Tulsa and infill

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A couple of weeks ago the Land Use Prof Blog had a post about the challenges of infill development and about how Tulsa is dealing (or failing to deal) with them:

One of the dilemmas of infill -- allowing new construction in an already developed area -- is that it often upsets the expectations of landowners and residents concerning the land use and density of the community. Whether it is allowing stores in an area that has been exclusively residential, or allowing larger houses in a neighborhood of one-story ranch houses, infill often faces strong local opposition, or at least local skepticism. And political scientists tell us that legal efforts often fail if they offer, on one hand, broad but thin public benefits (as some infill does, by counteracting sprawl) and, on the other hand, narrow but concentrated costs upon citizens (such as those owners whose expectations may be upset) who fill tooth and nail against the plan.

I think the prof (Paul Boudreaux of Stetson University) has overlooked a significant factor in this cost-benefit analysis. There is also a narrow but concentrated benefit to developers who want to plop suburban-style development into popular traditional neighborhoods. The benefit to developers of this particular kind of infill is more concentrated than the cost to the broader group of property owners in established neighborhoods who want infill development to be harmonious with existing development.

Most of Tulsa's infill development is not increasing residential density, but merely house size. The QuikTrip at 21st and Harvard has been described as infill, but it's really dedensification -- two retail spaces and six living units will be replaced with a slightly larger version of the existing QT store.

The prof's specific comments about Tulsa:

Tulsa, Oklahoma, is currently undergoing such a debate. In the face of a variety of infill plans, the city has proposed authorizing some "neighborhood conservation districts," which would give some power to neighborhoods to regulate their land use. Some see this as a means of controlling unwanted infill; others see it as an odious regulation of private property. Whither infill in Tulsa? Not surprisingly, the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission stated last week that it is in no rush to change its policies with regard to infill. Stay tuned ...

The prof mislabels some of the players. The city as a government didn't propose NCDs; neighborhoods did with the support of one (now former) city councilor. Still, it's an interesting perspective on an interesting blog about urban planning.

In a more recent entry, Boudreaux calls attention to infill in Philadelphia, where a project called Infill Philadelphia hopes to breath new life into old neighborhoods by adapting existing buildings to modern expectations.

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1 Comments

Keith said:

Mike-

There are other benefits to infill, namely enhanced property tax revenues and (potentially) reduced crime when abandoned properties are redeveloped. Both are generally beneficial to the community, and further shift the balance bar toward "benefit" in redevelopment.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 7, 2008 8:54 PM.

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