Gated developments in the foot of Vitosha Mountain enjoy the lush green environment. image by Aleksandar D. Slaev
Natural amenities are a key factor for urbanization processes in peri-urban areas. New residents settle in suburban areas because of the open spaces, abundance of greenery and lush natural landscapes.
However, by settling in suburban areas, the new residents consume land and natural resources. Because natural resources are either open source or are public ownership, as a rule, they are underpriced and as a result they are consumed excessively.
Because natural resources and amenities are public property, it is impossible for the market to establish their proper values and their prices are unknown. No matter how exceptionally difficult this task is for planners, it is their responsibility to determine what development fees and property taxes should pay for the consumption of natural resources.
The proper assessment of the resources used or consumed in the process of suburbanization is essential for the proper balance between urban growth and expansion.
The Vitosha collar – nice views and scatterd housing. Image by Aleksandar D. Slaev
The vision of this solution should be described as a fair, socially and environmentally sustainable system of development fees and property taxes developed to guarantee that ecosystem services are paid for and, therefore, financial compensation and funds are provided for their conservation or/and recreation/restoration. For the realization of this vision a system of local fees and taxes should be established as a form of payment for the consumption of natural resources both as a tool to regulate this consumption and to finance their preservation and recovery.
First the value of the consumed resources should be estimated, which is done by employing evaluation of respective ecosystem services. To estimate those values, the ecosystem services are classified in six groups.
Group 1 comprises the provisioning services.
Group 2 The regulating services are considered in two groups: – services regulating the pollution of air, soils and waters.
Group 3 services regulating biodiversity, habitats and erosion.
The cultural services are considered in three groups:
Group 4 aesthetic information,
Group 5 recreational and
Group 6 inspirational/spiritual/cognitive.
The evaluation of Group 1 (provisioning services) is based on the Market Price Method and is applicable for assessment of services of rural lands and the so-called agro-forest mosaic (and respective fees and taxes).
The evaluation of group 2 (purification and pollution control) is based on the cost of ecological infrastructure and the cost of purification; it is applicable mainly to wetlands and forests.
The assessment of group 3 (regulating biodiversity, habitats and erosion) in our methodology is based on the evaluations made by scientists for respective biomes, available in scientific literature, adapted to the conditions of the respective city/community by local planners.
The assessment of group 4 (aesthetic information) is based on the relative levels of prices of land in attractive locations (similar to hedonic analysis, but quite simplified); relevant fees are applicable to lands adjacent to wetlands, water bodies, forests and scenic landscapes.
In our methodology, we suggest no evaluation of the services of groups 5 and 6.
Sprawl around Sofia – a “scattered density” model? Image by Aleksandar D. Slaev
The suburbanizing urban rim of Sofia – shrubs and high-rise housing. Image by Aleksandar D. Slaev
Aleksandar D. SlaevKeywords: Balances urban development, Balance between growth and sprawl, Payments for ecosystem services, Suburban ecosystem services,