Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

Major Professor

Anthony Nownes

Committee Members

Pat Freeland, Bruce Tonn, Bill Lyons


The purpose of this research is to investigate the effects of state initiated smart growth legislation on various aspects of the phenomenon known as urban sprawl. Sprawl is associated with a number of undesirable conditions including depletion of natural resources, increased traffic congestion, and loss of residents and businesses in inner city areas.

In an attempt to alleviate and prevent these conditions, some states have implemented smart growth legislative programs. These programs vary in form from comprehensive in nature, or extending to all land use activities; to pertaining only to special areas, such as coastlines. In addition, state legislation varies according to the balance employed by the state between coercion and incentives used to obtain local government compliance. Utilizing a combination of existing classification systems for state smart growth legislation, I developed a model that incorporates the two elements described above. Based on the “proposed model”, I selected three cities in three states to evaluate. I selected Baltimore, MD to represent low-coercion/comprehensive general; Atlanta, GA to represent medium-coercion/comprehensive general; and Orlando, FL to represent high-coercion/comprehensive general. My rationale was that change could best be observed at the city level.

I selected variables for testing within these cities based on the five primary objectives of smart growth. In each city, I evaluated whether or not there was a change in certain variables (air quality, for example) after implementation of the respective state program. I determined which city showed the most improvement in terms of the dependent variables, and then I extrapolated my findings to the state level.

I reached a preliminary conclusion that the more coercive a state’s smart growth legislative program is, the more likely it will be effective at the local level. I based this on data results for the city of Orlando, FL, which were generally more in line with smart growth goals than those of Baltimore and Atlanta. In fact, Orlando was more successful with controlling population density, maintaining air quality, and minimizing roadway congestion. It also important to note that Atlanta, the test city with the next highest level of coercion, scored second best. These findings are of particular interest given that the trend for the last ten to 15 years has been for states to implement less coercive smart growth programs.

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