Councilman Bob Jaffe asks…

by jhwygirl

In the latest MissoulaGov listserv Ward 3 Councilman Bob Jaffe reports that Ward 4 Councilman Jon Wilkins spoke about sprawl and his theories behind it. Bob wrote:

During the discussion (in today’s committee meetings) there were some comments about encouraging sprawl. Jon Wilkins said something to the effect that we shouldn’t be complaining about sprawl because those of us that have supported infill have done more to create sprawl than anything else that has happened. This infill has caused people to flee the neighborhoods and build in the outskirts of town.

Bob went on to muse:

Personally I think this argument is bunk. But I have heard it repeated a lot. Does anyone know if there is any data that supports or refutes this position?

I don’t know about data Bob, but my thought is that Missoula’s sprawl can be directly attributed to people trying to get away from Councilman Jon Wilkins.

But that’s just my NSHO.


  1. I’d think the data that would disprove it is the low vacancy rate and skyrocketing rents and mortgages in the heart of the city. The densest neighborhoods still tend to often be among the most expensive. If people were fleeing in-fill, the numbers would tell us through reduced property values as demand sapped.

    I certainly haven’t seen that happen.

  2. petetalbot

    Damn you, jhwygirl. I was just going to post on this same subject. It should also be noted that Paul Sopko defends Wilkins allegation and added his opinion to the listserve. It reads:

    “How bout’ school enrollment numbers? School enrollment has been steadily declining since the 1990’s in the urban core while enrollments at schools in Frenchtown, Florence, Lolo & Hellgate Elementary have been steadily increasing. Of course, tying this to infill is a stretch so I’d define it as anecdotal evidence.”

    I would venture that demographics have more to do with declining urban school enrollment than worries about infill. Plus, latest enrollment figures are trending upward.

    Anyway, here’s more anecdotal evidence on sprawl:

    Homes are cheaper outside the city limits because the county doesn’t recoup as much of the real infrastructure costs as the city does (roads, sewer v. septic, public safety, etc.) — ergo sprawl.

    Fewer restrictions and regulations in the county on how and where homes are built keep costs down — ergo sprawl.

    Obstructionists on council have made it so difficult for infill to occur in the city that the affordable component usually associated with infill has been negated — ergo sprawl.

    Finally, Councilman Wilkins, can you actually name any families that have moved out of town because of some infill that occurred in their neighborhood?

    I agree with Jaffe, however. We need hard data to refute Wilkins’ scatological theory.

  3. Why does Wilkins’ statement need to be refuted? Isn’t it self-evident? They’re supposedly the market folks — if infill was unpopular it wouldn’t get built, right? The mere existence of infill refutes his statement.

  4. petetalbot

    In a sense, Jay, you’re correct. Why refute such a specious statement? Because, I believe, you need to challenge illogical theories with data; that infill hasn’t created sprawl and people aren’t fleeing urban areas to avoid density. Maybe the facts will keep similar inane comments from being uttered in the future.

  5. Whoo boy, that email list has exploded! I suggest one of the birds (Pete) volunteers to sum it all up after it’s over! It sure is enlightening! And LaNette’s comment was fantastic…

  6. TZ

    Look no further than Portland, OR for your data. The sprawl advocates always do. The argument goes that the Urban Growth Boundary helped create a market for people to build outside the boundary. But, house prices still go up faster inside the boundary than out.

  7. goof houlihan

    It’s bunk. Mizzou just had a bad run. You don’t need to infill great stable neighborhoods, but, for the rest, infill that is compatible with it’s surroundings, with high design standards, will revitalize it’s surroundings. And there’s a lot that needs revitalizing.

  8. Why wouldn’t you want to most efficiently use the infrastructure (water, sewer) that you have, goof? Building new infrastructure costs $ – and then there’s the dread of sprawl – which brings traffic – and then declining air quality.

    Those lots are legally created, goof – how does a city zone a lot into unbuildability without any legal standing on health and safety issues? Is that not a taking?

    Even if it were done 70 years ago, there’d have to be one darn good reason for telling me I don’t have a buildable right other than “the neighbors don’t like it.”

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