Paradigms of Positive Change: Reordering the Nation's Land Use System
PLANNING REFORM IN THE NEW CENTURY, Daniel R. Mandelker, ed., American Planning Association, 2005
28 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2009
Date Written: 2005
The general perception of the American land use system is that it is disorganized, disorderly, and inefficient. The nation’s landscape is coherent, but when dissected by the jurisdictions of federal, state, and local governments, its physical development becomes woefully fragmented. Imagine, for example, trying to implement a cogent plan for flood prevention in the Mississippi watershed. Following the great Mississippi floods of 1993, in the Upper Mississippi Basin alone there were six federal agencies, 23 state agencies in five states, and 233 local governments involved in concocting a recipe for mitigating damage caused by flooding. Nationally, there are now up to 40,000 local governments that have some legal authority to control private land use, 50 states adopting laws and spawning agencies with significant influence on the land, and countless federal laws and regulations administered by dozens of federal agencies directing their attention to how the land is used.
All of these influences are legitimate - each level of government has serious interests that must be protected and advanced. The defect in the system is its lack of coherence. In examining how the system should be reformed and assessing particular examples of land use law reform, attention must be paid to how greater coordination can be achieved.
This article begins with a brief look at the system’s familiar dysfunctions, continues with a lengthier examination of positive examples of reform, emphasizes the importance of coalition building in the reform process, and ends with the observation that reform efforts should be organized by the task of creating essential connections among the governments involved.
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