March 12 2013

Defining an Urban Growth Boundary through Preservation: A Central Florida Case Study

Throughout history, geological features have shaped our greatest cities. From the rivers that bound the island of Manhattan to the mountains that form Rio de Janeiro, challenging terrain has created many of our densest and most beautiful cities. So, what can a city like Orlando do to control its outward growth? Because Central Floridian cities like Orlando exist on a plane field, with only small lakes and distant oceans as environmental constraints, they easily fall victim to sprawl. One answer is to create an urban growth boundary, or UGB, through land protection.

Orlando does not have a UGB policy like Portland’s, for example, which is defined by state law. Nonetheless, preservationists have taken a careful look at Central Florida’s most important natural features and taken steps to protect them. In doing so, government agencies and environmental non-profits have created an almost-complete UGB around the metro area.

The protected natural buffer around the Orlando metropolis is an important source for the region’s water supply. Furthermore, it provides migration paths and nesting areas for some of the state’s endangered species, including the Florida panther, the manatee, and the American bald eagle. Some of the most ecologically important lands have been dedicated to a group of sites known as the Seven Jewels of Central Florida.

Despite these strides over the past two decades, a recovering housing market means that many more natural areas will be threatened by sprawling development. However, progressive planning policies in the region’s cities, paired with a continued interest in land preservation and conservation, can help sustain a natural Central Florida.

What do you think are other benefits of preservation or conservation?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Alex Lenhoff

Alex Lenhoff is a graduate of the Masters of Planning in Civic Urbanism program at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. His other degrees include anthropology and foreign languages, which provide him with a diverse, human-centered perspective on urban planning. Alex returned to Orlando after spending a few years traveling through Europe, teaching English, and attending universities in Germany and Spain. He hopes to use his experiences abroad to further the built environment in Florida through efficient design, environmentally friendly practices, and authentic communities. During his time at The Grid, Alex wrote about Orlando’s challenges and successes, while profiling a city coming into its own.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 12th, 2013 at 9:53 am and is filed under Environment, Environmental Non-Profit, Government/Politics, History/Preservation, Land Use. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


4 Responses to “Defining an Urban Growth Boundary through Preservation: A Central Florida Case Study”

  1. Sunny Menozzi Says:

    Developers and preservationists and conservationists must work in cooperation, I think. While the latter aim to protect vulnerable wilderness, the former could market proximity to the wilderness to buyers. City planner/architectural designer Jeff Speck ( contributed to a project/development called Elkington Forest (

    The development’s website advertises: “Elkington Forest – Your place in Nature”

    This is the concept:
    “Elkington Forest is a 1000 acre forest, 35 minutes north of Victoria, BC. A full 850 acres is conserved as Forest Stewardship Council certified eco-forestry or outright conservation with limited or restricted access. On the remaining 150 acres, half of the land is in food production, and half is developed as three attractive residential Hamlets with a total of 77 homes and 15 eco-businesses.”

    Perhaps as Orlando’s housing market rebounds, this is the type of development that should be pursued.

  2. Alex Lenhoff Says:

    Great find, thanks for posting! Two Orlando-area developments that come to mind are Avalon Park and Celebration. Both are new urbanist designs where about half of the site is preserved. The problem right now is that these developments aren’t integrated with each other, but hopefully future plans will take this into greater consideration.

  3. Florida’s Pre-Bust Land Preservation Boom | The GRID | Global Site Plans Says:

    [...] my last post, Defining an Urban Growth Boundary through Preservation: A Central Florida Case Study, I explored how communities can use conservation/preservation as a way to control sprawl and create [...]

  4. Rick Geller Says:

    Alex – Orange County, Florida has an Urban Services Area, beyond which development is highly restricted. Expansion of the USA requires a majority vote of the County Commission as a Comprehensive Plan Amendment.

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