Land Use and the States

Land Use and the States

Land Use and the States

Land Use and the States

Excerpt

For forty years or so, the impetus for new kinds of economic and social programs has tended to come from the federal government. Policies are formulated, often with extensive inputs from academics and other "experts," and translated into programs, which lower levels of government are induced, cajoled, or compelled into adopting. It is a system that allows for relatively quick action but one that tends to magnify any conceptual mistakes that the original policy might have contained. It has led to the rapid dissemination of some effective programs, but also to the spread of policies breathtaking in their insensitivity to local problems and conditions.

The recent movement toward greater state involvement in land use decisions is an exception. It has to a great extent been initiated in the states themselves, in response to local and statewide needs. National legislation to encourage it has been introduced in Congress each year since 1970 but has yet to become law.

In the meantime, prodded by a citizenry increasingly sensitive to environmental concerns and disturbed by the results of local land use controls, the states have been acting on their own. Each year since 1970, additional states have begun to regulate developments whose large scale, growth-inducing potential, or environmentally sensitive location makes them of more than local concern. Often they did so because of some particular crisis within their borders--a second-home boom in Vermont, a water shortage in Florida, or the possibility of new coastal oil refineries in Delaware.

The states occasionally followed national models, particularly the Model Land Development Code drawn up by the prestigious American Law Institute. Most often, however, they created their own models, adapting them to unique problems of the state and often incorporating distinctive institutions or practices already present within state governments: Florida, for example, linked its land use program to the adjudicatory function of the Florida Cabinet, while California, seeking to control . . .

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