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Environmental Protection Through Local Land Use Controls

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Abstract

Local land use controls seek to limit the impact of one neighbor on another sometimes protecting natural resource environmental values. Federal and State programs to protect environmental values cannot do everything. They leave a residual risk of environmental loss that local people may want to address. Land use controls are traditionally zoning, subdivision control, and site plan review. These and other local controls have advantages in reducing risk, particularly when they are a part of an integrated approach that makes full use of the advantages at each level of government. Aspects of partnership approaches are discussed. In 1989, 449 members of the New York Planning Federation were asked to indicate if they used land use controls to reduce environmental risks, particularly risks to water quality. Freshwater wet lands, flood plains, and watershed rules and regulations are used in addition to traditional land use controls. Modifications to land use controls were made by almost half of the jurisdictions to protect natural resource environmental values, 26% to protect water quality. A fifth recognized they have water quality problems but as yet had not adapted their land use controls to this need. One third of the responses indicated they were involved in intergovernmental cooperation in the management of their controls -half the time with the county. The State should debate how and whether it chooses to stimulate changes which would encourage the use of the untapped potential for local land use controls to protect environmental quality.

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1991-03

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Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University

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