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Stop Sprawl
1998 Sierra Club Sprawl Report: 30 Most Sprawl-Threatened Cities

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 percent.

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 December.

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.

Read the Report | Clickable Sprawl Map | Sprawl-Threatened Cities

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