Populist Placemaking: Grounds for Open Government-Citizen Spatial Regulating Discourse

70 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2017 Last revised: 20 Mar 2019

See all articles by Michael N. Widener

Michael N. Widener

Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman & Balint; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Date Written: December 13, 2017


Populist Placemaking is a paper on land use and local government administrative law. It forecasts the course of, and charts a path for, citizen engagement in and control of land use determinations, focusing on the making of place. The paper describes “place” in psychological and social terms, with reference to place’s reciprocity of nurturing with individuals. Placemaking is consequential because the growing disappearance of place in cities and towns today diminishes community building, quality of life enhancement, and social capital and trust creation. The erosion of place may be accelerated by increasing rejection by many youth of the physical realm, replaced by their attachments to more-familiar digital space, as described in the paper.

I then describe the trend of citizen-scientists’ increasing influence in the planning realm, enabled by technology innovation in popular culture. It describes the rise of social media’s capacity to increase the knowledge and skills of everyday citizens, leading to greater populist contributions to the land-planning enterprise. The paper argues that technology is not the foe of placemaking, if properly deployed jointly by citizens and those who govern locally.

Pivoting from the surge of citizen place-determination, I turn to recommending specific modifications for community master land use plan development and local planning commission composition and roles. I suggest implementing floating zones, a little-used albeit widely understood land regulation technique, to facilitate placemaking and periodic repurposing of those places. Finally, I describe how land trusts, joint development agreements, civic crowd-funding and social entrepreneurship partnership opportunities offer citizens more direct inputs into development of publicly-promoted spaces to become and to remain unique, diverse expressions of community character that nurture, and in turn are nurtured by, their citizens.

Keywords: place, public space, placemaking, citizen science, land use planning, impact investing, social entrepreneurship, planning and development, GIS, planning and development, zoning, general plan, Internet of Things, open government, data transparency, planning commissions, benefit corporations

JEL Classification: G32, K11, K23, O16, O18, O21, O23 O35, O38, R14, R38, R52, R58

Suggested Citation

Widener, Michael N., Populist Placemaking: Grounds for Open Government-Citizen Spatial Regulating Discourse (December 13, 2017). 121 West Virginia L. Rev. 461 (2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3087689 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3087689

Michael N. Widener (Contact Author)

Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman & Balint ( email )

2325 East Camelback Road
Suite 300
Phoenix, AZ 85016
United States

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University ( email )

Prescott, AZ 86301
United States

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