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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fresno: To Urbanize or Not: That is the Question

excerpted from

By Alan Kandel, 2/18/2009

In the “Modern Farmland Conservation Program For Fresno County,” a “Report to the Council of Fresno County Governments by American Farmland Trust, December 2008,” reveals that “One-sixth of Fresno’s most strategic farmland is located inside or within one-half mile of city spheres of influence, highlighting the central challenge of minimizing the loss of this land by increasing the efficiency of urban development.”...

“Based on computerized mapping of these characteristics, 559,000 acres of Fresno’s 2.2 million acres of agricultural land were identified as the most strategic, i.e., the land that should receive the highest priority for conservation, and the lowest priority for non-farm development as part of a broad strategy to sustain Fresno County agriculture.”...

“Between 1990 and 2004, about 21,500 acres of Fresno County land were developed, one-fifth of all the land developed since the City of Fresno was founded more than 130 years ago. Because most development took place on the edges of existing cities, 69 percent of all the land developed was prime or unique farmland, or farmland of statewide importance.

An acre of land was developed for every 9.4 new residents, which was somewhat more efficient than the 8.1 people per acre in the San Joaquin Valley as a whole. But it was far less efficient than development in other regions of the state, even those that are more suburban than urban, demonstrating that developing less land per capita is entirely possible and that much of the farmland being lost in Fresno County is unnecessary,” according to information in the report.

Here’s the kicker. “If no change in current development patterns occurs, another 97,600 acres of land will be urbanized in Fresno County by 2050, roughly doubling the current urbanized area. Of this, 67,350 acres (105 square miles) is likely to be prime, unique or statewide important farmland and most, if not all of that will be ‘strategic’ farmland.

Moreover, if rural residential development, which now occupies roughly one-quarter of all developed land in the county, continues apace, another 55,000 acres could be removed from agriculture.” If this isn’t telling and doesn’t paint a foreboding picture of possible things to come, honestly, I don’t know what does.

That definitive answer I referred to above? That seems obvious. In case there is still a question, does smart growth developmental patterns mean anything?

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