Report warns of runaway sprawl in Columbus, Ohio

City Terrain Development Midwest Transportation Urbanism
A land-use map projecting suburban sprawl around Columbus, Ohio. (Courtesy Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission, Columbus 2020 and ULI Columbus)

A land-use map projecting suburban sprawl around Columbus, Ohio. (Courtesy Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission, Columbus 2020 and ULI Columbus)

By 2050 the city of Columbus, Ohio and its expanding suburbs could more than triple the city’s footprint, according to a new study examining sprawl around Ohio’s capital.

The Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), Columbus 2020 and ULI Columbus hired the planning firm Calthorpe Associates to assess the development impact of current trends and make recommendations aimed at curbing patterns that could balloon the region’s environmental problems and its residents transportation budgets.

From the current city land area of 223 square miles, said the study, Columbus and its suburban jurisdictions could swallow up an additional 480 square miles by 2050 if current trends continue. The culprits include large lots for single-family homes and traditional suburban-style development. If population growth continues—MORPC said the region will add more than half a million new residents by 2050—the study warns Columbus will lose its ability to attract new residents and jobs.

“These trends raise important questions about the vitality and competitiveness of our communities and region,” reads MORPC’s website.

The study is part of a larger effort dubbed insight2050 that hopes to chart a course for sustainable development in central Ohio. Calthorpe sketched out four development scenarios for projected growth in the region, which found effective planning could reduce that 480 square miles of new sprawl to just 15.

Of course Columbus is not the only city to struggle with these issues. Last year The Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium made a similar assessment for the region emanating inland from Cleveland. Columbus’ population and economic growth has come in part due to its expanding municipal boundary, which annexes small townships on the city’s outskirts.

(Courtesy MORPC / insight2050)

(Courtesy MORPC / insight2050)

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