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Reuse, Restore, Recycle: Historic Preservation as an Alternative to Sprawl

July 1999

Citation: ELR 10418

Author: Rachel L. Schowalter

Editors' Summary: Our country's landscape has changed dramatically over the last 50 years as a result of numerous governmental policies and subsidies that encourage low-density development commonly referred to as "sprawl." Sprawl results in environmental problems ranging from air pollution to wetland degradation. Our countryside is disappearing and becoming more fragmented, while urban areas are simply neglected. Moreover, this type of growth, which has gone unchecked for the latter half of this century, increases traffic congestion, strains public budgets, and deteriorates our quality of life. In response, efforts to change sprawling forms of development are taking place nationwide. Advocates of change argue for holistic, long-term approaches that guide future growth in a more sustainable way. This Comment addresses historic preservation's role in curtailing sprawling development, because the most effective method for preventing sprawl is through more intensive use of existing buildings and sites. The Comment begins by discussing the various factors that contribute to sprawl and their consequences. It then addresses how historic preservation can be used to combat this problem. It concludes with a general survey of the various tools that are being used to promote historic preservation activities.

Rachel Schowalter is an Associate Editor of ELR—The Environmental Law Reporter. She received a J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1997 and graduated from the University of Colorado in 1992 with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications. The author is grateful for the helpful comments of Jim Satterfield and Susan Casey-Lefkowitz. The views expressed in this Comment are not necessarily shared by the Environmental Law Institute.