Urban sprawl talks end

Ohio lawmakers failed to produce a report on recommendations to slow rapid growth.
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Lawmakers who spent more than a year listening to Ohioans and trying to come up with ways to slow urban sprawl ended their work without producing a report or making any group recommendations.
State Rep. Larry Wolpert, chairman of the House subcommittee on growth and land use, released personal recommendations last week. But the special seven-member subcommittee failed to produce a report before Dec. 31, when the end of the legislative session required it to dissolve.
The group conducted eight hearings across the state and heard from more than 100 witnesses on sprawl and farm preservation.
One of those who testified, Cleveland State University Urban Studies Professor Tom Bier, said the failure to take action was evidence of Ohio leaders' "do-nothing mentality" on key issues.
"They ought to be ashamed of themselves, frankly, wasting everybody's time that way," Bier said. "It's another indication of what pathetic condition Ohio is in."
Wolpert, a Republican from the Columbus suburb of Hilliard, defended the subcommittee's work.
"It's not a waste of time at all," he said Monday.
The group was able to chronicle the exodus from the state's big cities, he said.
"More people live in townships than the eight large cities," Wolpert said. "Education and crime are main reasons people have left. All of them have that problem."
Urban homestead zones
Wolpert has proposed allowing Ohio's eight largest cities -- Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo, Akron, Youngstown and Canton -- to designate "urban homestead zones." People willing to live in new or renovated homes in the zones could send their children to private schools at state expense and use property taxes to pay for a private police force.
"It's a new concept," he said. "It really address the true underlying reason why people leave urban areas."
His other proposals include state tax credits for people who renovate historic buildings in urban areas and allowing townships to charge fees to pay for the increase in costs for public service caused by development.
He said there was no group report from the subcommittee because his colleagues were detoured by their re-election campaigns. He was unopposed in the November election.
"No one on the subcommittee submitted anything to me," Wolpert said. "I kept asking them."
A Democrat on the subcommittee, Kathleen Chandler of Kent, said she declined to make recommendations because she wanted the group to reach consensus.
Wolpert pledged to introduce legislation containing some of his suggestions.

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