Twin Cities metro gobbles up the land

Minnesota State Roundup

Published September 1, 2001  | September 2001 issue

Suburban sprawl around the Twin Cities is hard to ignore. Countryside is disappearing at what some say is an alarming rate. A recent Brookings Institution study on metropolitan land development confirms what the eye can see.

The study, based on an analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, indicated that about 25 million acres of farmland and open space were developed in metro areas nationally from 1982 to 1997—a 47 percent increase in developed land while the population in the same areas rose 17 percent.

During the study period, the Twin Cities metro population increased 550,000, or 25 percent, while land development increased by 61 percent.

The Twin Cities also used more acreage than Sun Belt cities of comparable or greater population growth. Las Vegas' population grew 131 percent but consumed only 53 percent more land.

While sprawl has a generally negative connotation, some of the explanations for Twin Cities growth have a positive spin: a high rate of single-family homeownership and a large youthful population seeking yard space for their children.

Kathy Cobb