Monday, April 26, 2010
Our guest editor Ken Stahl wrote a really interesting post yesterday entitled "Are there 'controlled experiments' in land use? Does it matter?" I was so intrigued by his thought-provoking words that I felt compelled to blog my response, rather than just comment.
Of course land use, like all politics, is local. Ken makes a valid point that few people outside of California give much credence to the choices of California's local governments. Certainly, here in Georgia - a much different, more conservative milieu - California examples are widely disregarded.
However, here at the Land Use Clinic we make our living helping local governments and citizens create land use policy. We have to start somewhere, and usually that somewhere is a survey of what other localities have done on a particular issue. If you review the documents on the LUC webpage, you will find many case studies and model ordinances that pull together examples from multiple places both in and outside of Georgia.
On the other hand, often the examples of jurisdictions in other states quickly become irrelevant due to differences in state law or powers granted by a particular state to local governments. For example, California has regional air quality districts hat help localities coordinate local air pollution regulation and give teeth to regional efforts to improve air quality. Georgia has no such structure, and probably never will. I also often warn my students away from Florida examples. One of my students just wrote a memo on school concurrency programs in Florida, and ultimately came to the conclusion that no such local policy is possible in Georgia without a change in state law. Given how distracted the Georgia legislature is right now by other matters, that change isn't likely to come soon.
So how do we, and our clients, reconcile these conflicts? Certainly no one can simply cut and paste together an ordinance from other jurisdictions, but learning how policy choices have played out in other places provides key information for us to create a unique, yet workable arrangement for each of our clients. We're helping folks make law, and even new law must be based on precedent, both legal and practical. It's a delicate operation, and sometimes it works better than others.
Jamie Baker Roskie