Historical Overview of the American Land Use System: A Diagnostic Approach to Evaluating Governmental Land Use Control

33 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2009 Last revised: 4 Nov 2009

See all articles by John R. Nolon

John R. Nolon

Elisabeth Haub School of Law, Pace University

Date Written: 2006

Abstract

This article describes how the American land use system has evolved to address recent environmental and economic development problems. It begins by tracing the history of the legal system used in the United States to control private sector land development and demonstrates how it achieved the flexibility needed to respond to modern challenges. The American land use system has paid a price for this flexibility: it is not a coherent whole, but rather a fragmented mosaic of legal influences. Impressive examples of cohesion are cited that suggest a strategic approach to reforming the system so that it can become an effective instrument for achieving sustainable development. Despite its flaws, this legal system demonstrates how federal, state, and local governments can use an impressive array of legal techniques and practices to solve environmental and economic development problems. As such, it provides a useful model for evaluating other countries’ land use regimes. To encourage such comparisons, the article ends with a checklist of the characteristics of the American system and of the tools and techniques it employs.

Suggested Citation

Nolon, John R., Historical Overview of the American Land Use System: A Diagnostic Approach to Evaluating Governmental Land Use Control (2006). Pace Environmental Law (PELR) Review, Vol. 23, 2006, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1345450

John R. Nolon (Contact Author)

Elisabeth Haub School of Law, Pace University ( email )

78 North Broadway
White Plains, NY 10603
United States

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