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Land Use

Land Use, Wex, Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School

In colonial America few regulations existed on the use of land due to the seemingly endless amounts of it. As society shifted from a rural to an urban society, public land regulation became important especially to city governments trying to control industry, commerce, and housing within its boundaries. The first zoning ordinance was passed in New York City in 1916 and by the 1930s, most states had adopted zoning laws. By the 1970s, concerns about the environment and historic preservation led to further regulation.
Today, federal, state, and local governments regulate growth and development through statutory law. The majority of controls on land, however, stem from actions of private developers and individuals. Three typical situations involving such private entities and the court system are: suits brought by one neighbor against another; suits brought by a public official against a neighboring landowner on behalf of the public; and suits involving individuals who share ownership of a particular parcel of land. In these settings judicial determination and enforcement of private land-use arrangements can not only reinforce public regulation but achieve forms and levels of control zoning cannot.
Two major federal laws have been passed in the last half century that curb the use of land significantly. These are the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (today embodied in 16 U.S.C. 461 et seq.); and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 ( 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.).

Rhode Island State Land Use Policies and Plan

  • State Land Use Policies and Plan, Land Use 2025 (Use the terms, below, in "quotes" to do a word search in the PDF document to find the pertinent section.) [Pages provided in the PDF file indicatied in the top navigation bar, not page numbers in the document.]
    1. Goals, Objectives and Strategies, "Table 121-05(1)", [pp.134-149]. This section, the last in the document, provides a summary that is best previewed before that which follows, below. Print this out.
    2. Read the "Preface" [pp. 7-1-0]
    3. Where are we? [pp. 19-31] Spend time on the maps.
    4. Where do we want to be in twenty years? [pp, 33-54]. Read to understand the vision and, importantly, how the maps (such as figure 121-02 (1) and its legend) is a graphic representation of policies.
    5. What issues do we need to be concerned about in getting there? [pp.55-91]. Peruse to understand the relationship between the planning process and land use policies, and the RI comprehensive plan. Note how the proposals are different from those policies and practices of "Era 2" as described by Solomon in Global City Blues. Note how far we have come with this document.
    6. How do we get there? [pp 93-126]. Peruse. How does "there" relate to what Kunstler, in The Long Emergency, has in mind for the future? Is there congruity? Consider section 4-8 [pp 109-etc.] on Scenario Analysis and the sections that follow.
    7. What must be done to achieve our vision? [pp 127-150]. Peruse. How does Land Use 2025 relate to Local Comprehensive Plans?

Rhode Island — Additional

Resources (Select)

  1. Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
    1. Introduction to the Lincoln Institute
    2. Department of Economic and Community Development
    3. Department of Planning and Urban Form
    4. Department of Valuation and Taxation