of 80 million barrels last year.  The brewery suffered from the same problems that were undoing other breweries- competition from the nationals, increased taxes and raw material costs.  As a result, sales lagged to 188,000 barrels annually in 1963.  In addition, the plant was a "brontosaurus-" an inefficient structure that required 90 tons of coal a month in order to generate its own power (Kitsock, 8).  The company suffered from other factors as well, including an aging population and a depressed local economy.  Perhaps the final blow for the company was Hurricane Agnes which, although damaging some areas of the plant, permanently closed many "ma and pa" neighborhood taverns which were extremely local customers.  As a result, the company sold its name and recipe to a cross-town rival and closed the plant in 1974. 


The plant sat vacant for years afterwards, dodging various demolition threats. In May of 1979 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Finally, in 1985 preservation work was undertaken on the bottling house and completed in January of 1986, which accurately preserved the building's original characteristics.  The estimated rehabilitation cost was $400,000 and the new construction cost was $100,000.  It now houses a records storage center.


The Romanesque-style brew house, considered "one of the premier examples of 19th century brewery architecture in the Mid-Atlantic region," posed more of a problem (Kitsock, 8).  It continued a descent into disrepair and became a target for vandals who spray painted walls and smashed windows.  As concrete plans were being made for its demolition, however, the 102 year old building got one last reprieve.  U.S. Representative Paul Kanjorski-D announced in 1995 that plans had been made to convert the brewhouse to Federal office space at the cost of 18 million dollars.  It will be partially inhabited by the U.S. Postal Services computer data center and expected to produce up to 130 federal and postal jobs (Ruff, 13).  Other employment possibilities are expected, as the remaining space is to be rented to private parties.  There have even been rumors that a brewing museum will be located in the structure (Kitsock, 8).  Even though the project includes an amount of unspecified demolition, the announcement is good news to preservationists and locals who sought to preserve the structure.


The Neuweiler Brewing Company of Allentown


Like Stegmaier, Neuweiler was a family owned and very popular regional brewer.  The brewery's namesake was a successful and well-known local family whose beer won various medals- including finest in the world in 1950 at a Brussels, Belgium competition.  In 1941, the brewery produced around 200,000 barrels annually, but competition from the nationals was fierce and the brewery went bankrupt in the mid 1960's (Wagner). 


There were two interested buyers of the plant, one from New Jersey and one a large, national brewery.  However, the brewery became a victim of Pennsylvania's "51% law" which mandated that 51% of brewery stock must be owned by state residents, thus nullifying the sale and forcing the brewery to close in 1968 (the law has subsequently been changed) (Wagner). 


The formidable plant, with its arched windows, pilasters, corinthian columns and elaborately carved keystones manages to preserve a vanished craftsmanship, despite being neglected for many years.  It was designed by architect Clarence Wunder of Philadelphia and built in 1912.  The brewery is interesting not only for its outward appearance- complete with ornate carvings- but for utilizing an underground lake 900 feet below the surface for its water supply.  Besides separate wells, the architect also designed an electric power plant, thereby ensuring Neuweiler's independence from the City for water and power (Whelan).  


Located in a depressed area on Front Street, the neighborhood began to suffer after the closing.  Despite being placed on the National Register in 1980, the building remains structurally sound but unused, save for the bottling house which is used by Mack Trucks, Inc. to store parts.  Unlike the Stegmaier plant which the city claimed for back property taxes, the Neuweiler building is privately owned.  Several plans for adaptation have gone unrealized, including a plan to tap the underground wells and a proposed gasohol distillery.  One owner envisions "anything from a retail outlet to condominiums," while some real estate experts feel it would be best used as warehouse space (Whelan).  More recently, the city unveiled plans to revitalize the entire riverside area, but claimed the Neuweiler plant would not be included since the owners asking price was too high. 


Nonetheless, any rehabilitation would certainly require much capital.  Until it is secured, the fate of the building remains unclear.  The plant, despite being a shell of its former self, still offers a glimpse of Allentown's brewing history and the once-proud name that adorns it.


Eberhardt and Ober Brewery of Pittsburgh


Perhaps the most successful and well-known example of brewery adaption is the former Eberhardt and Ober Brewery of Pittsburgh. The Eberhardt and Ober plant suffered its demise in 1952 due to bitter labor contract disputes.  In the mid 1980's, at the burgeoning of the microbrewery movement (that is, the renaissance of small, independent breweries that is currently characterizing the industry), plans were unveiled for Pennsylvania's first microbrewery to be located within the structure.  Of all the breweries listed in an 1870 Allegheny census, the E&O brewery is the only facility that remains.  To lose it would be an irrevocable loss of local brewing history.


The brewery is located in the historic Troy Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh's North Side, which experienced a decline until urban renewal and preservation efforts began independent battles to revitalize the area.  Despite the efforts, however, the brewery was under utilized for 30 years, functioning only as a warehouse.  A roof collapse in 1976 necessitated demolition of a portion of the structure (Nation Register- Nomination Form). 


Despite the demolition, it remained clearly recognizable as a brewery, and the Eberhardt and Ober names represented two prominent residents of the German neighborhood.  The names remain permanently engraved over the door of the office building and the buildings represent a cohesive collection of late 19th century Italianate, Romanesque, Classical and Utilitarian designs dating from 1883 to 1914 (N.R.- Nomination Form).


The brewery was added to the National Register in 1987, the same year the Penn brewery reintroduced brewing to the structure as Pennsylvania's first brewpub.  Since that time, the Penn brewery has received accolades for its product and has acted as a catalyst for revitalization of the neighborhood.  Bordering the Heinz factory, the brewery attracts patrons to its restaurant and brew pub and currently acts as a business incubator.  Therefore, with architectural preservation, economic revitalization and preservation of the integrity of the structure by using it for its original intended purpose, the E&O/Penn brewery remains perhaps Pennsylvania's greatest success story in brewery adaptive use.


Adaptive Use- Other Examples


To give the reader perspective, other examples of Pennsylvania brewery adaptive use will be offered.  In Philadelphia, the magnificent Louis Bergdoll brewery- originally designed by Otto Wolf and placed on the National Register in 1980- has been successfully adapted to an apartment complex while maintaining much of its original style.  The former Class and Nachod brewery is used as a maintenance warehouse for Temple University, while the Hohendahl brewery (closed 1953) continues to crumble by a line of railroad track (Wagner and Dochter).  Happily, plans are under way for the start-up microbrewery Red Bell to commence production at the former Poth brewery which ceased operations in 1936, thus returning the art of brewing to the structure.


In nearby Norristown, the former Scheidt brewery (closed by then owner Schmidts in 1974), was successfully preserved in 1985 with an estimated cost of 5.5 million dollars and houses offices and condominiums.  The former Kaier's brewery in Mahanoy City seems to echo the despondency of the town itself, decaying in the elements as it has since 1968, with seemingly no chance for adaptive use, a whole section of wall missing but still housing a safe with a descriptive painting of the brewery in its heyday. 


Bube's brewery in Mount Joy closed before prohibition.  However, there is more name recognition now than when it was an active brewery, thanks to a second life as a restaurant and bar.  Although no on-premises brewing occurs, patrons can now enjoy the beverage that at one time it produced. 


To the west of Harrisburg, the four building complex that was formerly the Erie-Koehler brewery which closed in 1978 and was placed on the register in 1982 is for sale.  The owner, who "tried for several years to sell or develop the site" and lacks funds to continue, is attempting to sell the brewery for $950,000 (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).  Hopefully, future efforts to adapt or develop the site will be more successful.


The Duquesne brewery in Pittsburgh's south side offers an interesting study.  It closed in 1972 due to lagging sales and labor problems.  Subsequently, two members of a nonprofit tenants' association (the Brew House Creative Business Association) are attempting to purchase the nearly 100 year old structure from the Brew House Artisans Limited partnership, its present owners (Cauley, 31).  Intentions are to create an incubator for small creative businesses.


In the past, the brewery has been used by a variety of manufacturing firms, private craftsmen and artists.  Many artists have become studio tenants in the building, attracted to its unusual design.  One tenant, a sculptor, has resided there since 1976 and relates that most improvements to the building are performed by the tenants themselves.  One investor who had envisioned turning the brewery into artists lofts, had an option which has expired to purchase the building for $900,000.  He is still pursuing the project, considering he has substantial investments in architectural fees and development time.  Hindering efforts are the cost of asbestos removal, which would be "overwhelming" and the costliness to renovate some of the spaces, due to their unusual and massive design (Cauley, 32).   




The quest for sustainable development and managed growth is a complex, difficult effort.  Many factors can inhibit achievement of goals.  Any solution to sprawl is bound to be controversial and difficult to implement, no matter how logical or necessary.  A rather eloquent and poignant (as well as appropriate) definition of growth management that astutely addresses both contentions is as follows:  Growth management is the "imposition of guidelines to direct needed development to selected sites while protecting an area's natural resources" (Downs, 419).  Indeed, growth management can be an imposition.  However, the intention is justified and honorable when implemented policy results in the protection of threatened areas and natural resources.


Perhaps the most telling reflection of our community's character "can be found in the built environment" (Geis, 5).  However, it increasingly displays disorder and disintegration where people cannot walk and play safely, neighborhoods lack cohesion, buildings are out of scale with their surroundings, and the natural environment is overused and polluted (Geis, 6). The challenge is to convert the built environment to reflect a safe and healthy place to live.


One remedy that should be used in addition to the many other forces cited is building adaptive use and preservation.  Preservation makes good economic sense, avoids needless duplication of infrastructure, improves quality of life, helps to curtail sprawl and ultimately contributes to sustainable development.  Of particular importance are older, expansive and difficult to adapt buildings- such as breweries- whose neglect can devastate whole neighborhoods or towns.  Finding adaptive use for these buildings is central to solving many public policy problems and can promote environmental clean-up, economic revitalization, and historic preservation.