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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Phoenix Sprawl: Myth & Reality

"Hopscotch" Phoenix Development

Like a lot of people, my stereotypical image of the Phoenix metro area was a sprawling city gobbling up desert, in every direction.

The reality is a bit different.

While there is certainly plenty of undeveloped desert surrounding the city, it's also the case that natural and legal barriers limit development much more than you'd expect.

The result is a "hopscotch" development pattern with lots of skips and jumps.

The biggest "jumps":

--Numerous Indian communities (formerly "reservations"), which occupy thousands of acres of Phoenix proper, and remain largely undeveloped.

--Mountain ranges in every direction, giving the area its nickname, "Valley of the Sun."

You do see homes -- expensive homes -- extending up the flanks of mountains (like Camelback), but you'd guess building costs are much higher.

--Thousands of acres of protected Federal and state land.

In fact, 85%(!) of Arizona is public forest and park land, state trust land, and Native American reservations.

One thing that does not seem in short supply: water.

Everywhere you look, there are (very green) golf courses!

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