Legal Framework For Land Use Regulation

Three basic legal doctrines provide the framework for land use regulations in the United States property rights, police power, and eminent domain. Property rights are often described as a bundle of rights that include the right to possess, use, sell, and subdivide property. Entitlements to extract minerals, cut timber, and consume water are also present. However, property rights are exclusive and limited. Some are reserved for the state, such as its right to tax the property or take it for public use.[2]

Land use controls utilize governments' police power to legislate and regulate to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens. Most states delegate these powers to local municipalities. Although some regulation is permitted, governments must balance public interest with landowners' interests and rights.[2]

Eminent domain is governments' power to take private property rights for public use. However, they cannot take these rights without just compensation. This state power is often delegated to local governments.[3] Eminent domain is important in planning, particularly in the acquisition of land to achieve land use goals. For example, it may be used to purchase easements for agricultural preservation.

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