Ten Most Sprawl-Threatened Medium Cities
Number Four: West Palm Beach
As population climbs, the land occupied by
West Palm Beach has also mushroomed.
The famous Florida Everglades and nearby area have been named the sixth most threatened
agricultural area in the United States by the American Farmland Trust because of swift
westward expansion from West Palm Beach. Uncontrolled growth of the city's surrounding
counties has put significant pressure on the region's water supply. And the state's
farmland is being engulfed by development as people flock to this increasingly popular
state. In just six years, from 1990 to 1996, the population of metropolitan West Palm
Beach rose over 30 percent. In the previous decade, the population increased over 60
During the 1980s, the urban area expanded by nearly 65 percent. Between 1990 and 1996,
the land area grew 75 percent. In recent years, the city has annexed thousands of acres to
its west which are now being developed into gated communities. New construction, however,
is becoming increasingly scattered across the landscape: the density of the urban area
dropped by about 25 percent between 1990 and 1996.
Development pressures are also occurring south and north of the city: in the south,
landowners want commercial development along State Road 80; and in the north, the
neighboring community (The Acreage) is still largely rural but is growing fast.
To begin the process of addressing these problems, West Palm Beach has joined with the
county to create a coordinated plan for managing growth. The Western Northlake Boulevard
Land Use Study examines a range of sprawl-related issues facing the city and adjacent
communities. If passed, the plan would also prevent commercial development until 2010 and
ban strip shopping centers along Northlake Boulevard.
Officials are also working to protect the Everglades. On July 7, 1998, federal
negotiators from the Department of Interior, St. Joe, and the Nature Conservancy signed a
binding contract to buy 50,960 acres of farmland owned by the Talisman Sugar Company. The
land is located almost entirely in West Palm Beach County and could be instrumental in
restoring natural water flows to the Everglades. The sale is expected to be completed in
Finally, projects within the city limits are moving forward and helping to revitalize
some of the city's neighborhoods. For example, CityPlace will offer upscale retail,
restaurants, offices, apartments, and townhomes.
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