Land Use Controls

Several planning tools and controls are available to guide development and identify suitable locations for various land uses. State-level zoning and enabling acts are often the primary tools to control land. However, other sources of power include: the state constitution, legislation that provides for home rule to distribute state power to local government, laws that authorize the exercise of police power by local government, or a doctrine of inherent powers that creates a political subdivision. Many states also have enabling acts that authorize land use controls in special situations such as floodplain zoning and historic districting.1-3-1

Zoning controls the location and separation of different land uses. Compatible uses such as commercial and residential may be zoned adjacent to each other. Incompatible uses such as industrial and residential may be separated to reduce potential conflicts. Zoning regulations also restrict the uses of specific parcels of land and control the intensity of development. These controls are implemented throughout the development process. Therefore, zoning plays a significant role in protecting natural and built environments, preserving property values, and managing growth.1-3-1

Subdivision regulation focuses primarily on residential development. These controls are implemented when one parcel of land is divided. These regulations have lasting impacts on the landscape and character of a community.[3-

Traditional land use controls, such as zoning and subdivision, do influence growth. However, local governments increasingly use management techniques, such as growth boundaries, to slow or stop growth.[3] Growth boundaries plan or mandate where urban development takes place.

Environmental land use controls aim to address development on sensitive land such as wetlands, coastal zones, floodplains, and wildlife habitat areas. Whereas various state and federal controls exist (such as the Clean Water Act), local governments are often responsible for their implementation. They are challenged to balance land development with present and future needs. For example, while a new residential development may increase the tax base, it may also strain the municipalities' drinking water supplies.[3-

State and local governments utilize aesthetic land use controls to preserve an area's beauty. For example, some have implemented billboard regulations to reduce the unsightliness of signage or require architectural design reviews. These controls regulate the appearance of structures to ensure their compatibility with surrounding areas and assess potential impact on neighboring property values.[3-

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