One of the Democrats who’s running for governor proposes tightening state law to make it more difficult for cities to engage in “urban sprawl.”
Representative Ed Fallon of Des Moines says aggressive city land grabs are gobbling up valuable farmland while lots within cities are abandoned. “A lot of times annexation leads to a very sprawling pattern of development that does involve a waste of land in many cases,” Fallon says. “When you’ve already got infrastructure in place, we should be fully using that instead of duplicating the extension of infrastructure — usually at taxpayer expense — further and further out.”
Fallon suggests a law that would do more to encourage neighboring cities or residents in unincorporated areas to develop land use plans cooperatively rather than compete to see which entity can develop the land first — and reap the taxes from property owners.
Fallon says Tuesday’s annexation vote in the Des Moines area is a prime example of what’s wrong. Fallon says to put it in perspective, the much larger city of Portland, Oregon annexed 3,500 acres over 20 years, while Des Moines is trying to annex nearly 6,000 acres in one vote. Fallon, though, says he doesn’t want to issue a blanket moratorium that would prevent Iowa cities from acquiring land. “I don’t oppose…annexation just across the board,” Fallon says. “I think you have to take each one separately and think about the overall impact.”
Des Moines residents along with people who live or own property along the south and east boundaries of the city will vote Tuesday on whether that tract of 5,933 acres should become part of the City of Des Moines.
In a prepared statement, Fallon attacked developer Bill Knapp, a long-time benefactor of Iowa Democrats. Fallon suggested Knapp’s company has “grown rich on urban sprawl and stands to profit” from annexation schemes, and Knapp — according to Fallon — has successfully lobbied lawmakers to stymie legislation that would restrict urban sprawl.