Thursday, November 25, 2010

Being Smart (Growth) About Environmental Justice

As a clincian who teaches three semesters a year I rarely have the time or opportunity to produce scholarship.  When I do, it's usually in collaboration with clinic students.  I recently posted a piece on SSRN of which I am very proud, becuase it's a cross-disciplinary collaboration with a law student, Stinson Ferguson, and a Geography Ph.D student, Ellen Kohl.  It's a piece on the Obama Administration's focus on enviornmental justice in its Smart Growth programs, and how it might impact our client communities.  Thanks to my Geography colleague, Nik Heynen, it even has a snappy title - "Being Smart (Growth) About Justice: Can the Obama Administration Undo Decades of Environmental Injustice Via Smart Growth?" 

The article only begins to speculate about the answer to that question, but we hope it will be a jumping off point to a whole lot more collaborative writing on the topic, and on the struggles and successes of the Newtown community in Gainesville.

The opportunity to write this article came through this blog.  The students at Seattle University recently started the Seatlle Environmental Law Journal, where the article first appeared, and they solicited our input for their inagural edition, "The Obama Effect."  (Unfortunately the whole edition is not available on-line.)

Happy Thanksgiving!  I'm grateful for a great group of colleagues and friends who help create this blog, and to all of you who teach, write, and help communities become stronger and more equitable.

Jamie Baker Roskie

November 25, 2010 in Environmental Justice, Georgia, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Southeast Smart Growth Network Video Conference

I just received this announcement from Katie Sheehan at UGA's River Basin Center:

The Southeast Smart Growth Network invites you to join us for our first regional video
conference showcasing key smart growth initiatives in the Southeast. The hour and a half program
will be presented from four interactive sites linked by the University of Georgia. You may also view the presentation from your computer.

Overcoming Obstacles to Smart Growth – A Case Study of the Town
of Davidson, NC (2004 EPA Award for Overall Excellence in Smart Growth
Achievement) - Town of Davidson Planning Manager, Lauren Blackburn,
and Commissioner Marguerite Williams will explain the main tenets of the
Davidson Planning Ordinance, initial community reactions to draft policy,
and the tools used to build support for change.

Going Green in Georgia – David Freedman, Principal at Freedman
Engineering Group and former Director of Engineering and Construction
for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, will discuss strategies
for a successful green building program and cost neutral approaches to
constructing green buildings.

HUD-DOT-EPA Interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities -
Anne Keller, Senior Sustainability Advisor, Environmental Protection
Agency Region 4, will discuss the new partnership and provide an
overview of the communities in the Southeast receiving grants. Amy
Brooks, Transportation Planner, Knoxville Regional Transportation
Planning Organization, will briefly discuss their initiative to develop a
Regional Plan for Sustainable Development.

Southeast Smart Growth Network – Christine Olsenius, Executive
Director of the Southeast Watershed Forum, will introduce a new project to
analyze green building programs in 5 Southeastern states.

DECEMBER 13th 2010, 2-3:30pm EST video conference.
Watch online: Email co@southeastwaterforum.org to
receive the conference url and link-up instructions.

You can also watch from four locations;

Athens, Georgia - Center for Teaching and Learning, North Instructional Plaza, http://www.ctl.uga.edu/location, park at the Tate Student Center, 705 S. Lumpkin Street

Atlanta, Georgia - Georgia Department of Community Affairs, 60 Executive Park South NE, http://www.dca.ga.gov/main/About/DCAMap1.pdf, sign in at the security desk in the lobby

Charlotte, North Carolina - University of North Carolina, Charlotte, Room 126 Fretwell Building – #45 on campus map, park on parking deck, http://home.uncc.edu/directions

Knoxville, Tennessee - University of Tennessee, Room 156 Plant Biotechnology Building on the Agriculture Campus, http://www.utk.edu/maps/

Looks like it will be very interesting - unfortunately I've got a conflict, but I imagine it will be posted on a website for later viewing.

Jamie Baker Roskie

November 22, 2010 in Community Design, Conferences, Development, Georgia, Green Building, Local Government, Planning, Smart Growth, Urbanism, Water | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Upcoming Brownfields Webinar

From my colleagues at UGA's Fanning Institute:

Brownfields Redevelopment in Georgia
Keeping Projects Moving Forward in an Uncertain Economy
October 26, 2010
11:00am - 12:30pm
FREE WEBINAR

Register at: http://www.fanning.uga.edu/work/brownfields/brownfields_webinar.html

Join the Georgia Chapter of the National Brownfields Association and the University of Georgia’s Fanning Institute as we engage professionals from the finance, consulting, regulatory and development sectors in an interactive discussion of current brownfields projects and new ideas to promote the development of challenging properties. Our expert panel includes:

·      Darahyl Dennis, Chapter President, Georgia Chapter of the National Brownfields Association
·      Alex Cleary, Georgia EPD
·      Dan Grogan, MacTec
·      Madeleine Kellam, Georgia EPD
·      Matt Robbins, US EPA
·      Gerald Pouncey, Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP
·      Mark Smith, Georgia EPD
·      Charles Whatley, Atlanta Development Authority

Moderators:   

·      Bill Bryant, Georgia Power
·      Courtney Tobin, Fanning Institute

This would probably be great for anyone working on brownfields.

Jamie Baker Roskie

October 14, 2010 in Development, Economic Development, Georgia, Redevelopment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Report on the Impacts of Deepwater Horizon

I've blogged before about an informal "2nd Friday Symposium" held by the River Basin Center here at UGA.  I wasn't able to attend the most recent event, so I asked Land Use Clinic student Greg Raburn to report.  Here's his summary (and accompanying culinary notes):

The convivial meeting started at 4:00 p.m., but, by the time I was able to get out of class, burn the roof of my mouth on a hastily-heated corn dog, and drive to the River Basin Center, the discussion had already begun  The room, which had the appearance of some type of student lounge, was nearly full, and the speaker, who must have been Professor Chuck Hopkinson of Marine Sciences and Director of the Georgia Sea Grant, with beer in hand, was describing the statistics and findings displayed on the projection screen.

He noted that while Savannah, as befitting one of the top U.S. seaports, was being monitored for contamination, Georgia’s southeast coast was not.  The oil, if or when it appeared on Georgia’s beaches, he stated, would probably look like tar-balls (which were essentially asphalt, he explained) or micro-droplets, and he and his group had made recommendations to Congressional staffers for detecting the presence of the oil and monitoring it.  He said much of the Gulf data was being collected by robotic “Seagliders,” manufactured by iRobot (the makers of the “Roomba” robotic home vacuum cleaner).  The gliders were designed to “glide” to the bottom of the ocean, collecting data from their surroundings, and then rise to the surface and transmit the data.  In addition to recommending using Seagliders off the Georgia coast, his group additionally recommended using fluorescent sensors, doing tar-ball counts, monitoring “sentinel” organisms, and utilizing satellite monitoring to collect additional data.

The next part of the discussion centered on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s leaked press release which had stated that 74% of the released oil was “gone.”  The report naturally raised the question:  if 74% of the oil was truly gone, where did it go?  The press release claimed that 25% of the oil had dissolved or evaporated, 16% had been naturally dispersed, 8% had been chemically dispersed, 17% had never entered the water (captured at the surface), 5% had been burned, and the cleanup efforts had captured 3%, and therefore only 26% of the oil remained in the ocean.

Professor Hopkinson’s group decided to evaluate the data themselves.  The first thing they did was discard the figure for the 17% of oil that never entered the water; if some oil never entered the water, they felt it was misleading to include it on a report about the status of the oil in the water.  Professor Hopkinson’s group also figured in “degradation,” which, based from data from the Ixtoc oil spill off the coast of Mexico in 1979, was estimated at about 4%-8%.  His group ultimately concluded that the oil was not “gone,” but that most of it had simply changed into a form that rendered it uncollectable.

The University of Georgia and the Georgia Sea Grant testified before a [Georgia] Senate subcommittee regarding Georgia’s vulnerability to the oil spill.  The Senate subcommittee charged the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to develop an oil sampling plan.  Three things were to be sampled:  water columns, hard bottom, and fish.  If oil were found in these things, then two additional things would then be sampled:  sediment and hydrodynamics.  Unfortunately, I am unable to provide further details on this part of the discussion, as it went well beyond my limited knowledge of marine science and ecology.

As a side note, Professor Hopkinson also observed that British Petroleum (BP) is selling or has sold off its terrestrial U.S. wells, put its shallow water wells up for sale, and is currently expanding its deepwater drilling in areas with little regulation, such as Africa and Brazil.  He suggested this could have been a counterproductive consequence of the recent U.S. sanctions on BP and the restrictions on deepwater drilling.  He pointed out that the well currently being drilled in Brazil, will be at almost twice the depth of the Deepwater Horizon.

Professor Hopkinson closed by saying that the University of Georgia Sea Grant website on the oil spill could be found at oilspill.uga.edu, with additional information at www.southatlanticseagrant.org, www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com,  and www.restorethegulf.gov.

In conclusion, I found the science and statistics of the discussion to be rather interesting.  I had to glean the meaning of much of the technical language from the context in which it was used.  The symposium was definitely geared toward someone with more of a background in environmental and marine science than myself, but the group was open and friendly, and a small variety of refreshments were available – including a bowl of dried, multicolored, tubular things that, in size and shape, resembled McDonald’s French Fries.  I had to try one.  It tasted kind of like a pretzel.  I still have no idea what it was.

Jamie Baker Roskie

September 30, 2010 in Conferences, Environmentalism, Georgia, Oil & Gas, State Government, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Planning the Future of Your Farm

Last Thursday I attended a workshop on "Farm and Estate Transition and Conservation Easements,"sponsored by the Madison-Morgan Conservancy at the Burge Plantation outside Madison, Georgia. The audience was a mix of landowners and lawyers interested in helping farm owners conserve their land and pass their farms onto future generations.  This is a very interesting twist on estate planning, and I learned the value of having a qualified lawyer as an adviser on farmland transition.  For example, according to Allen H. Olsen, a agriculture law specialist, traditional estate planning can sometimes create governance structures that make the farmer ineligible for farm subsidy programs, thus undermining the farm's ability to survive.

The Rolling Hills Resource Conservation and Development Council has published "Planning the Future of Your Farm: A Workbook Supporting Farm Transfer Decisions."  I've only had a chance to scan through the Table of Contents, but the book seems to be chock full of tools for planning family meetings, evaluating farm resources, and drafting farm transfer tools.  It looks like a great resource for anyone working with farmers interested in effectively planning for the future.

Jamie Baker Roskie

September 28, 2010 in Agriculture, Conferences, Conservation Easements, Georgia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Georgia Farms "Crop Mobbed"

From Christine McCauley, Executive Director of the Madison-Morgan Conservancy in Madison, Georgia:

What is a crop mob?  Well, we found out yesterday that it’s a group of self-proclaimed “landless farmer wannabes” who help local farmers farm – from planting to harvesting to building greenhouses, and everything in between.  They get their farming “fix” so to speak by helping other farmers, since they can’t farm for themselves.  

Yesterday, the Crop Mob came from Atlanta to Tate Tewksbury’s farm to help build two hoop houses (greenhouse-like structures used for growing crops).  To celebrate a fruitful morning of hard work, Mark Tewksbury (Tate’s father) was kind enough to host the Crop Mob at his farm just up the road.  Plow Point Farms (Walton County) brought freshly processed chicken for lunch and Suzie Cooker Catering complemented the chicken with delicious fresh butterbeans and pimento cheese sandwiches.  We were thrilled to be joined by our favorite local band, The Barefoot Hookers for a little music and dancing by the barn.  Mark Tewksbury led the kids (and CNN) in milking the cows, petting the horses, and showing us the rest of the farm.  All in all a really fun, productive, educational day, and one that has helped Tate prepare for the next growing season.

Two weekends ago Burge Organics was Crop Mobbed, too - there the Crop Mob helped farm manager Cory Musser harvest hundreds of pounds of squash and other veges.  Check out Crop Mob Atlanta.

"A University of Georgia study says Georgia's economy could be boosted if more people bought more food locally.  The study, conducted by the May Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, reports that if every Georgia household spent an additional $10 on locally-grown food, another $1.9 billion would be pumped into the state's coffers.  Agriculture in Georgia is a $11.6 billion industry with a $58 billion total economic impact, according to the study.” reprinted from the Associated Press.

I've heard of the slightly-less-hiply named "Farmer for a Day." It's all part of a movement to help us city dwellers get closer to, and learn more about, the source of our food.

Jamie Baker Roskie

September 1, 2010 in Agriculture, Georgia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Environmental Law Position at Georgia State Law School

Another announcement from Prof. Juergensmeyer:

As many of you know, Colin Crawford has left us and is now Professor and Executive Director of the Payson Center for International Development and Knowledge Management at Tulane University Law School. We are now conducting a search to “replace” him. Details of the search may be found here.  Interested persons should submit their resume and cover letter to LawRecruitment@gsu.edu.

Jamie Baker Roskie

August 19, 2010 in Environmental Law, Georgia, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Slide Show of Georgia Theater Rebuild

Previously I blogged about the historic Georgia Theater, almost destroyed by fire a year ago.  The Athens Banner-Herald now has a slide show showing reconstruction in the interior.  It's a pretty interesting pictorial history of the restoration of the building, which dates to the late 1800s.  The owner has struggled with financing and rebuilding, but there's so much sentiment to save the building that I think he'll ultimately be successful.  He's also got a great sense of humor - the marquee on the building currently reads "Men At Work."

Jamie Baker Roskie

August 19, 2010 in Georgia, Historic Preservation, Redevelopment | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Abandoned Farmland Slated for Solar Project

According to a recent story on NPR's Morning Edition, California has recently declared one of the most ambitious targets for renewable energy in the world - 1/3rd of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.  (Sadly, Georgia has no currently goal.  No Southeastern state has, except North Carolina.)  However, like Cape Wind, struggles continue over siting renewable energy projects - like this solar project proposed in Central California.

However, according to a recent story in The New York Times, there are places where the siting of solar projects is popular with pretty much everybody - on abandoned agricultural land.

Thousands of acres of farmland here in the San Joaquin Valley have been removed from agricultural production, largely because the once fertile land is contaminated by salt buildup from years of irrigation.

But large swaths of those dry fields could have a valuable new use in their future — making electricity.

Farmers and officials at Westlands Water District, a public agency that supplies water to farms in the valley, have agreed to provide land for what would be one of the world’s largest solar energy complexes, to be built on 30,000 acres.  At peak output, the proposed Westlands Solar Park would generate as much electricity as several big nuclear power plants.

It's interesting that one environmental problem - saltwater intrusion from overpumping of the coastal aquafers - might contribute to another environmental solution - reduction of dependence on coal-fired power plants.  Anyway, it's nice to see a non-controversial renewable energy project, for a change.

Jamie Baker Roskie

August 17, 2010 in California, Clean Energy, Environmentalism, Georgia, State Government, Water, Wetlands, Wind Energy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Life of Soccer Stadiums Post World Cup

My first day of class is Friday, so I thought I'd sneak in one last summer-break-inspired post before getting down to business.  On a flight to California last month my husband, Neal Anderson (Rolfer and architect-extraordinaire) sat next to ESPN soccer (er, football) writer Jeff Carlisle.  Jeff had recently returned from covering the World Cup in South Africa and, among other topics, they discussed the possible post World Cup uses of all the soccer stadiums built around SA.

Subsequently there was an interesting post on Planetizen about just this topic:

"It's not about whether they'll be used, it's whether they will be financially viable in terms of maintenance costs," said Phillip Harrison, a member of the South African government's National Planning Commission. "I think there is a legitimate concern about whether they'll bring in sufficient income given the fact that these areas are already financially stretched."

Officials in South Africa understand the potential risks they've brought upon themselves. They've seen abandoned Olympic venues blight Athens. They know that even Beijing has had trouble luring events to its infamous Bird's Nest stadium. But South Africa remains hopeful. For the host cities, these stadia are seen as springboards for development. But there's also the distinct danger that they could become unsustainable money pits. It's too soon to say which is the case today. But it will probably take only a few years to see if the cities are able to jump on those opportunities, or if they'll fall victim to their grandiose but potentially short-sighted World Cup investments.

Stadium projects are almost always controversial.  Closer to home there's been a lot of media attention on the new stadium for an Atlanta Braves farm team in nearby Gwinnett County.  It's interesting how the dynamic around stadiums seems so consistent from project to project. In a place like South Africa, with such historic inequity, it seems like a potentially more loaded problem, but the issues aren't so different in more affluent communities.

Jamie Baker Roskie

August 17, 2010 in Architecture, Community Economic Development, Comparative Land Use, Development, Georgia, Planning, Redevelopment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Shared Parking as a Solution for Mixed-Use Neighborhoods

This blog post is by guest blogger and UGA 3L (and recent Land Use Clinic alumna) Catherine Mattingly.

For a project in the Land Use Planning course I took this semester at UGA Law, I researched shared parking in mixed-use areas throughout the country and tried to apply the concept to a neighborhood in Athens, Georgia.  Shared parking allows multiple businesses—or even entire neighborhoods or districts—to combine parking spaces in a way that benefits both the customers and the businesses.  This strategy can be used to either alleviate an existing parking shortage, or to require fewer spaces in building a new development.  I will give a bit of background on the area I studied within Athens, Georgia, and then offer some potential solutions for this dynamic problem in the area.

The Five Points area in Athens, Georgia is a small-scale mixed-use area in this historic college town.  Restaurants, clothing stores, coffee shops, even a grocery store, are located along South Lumpkin, which is the main street of this historic area that takes its name from the five-way intersection at the corner of Lumpkin and Milledge.  Next to this cluster of shops lie residential neighborhoods.  The district is in theory the perfect place to park one’s car and spend the rest of the day running errands, meeting with friends, attending yoga class, etc.  Because these stores are within walking distance of one another, there is really no reason to drive from place to place.

However, you may have noticed that I said “in theory.”  Currently, parking in one place and spending the day shopping throughout Five Points isn’t possible.  With the exception of a few informal parking agreements between neighboring store owners and a few spots lining Lumpkin Street (which only permit limited time parking), the general rule in the area is that a store patron must be parked in the lot of the respective business he or she is visiting.  A frequent visitor to Five Points, I have been burdened by this rule many times.  When my Land Use Professor Christian Turner spoke of this problem as a potential paper topic I jumped on board, wanting to learn more about a problem that has hindered the overall appeal of the area.  While the solution of shared parking is simple, creating a successful strategy for an entire district that will be adaptable as businesses change over time can be extremely difficult.  One must consider the current local ordinances and their restrictions on parking, the local Comprehensive Plan, the total number of spaces as well as potential for new spaces, peak hours for the varying businesses, and the general overall character of the area.
 
 After researching shared parking generally, I emailed most of the store owners in Five Points asking for their thoughts on the matter.  Overall, most of the owners and managers with whom I spoke supported shared parking, provided it supplied enough spots for their individual use.  A few owners shared that they felt their business suffered at certain times of the day because there was simply no available parking.  After interviewing these people, I looked for case studies of shared parking strategies that had already been implemented or studied throughout the country.  I found that the primary consideration in the success of a shared parking strategy is whether there are different peak parking hours between stores.  The significance behind this factor is that if businesses have varying busy hours, then there are likely spaces available at one nearby store when another is crowded.  Therefore, by simply making agreements with other businesses to share spaces during certain times of the day, available spots can be increased without having to actually add any additional spaces.  These private agreements can exist in the form of revocable licenses, or appurtenant easements or covenants could also be used.

While agreements such as those mentioned above can be achieved by simple agreements between business owners, a successful district-wide shared parking solution likely calls for control of all available parking by the city.  To achieve this, I suggest creating an overlay district.  This district would eliminate the need to follow any current parking restrictions in the Athens-Clarke County Code.  In addition to adding additional limited-time parking in the area, a parking deck could also be constructed.  Alternatively, a larger parking lot could be created by combining many of the smaller lots located behind the old homes that have been turned into local businesses.  To give the city the right to control parking, each owner could deed his spaces to the city.  Alternatively, a temporary lease agreement could be implemented, but this could hinder construction of permanent changes such as the large lot or deck.  These parking options could be geared not just toward immediately neighboring business, but to patrons in the entire area.

In addition to providing additional available spaces to store patrons, shared parking has other benefits.  Changing the character of parking in the area could help to change the nature of the district as a whole.  For instance, the area would necessarily become more pedestrian-friendly, as visitors are expected to park their cars and walk throughout the district.  The city could also take this opportunity to add more green space to the area.  Thus, establishing shared parking would assist in making visiting the area not only more convenient, but also safer and more aesthetically pleasing.  As space becomes an increasingly important commodity, older districts can retrofit their communities to increase the convenience and attractiveness of the area.  Increased revenues will hopefully follow as patrons find these stores easier to visit.

Overall, in researching this issue, I have been reminded of how dynamic local land use issues such as parking truly are.  Implementing shared parking will certainly be difficult, but the ability of the area to adapt to change could be crucial for its success, especially in its competition with downtown Athens.

First, I'd like to give props to my UGA colleague Christian Turner for having his Land Use Planning students work on practical projects in the doctrinal class.  Second, having read and considered Catherine's paper I congratulate her on excellent work on applying land use concepts to a real, local problem.  I shop at the stores and practice at the yoga studio she mentions, so I also struggle with the parking issues.  However, I hadn't considered the lots behind the old houses retrofit as shops as a good joint parking lot, but it really is.  I hope to promote Catherine's solution locally as a way to create a better pedestrian environment in what should be one of Athens' truly walkable neighborhoods.

Jamie Baker Roskie

May 19, 2010 in Community Economic Development, Georgia, Local Government, Parking, Pedestrian, Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Congress for the New Urbanism 18: Atlanta

Last week Jamie posted about the "Sprawlanta" video, part of the project American Makeover: An Online Film Series about New Urbanism.  "Sprawlanta" won first prize at last year's Congress for the New Urbanism video competition.

This week, the Congress for the New Urbanism meets in SprawlAtlanta for CNU 18, its annual conference.  The description:

Is New Urbanism the prescription for healthier communities? Increasing scientific evidence suggests that community design -- land use, design character, transportation systems, sustainability, and density -- can promote physical activity and lifelong communities; lower the risk of traffic injuries, obesity, heart disease, and hypertension; improve air quality, affordability, social equity, connectivity, mental health and long-term value; increase social connection, sense of community and healthy food access; and reduce crime, violence and contributions to climate change. Organized with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Congress for the New Urbanism 18, "New Urbanism: Rx for Healthy Places," will present new research and innovative techniques for assessing the health impact of land use, transportation planning, and community design decisions -- from fine grained to mega-regional scales. Share the opportunities and challenges of designing and retrofitting communities that make it easier for people to live healthy lives -- CNU's 18th annual Congress in Atlanta, May 19-22, 2010. Preceding the Congress will be certification training, the NextGen Congress and other partner events May 17-18, 2010. For further information, visit http://www.cnu.org/cnu18 .  

Looks like the program has a very interesting lineup of speakers and events, as usual.  If you can make it to CNU 18, send us a report!  

In other CNU news ("CNUse"? . . . sorry . . .), guess which city will be introducing the newest CNU Full Chapter this weekend?  Houston, we have a Chapter!  Board members Andrew Burleson and David Crossley will be also be speaking in Atlanta.  Congrats to CNU-Houston.  

Matt Festa

May 18, 2010 in Architecture, Conferences, DPZ, Food, Georgia, Houston, New Urbanism, Smart Growth, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 14, 2010

"Sprawlanta"

In a funny confluence of events my colleague, Pratt Cassity, sent me a blog by writer Brad Aaron (formerly of Athens, now of NYC) on Streetsblog.  The blog is about an episode of the American Makeover webseries on Atlanta.  The film includes notable Atlantans like Robert Bullard, known as the father of the environmental justice movement and the head of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University, Howard Frumpkin of the CDC, and Charles Brewer, developer of one of Atlanta's rare truly New Urbanist developments, Glenwood Park.  Although the film is ostensibly about Atlanta, it's really about Atlanta's status as the poster child of urban sprawl.  It's funny, short, and pithy, and would be a great introductory piece for students about sprawl and its effects, for good and for ill.

Jamie Baker Roskie

May 14, 2010 in Architecture, Community Design, Density, Development, Georgia, New Urbanism, Pedestrian, Sprawl, Suburbs, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Legal Challenges Filed to Stop Georgia’s Coal Rush

From my colleagues at GreenLaw

Petitions Identify Major Flaws in Coal-fired Power Plant Permits

On May 10, 2010, attorneys from GreenLaw working with eight partner groups, filed petitions for hearings challenging permits for two major proposed coal-fired power plants in Georgia. In response to an unprecedented wave of permits issued by the state Environmental Protection Division (EPD) in April, the groups are fighting back with important claims against the water and air pollution permits proposed for Plant Washington, to be built in Sandersville, and against the air pollution permit for Longleaf Energy Station, to be built in Early County.

Longleaf, which is being contested by Friends of the Chattahoochee and the Sierra Club of Georgia, with representation from GreenLaw, is a project of New Jersey-based LS Power, which anticipates selling power to the highest bidders it can find.

In the 1200 mega-watt Longleaf permit, EPD classifies Longleaf as a minor source of pollution, while the 850 mega-watt Plant Washington (in a permit issued the day before) is classified as a major source. Listing Longleaf as a minor source allows the power plant to avoid critical requirements that would ensure that the plant operated in compliance with the law. EPD also failed to allow the public to comment on this decision. Attorneys objected on both grounds. EPD also granted Longleaf an extension on when it must begin construction. This extension will allow the plant to be built with outdated technology. Challengers are asking that EPD ensure that the permit is up-to-date.

Plant Washington, which is being contested by the Fall-line Alliance for a Clean Environment (FACE) and Sierra Club’s Georgia Chapter, as well as Altamaha Riverkeeper (for the water permit only), and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and Ogeechee Riverkeeper (both organizations for the air permit only), is a project of Power4Georgians, a company composed of Cobb EMC and four other EMCs. The Southern Environmental Law Center is co-counseling on the Plant Washington petitions.

The Plant Washington air permit fails to set safe limits on harmful air pollutants that would be emitted by Plant Washington, including sulfuric acid mist and particulate matter. Particulate matter is linked to respiratory illnesses, heart disease and even premature death.

The state water withdrawal permit fails to set necessary limits on the amount of water the plant can take from the Oconee River for use at the proposed plant located in the Ogeechee River watershed. Without adequate limits, communities such as Dublin, area farms and other downstream users along the Oconee River would be left without sufficient water resources.

The state water discharge permit fails to limit the temperature of heated wastewater discharged by the proposed plant into the Oconee River, changing the river’s ecology, depleting available oxygen in its waters, and harming fish and other wildlife that depend on the river system.

Georgia already has 10 coal-fired power plants, one of which, just north of Macon, is Plant Scherer, often cited as the most polluting coal-fired plant in the nation. The EPD has seven days to send the cases to the Office of State Administrative Hearings, where they will be assigned to administrative law judges. Court dates are expected later this summer. Links to the petitions are at www.green-law.org.

Jamie Baker Roskie

May 10, 2010 in Environmental Law, Georgia, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Furloughs, Budget Cuts, and Rural Georgia

Tomorrow is a furlough day for the University System in Georgia, which means I'm forbidden to work. Only faculty and staff who provide "essential services" are allowed to report on furlough days and, ironically enough, instruction is not considered an essential service.

These are lean budgetary times and we're all expected to share the burden.  I have no problem with that.  However, it's hard not to be concerned about what lies ahead. The legislature is in its final day and hopefully at the end of it we'll have a state budget for FY 2011.

"What does that have to do with land use," you might ask?  That depends on how much of a cut the University system takes in the final budget.  Last month the legislature asked the Chancellor to submit a budget that included $300 million in additional cuts, over the budget cuts they have already made and were making for 2011.  The Chancellor's proposal would eliminate the 4-H program and cut the number of county extension agents in half.  In a state where agriculture is a dominant economic force, those cuts are extremely significant.  (UGA's Public Service and Outreach branch would also suffer layoffs of up to 47% of faculty and staff.)

It doesn't look as if such extreme cuts will come, but the cut will probably be about $150 million, which is still pretty significant.  In state like Georgia, rural communities depend on UGA to fulfill its land grant mission of service.  Extension agents are vital sources of knowledge on land use practices, soil and water conservation, and a host of other subjects. As federal stimulus dollars dry up, it becomes increasingly difficult for the University to fulfill those functions.  We'll see what lies ahead.

Jamie Baker Roskie

April 29, 2010 in Agriculture, Budgeting, Georgia, Politics, State Government, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Controlled Experiments in Land Use - A Response

Our guest editor Ken Stahl wrote a really interesting post yesterday entitled "Are there 'controlled experiments' in land use? Does it matter?"  I was so intrigued by his thought-provoking words that I felt compelled to blog my response, rather than just comment.

Of course land use, like all politics, is local.  Ken makes a valid point that few people outside of California give much credence to the choices of California's local governments.  Certainly, here in Georgia - a much different, more conservative milieu  - California examples are widely disregarded.

However, here at the Land Use Clinic we make our living helping local governments and citizens create land use policy. We have to start somewhere, and usually that somewhere is a survey of what other localities have done on a particular issue.  If you review the documents on the LUC webpage, you will find many case studies and model ordinances that pull together examples from multiple places both in and outside of Georgia.

On the other hand, often the examples of jurisdictions in other states quickly become irrelevant due to differences in state law or powers granted by a particular state to local governments.  For example, California has regional air quality districts hat help localities coordinate local air pollution regulation and give teeth to regional efforts to improve air quality. Georgia has no such structure, and probably never will.  I also often warn my students away from Florida examples.  One of my students just wrote a memo on school concurrency programs in Florida, and ultimately came to the conclusion that no such local policy is possible in Georgia without a change in state law.  Given how distracted the Georgia legislature is right now by other matters, that change isn't likely to come soon.

So how do we, and our clients, reconcile these conflicts?   Certainly no one can simply cut and paste together an ordinance from other jurisdictions, but learning how policy choices have played out in other places provides key information for us to create a unique, yet workable arrangement for each of our clients.  We're helping folks make law, and even new law must be based on precedent, both legal and practical.  It's a delicate operation, and sometimes it works better than others.

Jamie Baker Roskie

April 26, 2010 in California, Comparative Land Use, Georgia, Local Government, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Keep Houston Ugly

So last night after yoga class I'm standing in the check out line at our local Earth Fare and I spot the latest issue of Good.  This issue's theme is "Here Comes the Neighborhood." Given all the work I've done with neighborhoods (including my own) over the years, I purchased this as a must-read.

I've just started digging in, but I came across something immediately blog-worthy - a quiz about local slogans.  It turns out that "Keep Houston Ugly" is one of the several "Keep America Beautiful" riffs around the country.  For whatever reason, Texas has several, including "Keep San Antonio Lame" (care to explain that one, Matt?), "Keep Austin Weird" (heard that one before), and "Keep Waco Wacko" (fair enough).

Athens needs a better slogan than "The Classic City" (besides "Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful" which is a great organization but not a great slogan).  Maybe I'll start a "Keep Athens..." contest .

Jamie Baker Roskie

April 14, 2010 in Georgia, Houston, Humorous | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Krugman on Georgia Bank Failures

Illustrious economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has directed his learned attention toward the failure of small banks in Georgia.  Why? Embarrassingly enough, it's because Georgia leads the nation in bank failures, and the majority of those banks are small.

Georgia is part of what Krugman charmingly labels "Flatland" - where "permissive zoning and abundant land make it easy to increase the housing supply, a situation that prevented big price increases and therefore prevented a serious bubble."  In most of Flatland, by Krugman's reckoning, no housing bubble means fewer bad mortgages means fewer bank failures.  No so in Georgia.


Georgia’s debacle is that it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the issues that have dominated debates about banking reform. For example, many observers have blamed complex financial derivatives for the crisis. But Georgia banks blew themselves up with old-fashioned loans gone bad.

And for all the concern about banks that are too big to fail, Georgia suffered, if anything, from a proliferation of small banks. Actually, the worst offenders in the lending spree tended to be relatively small start-ups that attracted customers by playing to a specific community. Thus Georgian Bank, founded in 2001, catered to the state’s elite, some of whom were entertained on the C.E.O.’s yacht and private jet. Meanwhile, Integrity Bank, founded in 2000, played up its “faith based” business model — it was featured in a 2005 Time magazine article titled “Praying for Profits.” Both banks have now gone bust.

So what’s the moral of this story? As I see it, it’s a caution against silver-bullet views of reform, the idea that cracking down on just one thing — in particular, breaking up big banks — will solve our problems. The case of Georgia shows that bad behavior by many small banks can do as much damage as misbehavior by a few financial giants.

Krugman's formula for reform in Georgia is better protections against predatory lending.  Former Democratic Governor (and predatory lending lawyer) Roy Barnes tried hard for those protections when he was in office, only to have them later rolled back.  Will this latest crisis change that calculation?  Probably depends on the next governor, who might be - Roy Barnes.  Predictions about how that race might come out are probably beyond even Krugman's prognosticating skills.

Jamie Baker Roskie

April 13, 2010 in Finance, Financial Crisis, Georgia, Mortgage Crisis, Politics, Sun Belt, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Local Newspaper Editor Learns to Love New Urbanism

Matt Festa alerted me to this piece; apparently he loved his time visiting at UGA so much that he still reads the local paper.  One of the editors of the Athens Banner-Herald recently visited Seaside and decided maybe New Urbanism isn't so bad after all.  The examples we've had of mixed-use development here in Athens have not been very successful - the usual opposition to density and trouble getting appropriate commercial have been bugaboos here.  If Athens were ever to get a development that had the quality of Seaside (although how could you ever replicate the sea views?) folks here might better be able to get behind the concept.

Jamie Baker Roskie

April 9, 2010 in Beaches, Community Design, Development, Georgia, New Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Exciting New Initiative from Frank Alexander

Heidi Murphy in our PR department here at UGA law just directed my attention to a very interesting story in The National Law Journal.  Emory Law Professor Frank Alexander has just launched a new center to help cities revitalize abandoned and blighted properties.

The Center for Community Progress has secured $2 million in funding from the Ford Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and has opened a headquarters in Flint, Mich., and a policy office in Washington...

The Flint headquarters will largely focus on assisting communities with handling vacant and abandoned properties. The Washington office will primarily handle policy issues on land use, Alexander said. There are multiple legal angles to the group's work, including pushing for property tax foreclosure reform, helping to pass local vacant property registration ordinances and modifying code enforcement procedures to help cities get abandoned properties up to code or facilitate transfers to new owners. The Center for Community Progress also wants to help communities tap into the $6 billion in funding the federal government has allocated in recent years for neighborhood stabilization.

Prof. Alexander has been a leading light on land use issues in Georgia and nationally for many years.  I'll be excited to see what comes of this latest effort.

Jamie Baker Roskie

April 2, 2010 in Federal Government, Georgia, Housing, Mortgage Crisis, Redevelopment, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)