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It's a common refrain when talking about growth in Nashville – "We don't want to be Atlanta."

And yet, according to the new Measuring Sprawl 2014 report from Smart Growth America, Nashville is second-to-worst in a new ranking of America's best and worst large metro areas for sprawl. The worst: Atlanta.

The report also ranks Knoxville as one of the worst metro areas in the country for "sprawl" with a score of 199 out of 221 in areas with a population of 200-thousand or more. That area includes Knox, Blount, Anderson, Union and Loudon Counties.

A low ranking often means population in the city is low, people live far from work and often don't have good transportation or affordable housing. The study says the more compact metro areas are, the more benefits residents enjoy.

Researchers used four primary factors — residential and employment density; neighborhood mix of homes, jobs and services; strength of activity centers and downtowns; and accessibility of the street network — to evaluate development in these areas and assign a Sprawl Index score to each city.

Overall, the study look at 221 metro areas nationally – both large and small – and the Nashville metro area ranked No. 217 in the overall rankings.

The other rankings included:

•No. 196: Memphis

•No. 199: Knoxville

•No. 207: Chattanooga

•No. 212: Kingsport/Bristol

•No. 219: Clarksville

The study said that more compact metro areas see a host of benefits as compared to more sprawling cities.

The benefits including:

•More economic opportunity for local residents.

•People spend less of their household income on housing and transportation.

•People have more transportation options.

•Smaller, more connected cities tend to be safer that more sprawling cities.

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