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Atlanta Unbound

Enabling Sprawl through Policy and Planning

Carlton Wade Basmajian

Publication Year: 2013

Looking at Atlanta, Georgia, one might conclude that the city’s notorious sprawl, degraded air quality, and tenuous water supply is a result of a lack of planning—particularly an absence of coordination at the regional level. In Atlanta Unbound, Carlton Wade Basmajian shows that Atlanta’s low-density urban form and its associated problems have been both highly coordinated and regionally planned.
Basmajian’s shrewd analysis shows how regional policies spanned political boundaries and   framed local debates over several decades. He examines the role of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s planning deliberations that appear to have contributed to the urban sprawl that they were designed to control. Basmajian explores four cases—regional land development plans, water supply strategies, growth management policies, and transportation infrastructure programs—to provide a detailed account of the interactions between citizens, planners, regional commissions, state government, and federal agencies.
In the process, Atlanta Unbound answers the question: Toward what end and for whom is Atlanta’s regional planning process working?
In the series Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy, edited by Zane L. Miller, David Stradling, and Larry Bennett

Published by: Temple University Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-xii

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1. Introduction: An Intentional Region?

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pp. 1-14

In the summer of 1994, the renowned Brookings Institution economist Anthony Downs delivered what he called an unorthodox speech to members of the Atlanta District Council of the Urban Land Institute. Speaking to a room full of developers, real estate brokers, and politicians, Downs explained that rather than talking about “traditional land-use and real estate issues,” he would instead consider “the...

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2. Building the Atlanta Regional Commission

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pp. 15-46

In 1971, by an overwhelming majority and with the strong support of Governor Jimmy Carter, Georgia’s 131st General Assembly passed a bill creating the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC). Responsible for developing regional growth policies, collecting data, and providing technical support to local governments, all while ensuring that local plans meshed with federal transportation and...

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3. The River and the Region: The Chattahoochee River and the Atlanta Regional Commission

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pp. 47-84

From its wellspring in the southern Appalachians to its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico, the Chattahoochee River has long been a critical resource for people in the southeastern United States. Through the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries, cities along the river in Georgia and Alabama freely withdrew water for municipal supply and sent their (often untreated) waste downstream. Farmers drew...

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4. Projecting Sprawl? The 1976 Regional Development Plan of Metropolitan Atlanta

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pp. 85-110

By late 1972 the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) had emerged as a principal institution in Atlanta’s metropolitan governing structure. The Chattahoochee Corridor Study had demonstrated ARC’s influence in the regional planning process. Leveraging his deep connections to Atlanta’s political elites, ARC director Dan Sweat had pushed the commission to take on an expanded role in the politics...

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5. Growth Management Comes to Georgia

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pp. 111-136

When the ballots had been counted in the 1980 presidential election, Ronald Reagan had won the popular vote by nearly 10 percentage points. In defeating Jimmy Carter, Reagan had carried all but six states, leading to a landslide victory in the Electoral College and dealing Carter a painful defeat. Georgia’s “conservative and progressive” president was sent packing back to Atlanta, and Reagan...

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6. Atlanta’s Transportation Crisis and the Battle of the Northern Arc

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pp. 137-172

At the beginning of 1990, resistance to the state’s power to regulate land development, a posture long popular among many of Georgia’s rural and suburban politicians, appeared to have softened. The Georgia Planning Act, successfully pushed through the General Assembly by Governor Harris, had significantly increased the state’s oversight of land development decisions and had made local comprehensive

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7. A Regional Story

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pp. 173-186

This project set out to answer three questions. How have regional planning agencies supported and extended metropolitan decentralization? What role have regional planning agencies played in the expansion of federal and state power over land development decisions? Through what channels have regional planning agencies coordinated planning and development activity? By looking across three decades, ...


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pp. 187-252


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pp. 253-264

About the Author

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pp. 278-278

E-ISBN-13: 9781439909416
E-ISBN-10: 1439909415
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439909409
Print-ISBN-10: 1439909407

Page Count: 246
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 857713165
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Atlanta Unbound

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Atlanta (Ga.) -- Population.
  • City planning -- Georgia -- Atlanta.
  • Regional planning -- Georgia -- Atlanta.
  • Urban policy -- Georgia -- Atlanta.
  • Urbanization -- Georgia -- Atlanta.
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