Saturday, August 21, 2010

Recent Land Planning & Development Class Activity...

As part of the ongoing land development simulation that I'm conducting for this year's Land Planning & Development course, I recently had each of the small groups identify the owner of the "Semester Parcel" and describe their method and source for that determination.

The teaching goal was to demonstrate that the first step in a proposed development is typically identifying the owner so that an offer can be made and so that research into that parcel can begin. 

On a more practical level, I wanted the students to start interacting with the different sources of property information that range from the probate office, tax assessor's office, planning office, and all of their various websites (where, these days, much of the information is available digitally).

I was pleased that all five of the groups successfully identified the owner (in this case, the City of Montgomery).  What I did find interesting though was that the source for this conclusion was different for several groups. 

While two groups actually reviewed the deed for the parcel (and, thus, discovered the owner), other groups found the correct information from other sources such as the recent property tax records.

This prompted an interesting discussion about how certain "official" records (such as the property tax record) may include information (such as the name of a property owner) but that record is actually not the best and most reliable source for the information.  It reminded somewhat of the old "best evidence" discussions from law school.

The learning point that came out was that, when seeking a specific piece of information, it is always best to identify that information from the official source for that information--rather than another source that may be "official" but not for that specific piece of information.  This is important because, if you rely on the wrong record and the information is wrong, then it is typically your fault. 

However, if you rely on the correct record, but the information is incorrect, you have better options for recourse.

So, if you want to obtain "official" information about the payment of property taxes--go to the property tax office.  But, if you want "official" information about current ownership--go to the register of deeds.

This is the type of learning point that simulation-based courses can really amplify through a real world interaction.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

August 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 20, 2010

The "Semester Parcel"...

As I've mentioned before, each year in Land Planning and Development, I place the students into small groups where they each "develop" a real piece of land here in Montgomery.  The topics they deal with over the course of the semester include basic title work, purchase negotiations, environmental issues, historical property issues, zoning, entitlements, and even an analysis of real estate advertising and marketing issues.

The property used is known as the "Semester Parcel" (yes, I know...my creative apex when it comes to clever names is very low). 

I've placed an image of the parcel from Google Earth below.  The Semester Parcel is actually the undeveloped triangular parcel adjacent to the Alabama River.  It's an ideal piece of property for this semester long simulation as it is filled with access challenges and potential environmental questions. 

Plus, it is really being developed beginning later this fall.  

2010SemesterParcel

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

August 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Hirokawa on Green Building

Prof. Keith Hirokawa has published an excellent article in Lewis & Clark Law School's Environmental Law, the nation's oldest law review dedicated to environmental issues. The article is titled "At Home with Nature: Early Reflections on Green Building Laws and the Transformation of the Environment," and is available at Volume 39, Number 3, at pp. 507-75. Prof. Hirokawa serves as an assistant professor at Albany Law School and is one of the leading scholars of the green building movement. His article examines its evolution, identifying two distinct parallels. The article goes beyond a mere description of the movement, however, in that it explores the relationship between the goals and methods of green building's laws. Consumers, the construction industry, and regulators are identified as important actors in the green building legal marketplace, ultimately making it a special one because of its transformative, pluralistic approach.

Will Cook, Charleston School of Law

August 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Economic Development Clinical Law Faculty Position - University of Idaho

It's the time of year for job announcements!  This one is from Jerry Long:

    THE UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO COLLEGE OF LAW seeks to fill an entry level, tenure-track faculty position beginning in the Fall of 2011 at its Boise, Idaho satellite campus contingent upon approval of the position by the University’s Board of Regents.  The successful candidate will supervise a new Economic Development Clinical Program. This program will serve state and local governmental entities, tribal governments and non-profit organizations.  The clinical program will focus on economic development particularly as it pertains to land use planning and other economic development needs of local governments.  This new clinical program will collaborate with the existing small business legal clinic and low-income taxpayer clinic at the University of Idaho.  It will also collaborate with other University of Idaho programs providing outreach to local governments in the area of economic development.  Related non-clinic teaching assignments could also include State Constitutional Law and Legislation.  Applicants must have a distinguished academic record and post J.D. practice, clerking and/or teaching experience, must show promise as excellent teachers and productive scholars.   Candidates with prior clinical teaching experience and those with a demonstrated commitment to community economic development issues will be preferred.

    The College of Law, which has the exclusive statewide mission in Idaho public legal education, is embarked upon an innovative expansion of its program from its home campus in Moscow (in the northern Idaho panhandle) to Boise, the state capital and a growing population and economic center of the state.  As part of this expansion it has established a satellite campus in Boise, Idaho at which students may complete their third year of law school.  The successful applicant for this position will be part of the Boise law program.  In addition to clinical programs, the Boise program presently includes a curriculum focused on business and entrepreneurship a concurrent JD M.S in Acct. (Taxation Emphasis) with Boise State University, and the College’s Externship and Semester-in-Practice programs.  A commitment to and experience relevant to assisting the College with the expansion of its Boise program will be favorably considered.   Information about the College of Law is available on its website at  http://www.law.uidaho.edu .  Interested persons should either apply online at www.hr.uidaho.edu or send a letter of application and resume listing three references by regular mail or email to Professor and Associate Dean Elizabeth Brandt, Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee, University of Idaho College of Law, PO Box 442321, Moscow, Idaho 83844-2321, ebrandt@uidaho.edu .  

    The Committee will begin reviewing applications on September 15, 2010 and will continue until the position is filled.  Priority will be given to applications received before November 1, 2010. The University of Idaho is an affirmative action, equal opportunity employer.  The University has an institution-wide commitment to diversity, human rights, multiculturalism and community.  It expresses that commitment by actively recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce and student body, and by building and sustaining a welcoming, supportive campus environment.

Jamie Baker Roskie

August 19, 2010 in Community Economic Development, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Environmental Law Position at Georgia State Law School

Another announcement from Prof. Juergensmeyer:

As many of you know, Colin Crawford has left us and is now Professor and Executive Director of the Payson Center for International Development and Knowledge Management at Tulane University Law School. We are now conducting a search to “replace” him. Details of the search may be found here.  Interested persons should submit their resume and cover letter to LawRecruitment@gsu.edu.

Jamie Baker Roskie

August 19, 2010 in Environmental Law, Georgia, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Slide Show of Georgia Theater Rebuild

Previously I blogged about the historic Georgia Theater, almost destroyed by fire a year ago.  The Athens Banner-Herald now has a slide show showing reconstruction in the interior.  It's a pretty interesting pictorial history of the restoration of the building, which dates to the late 1800s.  The owner has struggled with financing and rebuilding, but there's so much sentiment to save the building that I think he'll ultimately be successful.  He's also got a great sense of humor - the marquee on the building currently reads "Men At Work."

Jamie Baker Roskie

August 19, 2010 in Georgia, Historic Preservation, Redevelopment | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Public Domain Land Planning Images...

I was recently going through my computer files and realized that I had taken thousands of digital images related to land planning over the last 5 years or so.  These images, though, were just sitting there, unused, on my hard drive.

So, I've decided to free some of these images from their prison of un-use and post them here at Land Use Prof blog.  Feel free to use them however you would like, whenever you would like, and wherever you would like.  These are the entirely public domain and you don't even have to cite me as the picture-taker if you would prefer not to.

Anyhow, enjoy these first two images of civic buildings at Seaside, Florida and Rosemary Beach, Florida Seaside Smart Growth Class Trip 010
Seaside Smart Growth Class Trip 025
.  I'll free more images in the days and weeks to come.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

August 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rule on Renewable Energy & Neighbors

Prof. Troy A. Rule, Associate Professor of Law, University of Missouri, presented recently an incredibly interesting and timely paper at the 2010 SEALS Conference in Palm Beach. (I had the pleasure of speaking on the New Scholars Panel there with Troy, but on an topic unrelated to land use on emerging patterns in cultural heritage law.) Titled "Renewable Energy and the Neighbors," Troy's article examines conflicts between federal, state, and local governments over land use laws that restrict distributed renewable energy, employing law and economics to help resolve these conflcits. Ultimately, the article recommends a green communities tax credit scheme to provide or strengthen incentives for governments to allow distributed renewable energy. Under the scheme, each community would be permitted to weigh its own unique costs, thereby contributing to more efficient policymaking. Of note to first-year property professors, Troy's article builds upon Calabresi and Melamed's "Cathedral" model of property rules and liability rules. A link to Troy's abstract at SSRN is provided here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1649090

Will Cook, Charleston School of Law

August 18, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Harrison "Buzz" Price Passes Away...

One of the most interesting land use projects I've recently worked on was a law review article I wrote for the Florida State law review that focused on the Reedy Creek Improvement District.  The District was the unique quasi-governmental entity that Disney established when creating its Disney World project in the Orlando area.

A key figure in Disney's decision to locate in Central Florida (and, for that matter, build Disneyland in Anaheim, California) was economist Buzz Price. 

I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to interview him several times as part of the law review article and the Project Future book that I published following the article.  He was a wealth of information and one of the most interesting people I met in the entire process.  He was still, 45 years later, extremely well-versed in the various land development issues that Disney encountered in creating Disney World.

It's fair to say that, without Buzz Price, Disney's theme park empire might never have grown to its size and scope today.

Mr. Price recently passed away...a real loss for the amusement industry and Americana in general.

You can read more about his fascinating life, here.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

August 18, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

GSU Seeks Assistant Director for Metropolitan Growth Center

From Julian Juergensmeyer at Georgia State University:

Georgia State University's College of Law seeks highly qualified applicants to fill the position of Assistant Director in its Center for the Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth.

The Assistant Director with work with the Center's Directors, affiliated faculty and staff, to refine the Center' strategic mission, communicating and elevating the Center's profile in Atlanta, in Georgia, and internationally; engage in communications and fundraising activities related to center programs, and serve as a liaison between the Center and entities engaged in similar work within Georgia State University and beyond.  The Assistant Director will also oversee and execute the day-today administration of the Center's activities.

An application, résumé, cover letter and three professional references are required for consideration.  Applications must be submitted online at http://jobs.gsu.edu.  When applying please reference position vacancy # 0601513.   Applicant reviews will begin immediately and interviews will be conducted until the position is filled.  An offer of employment will be contingent upon the successful completion of background verification.

Part of a comprehensive research university, the College of Law is a dynamic urban-centered law school located in the heart of Atlanta with approximately 650 full- and part-time law students.  Georgia State University, a unit of the University System of Georgia, is an equal opportunity educational institution and an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.

Jamie Baker Roskie

August 18, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Cost of Driving, The Cost of Roads...

Before I started focusing on land use issues, I never fully appreciated how much local land use planning is driven by federal and state road-building policy.  I suspect this is also the case for much of the general public. 

At first glance, roads and buildings seem to be distinct topics.  Unfortunately, that's the way we've treated them for much of the post WWII development cycle--despite the fact that they are inextricably linked.

Case in point: a poorly designed road can completely undermine the usefulness of a well-designed building just as a well-designed road can suffer if poorly designed, misplaced buildings line the frontage of the road.  A textbook example of this would be the problems that would result if you placed a nice, well-proportioned 2,000 Craftsman cottage...along a six lane, high-speed arterial. 

Clearly, this would be out of context and, in the big picture, so much of the success in land use is about syncing up the right overall context between streets, blocks, and buildings.

Related to this topic, is a recent article at Planetizen by Samuel Staley that does an interesting job explaining how the economic angle of road building:

In a previous blog post, my discussion of externalities, public goods and roads spurred an unexpectedly lengthy set of posts and repostes. In this article, I want to address a trickier topic: Whether road users have effectively shifted the burden for paying for roads to non-users and whether the reason we pay for roads out of general taxes is a result of that lobbying effort.

Read the entire post if you get the chance. It really presents a thought-provoking argument about how everyone--including those who don't drive very often--pay for the cost of our expansive and complex national driving system.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

August 18, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Abandoned Farmland Slated for Solar Project

According to a recent story on NPR's Morning Edition, California has recently declared one of the most ambitious targets for renewable energy in the world - 1/3rd of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.  (Sadly, Georgia has no currently goal.  No Southeastern state has, except North Carolina.)  However, like Cape Wind, struggles continue over siting renewable energy projects - like this solar project proposed in Central California.

However, according to a recent story in The New York Times, there are places where the siting of solar projects is popular with pretty much everybody - on abandoned agricultural land.

Thousands of acres of farmland here in the San Joaquin Valley have been removed from agricultural production, largely because the once fertile land is contaminated by salt buildup from years of irrigation.

But large swaths of those dry fields could have a valuable new use in their future — making electricity.

Farmers and officials at Westlands Water District, a public agency that supplies water to farms in the valley, have agreed to provide land for what would be one of the world’s largest solar energy complexes, to be built on 30,000 acres.  At peak output, the proposed Westlands Solar Park would generate as much electricity as several big nuclear power plants.

It's interesting that one environmental problem - saltwater intrusion from overpumping of the coastal aquafers - might contribute to another environmental solution - reduction of dependence on coal-fired power plants.  Anyway, it's nice to see a non-controversial renewable energy project, for a change.

Jamie Baker Roskie

August 17, 2010 in California, Clean Energy, Environmentalism, Georgia, State Government, Water, Wetlands, Wind Energy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Life of Soccer Stadiums Post World Cup

My first day of class is Friday, so I thought I'd sneak in one last summer-break-inspired post before getting down to business.  On a flight to California last month my husband, Neal Anderson (Rolfer and architect-extraordinaire) sat next to ESPN soccer (er, football) writer Jeff Carlisle.  Jeff had recently returned from covering the World Cup in South Africa and, among other topics, they discussed the possible post World Cup uses of all the soccer stadiums built around SA.

Subsequently there was an interesting post on Planetizen about just this topic:

"It's not about whether they'll be used, it's whether they will be financially viable in terms of maintenance costs," said Phillip Harrison, a member of the South African government's National Planning Commission. "I think there is a legitimate concern about whether they'll bring in sufficient income given the fact that these areas are already financially stretched."

Officials in South Africa understand the potential risks they've brought upon themselves. They've seen abandoned Olympic venues blight Athens. They know that even Beijing has had trouble luring events to its infamous Bird's Nest stadium. But South Africa remains hopeful. For the host cities, these stadia are seen as springboards for development. But there's also the distinct danger that they could become unsustainable money pits. It's too soon to say which is the case today. But it will probably take only a few years to see if the cities are able to jump on those opportunities, or if they'll fall victim to their grandiose but potentially short-sighted World Cup investments.

Stadium projects are almost always controversial.  Closer to home there's been a lot of media attention on the new stadium for an Atlanta Braves farm team in nearby Gwinnett County.  It's interesting how the dynamic around stadiums seems so consistent from project to project. In a place like South Africa, with such historic inequity, it seems like a potentially more loaded problem, but the issues aren't so different in more affluent communities.

Jamie Baker Roskie

August 17, 2010 in Architecture, Community Economic Development, Comparative Land Use, Development, Georgia, Planning, Redevelopment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The One Exam Per Semester Model...

A recent post over at Prawfsblog has some interesting thoughts on the common law school model of grading a student's performance in a semester-long course with only a single exam.

I agree that this is really a strange and likely inaccurate way to gauge a semester's worth of work.  After all, in a 15 week semester, does it really make sense to evaluate the learning that took place in the first several weeks with an exam 3 months later?

That's why each year I've taught Land Planning and Development, I've moved further and further away from this model.

Today, I'll give most of the grade based on the small group project that the students participate in during the course of the semester in which they "mock" develop an actual site here in Montgomery from beginning to end.

Typically, the groups are 3 to 5 people in size and that does present the possibility that someone in the group might not carry their fair share and get a better grade than individually deserved if they are fortunate enough to be grouped with some hard workers.

I've found, though, that this rarely happens because students police themselves internally pretty well by the time they are 2Ls and 3Ls.  Peer pressure can do marvels for getting all the group members to work.

At the same time, I do provide a "safety valve" of sorts where a group member can confidentially complain about the lack of work from another group member.  Fortunately, I've only had this used twice in five years.  Having it there though is a pretty good deterrent for the slackers.

I'll post more thoughts from my approach to the LP&D course as we get started over the next week.  If anyone has any specific questions, feel free to email me at cemerson@faulkner.edu.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

August 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Diamond on Homeownership and Shared Equity in the Context of Poverty

Michael Diamond (Georgetown) has posted The Meaning and Nature of Property: Homeownership and Shared Equity in the Context of Poverty, St. Louis University Public Law Review, Vol. 29, pp. 85-112, 2009.  The abstract:

While a Blackstonian view of property envisaged a "despotic dominion" of an owner over a thing, property has never been so absolute. In fact, as I argue in this paper, the nature of property has been culturally constructed and property means different thinks across cultures and even over time within the same culture. The question of the nature of property was highlighted for me when a student questioned whether equity limitations placed on homes purchased by low income buyers using subsidized public financing created a "second class" form of homeownership.

In attempting to answer this question, I examined the ideas of property and ownership over various cultures and then concentrated on those ideas in the American cultural, legal and political history. After examining the various views of property in America, I examine the reality of property ownership and the restrictions on such ownership in today’s legal and political milieu. I conclude by suggesting that the equity restrictions associated with some publicly financed mortgages are not different in kind from other restrictions on property generally that are widely accepted in society. Finally, I suggest that a concept of property might be broadened to include the reasonable expectations of future potential users. Thus, a recognized principle such as stewardship might give property like entitlements to generations of low income persons who will be seeking decent affordable housing in the future.
Matt Festa

August 16, 2010 in Affordable Housing, Community Economic Development, History, Housing, Mortgages, Property Theory, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Arnold on Sustainable Webs of Interest

Craig Anthony (Tony) Arnold (Louisville) has posted Sustainable Webs of Interest: Property in an Interconnected Environment, from PROPERTY RIGHTS AND SUSTAINABILITY: THE EVOLUTION OF PROPERTY RIGHTS TO MEET ECOLOGICAL CHALLENGES, David Grinlinton & Prudence Taylor, eds., Brill/Martinus Nijhoff, Forthcoming.  The abstract: 

Property issues arise in interconnected physical, social, and legal environments. All indications point to interconnections that are complex, far-reaching in scope, multi-scalar, dynamic, and nonlinear. Property institutions must adapt to these complexities and changing conditions. However, it has become apparent that the patterns and practices of our uses of land, water, and the environment are unsustainable ecologically and socially. While both legal and socio-cultural understandings of property are evolving, they remain hampered by the supposedly wealth-maximizing and production-maximizing concept that property is a bundle of rights, often based in a mental image of a “bundle of sticks,” with each stick in the bundle representing a different right or entitlement. An alternative concept of property is that property is a “web of interests,” in which property interests are defined by the particular characteristics of the object of the property (including natural features and environmental carrying capacity) and by the interconnected relationships that people, entities, and institutions form with respect to the particular object. This chapter discusses how the web of interests concept might facilitate a more ecologically and socially sustainable definition of property interests amid the realities of the interconnected environments in which property issues arise. The chapter gives particular attention to issues of land and water, and explores the implications of sustainable webs of interest in water.
I still rely heavily on the bundle-of-sticks metaphor for teaching, but I'm coming around to Tony's web-of-interests conceptualization.  Looks like a fascinating piece. 

Matt Festa

August 16, 2010 in Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Property Theory, Scholarship, Sustainability, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

What Land Use Profs Do At Faculty Retreats...

As a Land Use Prof mentor once opined to me "Teaching land use is one of the safest jobs in the world.  After all, nobody else on the faculty would ever want to do it."

So, as the rest of the academy debates major curriculum overhaul, we LUProf Brethren and Sisteren are left to our own little corner of the world.  Just us and the students.  Alone, ignored, and forgotten by our colleagues.

[just the way many of us like it :) Photo

August 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Land Use Teaching Resource...

This Monday is the first day of Land Planning and Development for my class this semester.  Leading up to it, I've been searching for more interactive and collaborative teaching tools.  

I was especially excited when I ran across a good teaching resource for a topic that is often a bit difficult to explain well:  density.

That's right, whether its FAR, Lot Coverage, or another measure, the topic of density is a big one for land use that often is somewhat elusive in its accuracy of explanation (maybe because it involves math?!?).

As a result, I found this website, Visualizing Density, offers some excellent resources for successfully explaining and teaching the topic of density in a development context.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

August 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)