Local land use regulation and planning is increasingly important as communities are challenged to manage population growth and residential and industrial development, and to preserve agricultural land and open spaces. Two growth trends are of increasing concern to rural communities: the accretion of urbanized areas at the fringes of rural lands and the increase in isolated, large-lot residential developments (one acre or more). Population growth is the main driver of urban sprawl. Between 1950 and 1990, U.S. population grew from 150 to 250 million. By 2050, it is expected to increase by 150 million. In the United States, local governments have primary responsibility for managing land use. This article introduces the role of government in land use regulation, describes the legal framework for the regulation of land, describes common land use controls, and highlights three land use policy issues related to agriculture: environmental impacts, nuisance impacts, and land preservation.

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