Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mosques and RLUIPA in the NY Times

Today's NY Times has continuing coverage of the various mosque siting controversies across the nation.  This article focuses on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).

Have a great weekend.

Jim K.

James J. Kelly, Jr.
Asst. Prof. of Law
Univ. of Baltimore
Visiting Prof., W&L (Spr. '11)

September 4, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Interesting On-Line Course...

Interested in learning more about the basics of New Urbanism and sustainable development?

The Miami School of Architecture will soon be offering an on-line opportunity to do so:

Learn New Urbanism Online! The Principles and Practice of New Urbanism is a self-paced online course offered by the University of Miami School of Architecture, a world leader in New Urbanism. Looking for an in-depth introduction to the theory and practice of New Urbanism? You can learn at your own pace, on your own schedule, from anywhere in the world, with The Principles and Practice of New Urbanism.

* For anyone interested in a comprehensive introduction to New Urbanism

* Developed by the University of Miami School of Architecture, a world leader in New Urbanism

* Receive a certificate from the University of Miami School of Architecture upon successful completion of the course

* Provides preparation for the Congress for the New Urbanism's (CNU) Accreditation Exam

* The CNU-Accreditation Exam can be taken online via the course web site at the conclusion of the course

Follow the above link and you can view a sample lesson that the course is offering.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

September 3, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Gotta Get Back in Time

Last weekend we saw a TV rerun of the 1985 classic Back to the Future.  I was reminded of something that didn't occur to me until many years after I saw it for the first time, which is that it is, subtly, an excellent land use movie.  Christopher Leinberger observed this in the opening pages of his terrific book The Option of Urbanism: Investing in a New American Dream.  From the intro:

When I teach a graduate real estate seminar, the first homework I give to the students is watching the 1985 movie Back to the Future.  The film reflects most of the fundamental changes in how America has been built over the last sixty years.  

Specifically, in 1985 suburban "Hill Valley," the old downtown is dead.  The public square is deserted at all hours except for the homeless; once-thriving establishments have been replaced by adult businesses; and the clock hasn't been fixed in thirty years.  The new (1980s) mall at the outskirts of town now has all the action, accessible only by car (including time-machine car, or terrorist van!).  

When Michael J. Fox's character Marty McFly goes "back in time" to 1955 HIll Valley, he finds a vibrant downtown, where everyone walks around for work and shopping, teens go to the malt shop and the movie theater, and small businesses abound.  Sacred, safe, and busy, perhaps?  Back to Leinberger:

The two Hill Valleys show the only two viable divergent options we have in how to build our metropolitan built environment--which consists of the houses, roads, water and sewer lines, police and fire stations, office buildings, shops, factories, parks, and everything else that makes up where most Americans live, work, and play.  

Leinberger goes on to label the 1955 version as "walkable urbanism," and proceeds from there.  The Option of Urbanism has been one of the most insightful books I've read recently, and of course if you're looking for a Labor Day Weekend movie that deals with land use, you'll find Back to the Future worth a fresh look.  

Now, this kind of goes downhill at the end of the movie when, in the sequel set-up, Doc goes thirty years forward and then returns in a flying car fueled by household garbage.  So we can expect that in 2015?  

With that, is it possible that those of us who are interested in new urbanism can now be more sympathetic with George McFly's botched pickup line: "you . . . are my . . . density!"

Matt Festa

September 2, 2010 in Books, Density, Downtown, History, New Urbanism, Planning, Suburbs, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

It's Back

As the semi-official Lead Reporter on Massive Traffic Jams for the Land Use Prof blog, readers will be glad to know that this intrepid reporter remains on the case of all things traffic jammed in China.

In particular, the increasingly X-File-ish traffic jamming in China has apparently returned.  No sign of The Cigarette Smoking Man yet but this is an extremely curious ebb and flow of traffic activity in the hinterlands of Asia. 

A Black Swan?  Massive IMF cover-up?  Something for The Fringe Division?

Read more here.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

September 2, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Chang & Sigman on Cost Recovery in Superfund Cases

Howard F. Chang (Pennsylvania) and Hilary Sigman (Rutgers--Economics) have posted
Economic theory developed in the prior literature indicates that under the joint and several liability imposed by the federal Superfund statute, the government should recover more of its costs of cleaning up contaminated sites than it would under nonjoint liability, and the amount recovered should increase with the number of defendants and with the independence among defendants in trial outcomes. We test these predictions empirically using data on outcomes in federal Superfund cases. Theory also suggests that this increase in the amount recovered may discourage the sale and redevelopment of potentially contaminated sites (or “brownfields”). We find the increase to be substantial, which suggests that this implicit tax on sales may be an important deterrent for parties contemplating brownfields redevelopment.
Matt Festa

September 2, 2010 in Environmental Law, Federal Government, Real Estate Transactions, Redevelopment, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

TTBOOK on National Parks

This week public radio show "To the Best of Our Knowledge" has a really interesting episode on National Parks.  The first segment is about the role "Buffalo Soldiers" played in managing national parks in the early 20th century - and why many African-Americans consciously avoid national parks, even today.

There's also an interesting interview with Mark Dowie, author of Conservation Refugees, a book about how land conservation and the creation of wilderness areas has been very much at the expense of indigenous peoples - and how some conservationists and indigenous organizations are working hard to change that.

Jamie Baker Roskie

September 2, 2010 in Environmentalism, Race | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Remains of Katrina...

I was in New Orleans within months of Katrina and the devastation was immense.  Unlike the Mississippi Gulf Coast where the storm surge flattened buildings, much of the damage in the New Orleans area was from rising flood waters that, once they receded, left behind buildings that remained standing but were filled with mold and other post-flood problems.

Today, those buildings are being reoccupied in a tragic way as this story discusses the large numbers of squatters who are inhabiting some of New Orleans worst abandoned structures:

Since then, an outreach team has systematically searched the city’s estimated 55,000 derelict structures, and found housing for more than 150 of the most frail squatters, including Handy.

From street-level, building-by-building surveys conducted over the past two years in 500 randomly chosen census blocks, UNITY estimates that between 3,000 and 6,000 people are part of this invisible homeless population.

With the five year anniversary of Katrina just passed, it's difficult to fully appreciate how the effects linger on.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

September 2, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Reason #212 for why...

...local land use laws should encourage on-street parking:

It, er, saves lives...

September 1, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Georgia Farms "Crop Mobbed"

From Christine McCauley, Executive Director of the Madison-Morgan Conservancy in Madison, Georgia:

What is a crop mob?  Well, we found out yesterday that it’s a group of self-proclaimed “landless farmer wannabes” who help local farmers farm – from planting to harvesting to building greenhouses, and everything in between.  They get their farming “fix” so to speak by helping other farmers, since they can’t farm for themselves.  

Yesterday, the Crop Mob came from Atlanta to Tate Tewksbury’s farm to help build two hoop houses (greenhouse-like structures used for growing crops).  To celebrate a fruitful morning of hard work, Mark Tewksbury (Tate’s father) was kind enough to host the Crop Mob at his farm just up the road.  Plow Point Farms (Walton County) brought freshly processed chicken for lunch and Suzie Cooker Catering complemented the chicken with delicious fresh butterbeans and pimento cheese sandwiches.  We were thrilled to be joined by our favorite local band, The Barefoot Hookers for a little music and dancing by the barn.  Mark Tewksbury led the kids (and CNN) in milking the cows, petting the horses, and showing us the rest of the farm.  All in all a really fun, productive, educational day, and one that has helped Tate prepare for the next growing season.

Two weekends ago Burge Organics was Crop Mobbed, too - there the Crop Mob helped farm manager Cory Musser harvest hundreds of pounds of squash and other veges.  Check out Crop Mob Atlanta.

"A University of Georgia study says Georgia's economy could be boosted if more people bought more food locally.  The study, conducted by the May Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, reports that if every Georgia household spent an additional $10 on locally-grown food, another $1.9 billion would be pumped into the state's coffers.  Agriculture in Georgia is a $11.6 billion industry with a $58 billion total economic impact, according to the study.” reprinted from the Associated Press.

I've heard of the slightly-less-hiply named "Farmer for a Day." It's all part of a movement to help us city dwellers get closer to, and learn more about, the source of our food.

Jamie Baker Roskie

September 1, 2010 in Agriculture, Georgia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Stein on Commercial Leasing in China

Gregory M. Stein (Tennessee) has posted Commercial Leasing in China: An Overview, Cornell Real Estate Law Review, Vol. 8, p. 26 (2010).  The abstract:

In an effort to understand how and why investors and other professionals are willing to participate in China’s unsettled commercial leasing market, I recently interviewed Chinese and Western experts in the real estate field, including lawyers, judges, developers, bankers, government officials, and academics. This Article summarizes my findings about China’s commercial leasing market. China’s new property law provides some insight into how China’s real estate market functions, but a full picture requires an understanding of how these professionals have operated in a legally uncertain environment, both before and after the new law became effective.

Matt Festa

August 31, 2010 in Comparative Land Use, Landlord-Tenant, Real Estate Transactions, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Illegal Spot Zoning

A judge in Charleston, SC, determined by order dated August 20, 2010, that the City of Charleston's attempt to rezone an area within its historic district to allow the construction of an otherwise aesthetically incompatible high-rise hotel constituted illegal spot zoning. Of note for preservation lawyers, the court recognized the standing of the Preservation Society of Charleston and the Historic Charleston Foundation, based on injuries they suffered as owners of preservation facade easements on properties adjacent to the proposed development site.  During trial, the preservation groups argued, among other injuries to their easement programs, that the City's zoning decision diminished the value of their ownership interests in the easements in proportion to the increased risk of loss to the area's historic setting and context, one of the factors employed by the U.S. Department of Interior in granting National Register status.

Ultimately, the court accepted the arguments of the preservation plaintiffs that the City's spot zoning amounted to an arbitrary and capricious decision.  The court reached its decision after noting multiple conflicts between the City's decision to rezone and provisions of the City's governing comprehensive plan that seeks to preserve the lower scale of the historic skyline.  For a copy of the court's order in PDF format, please email me at  For a copy of the controlling spot zoning test applied by the court, see Knowles v. City of Aiken, 407 S.E.2d 639 (S.C. 1991).

Will Cook, Charleston School of Law

August 31, 2010 in Aesthetic Regulation, Charleston, Property, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

MSU's Roskie Hall Draws Recreation-Minded Students

My Google alert on "Roskie" (okay, I have an ego) turned up a little gem today - an article from the Bozeman (Montana) Daily Chronicle about students moving into Roskie Hall (on the Montana State campus).  Roskie Hall is named after my great aunt, Gertrude Roskie, who was a home economics professor and dean of the professional schools until she died in a tragic car accident in the mid-1960s.

So what's the land use angle?  Fittingly (as the Roskies have always been interested in natural resources issues) Roskie Hall has something called the Outdoor Pursuits Floor.  According to the MSU campus walking tour literature, "This gives students an opportunity to become involved in outdoor recreational activities while learning more about ecological issues and the environment."  The students might be more interested in the skiing than the ecology, but it's wonderful that MSU is taking advantage of the natural draw of the ski resorts to create an educational experience.  If only I could figure out how to take my students on a skiing field trip in Georgia...

Jamie Baker Roskie

August 31, 2010 in Environmentalism, History, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"Let House Prices Fall"

That's what the Calculated Risk blog is calling for in this recent post

I agree with much of the analysis as artificially propping up house prices is like drinking a Red Bull instead of getting better sleep every night--it can work in the short term but the longer term crash is hard and bad.

Now if this call for letting prices fall does occur, then the effects on local land use policies will be interesting to follow.  More renovation, less new building.  Increased rehabs, decreased new construction. 

Though Planning Commission hearings may get shorter (less rezoning, fewer development plans and plats), one could envision Board of Zoning Adjustment hearings getting longer as more people seek variances and special exceptions to modify what they currently have. 

Need a larger house but can't afford one (or can't get another mortgage until you sell your current house)...then maybe a variance to allow you to add another bedroom or two by building into that setback could be your answer...

That's the scenario that falling house prices is likely to instigate.  Is that a good thing or not?

Whatever your answer, this is certainly an interesting time to be a land planning and development prof...

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

August 31, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 30, 2010

I'll be presenting at an upcoming US Green Building event here in Montgomery.  If you are in the area and would like to attend, I'll be glad to set it up.  Just email me at

More details here.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

August 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Vermont Law Announces Upcoming Takings Conference

From John Echeverria

On November 5, 2010, the 13th Annual Conference on Litigating Takings Challenges to Land Use and Environmental Regulations will be held at Berkeley Law in Berkeley, California.  This year’s conference, sponsored by Vermont Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, Berkeley Law and others, will feature a discussion of constitutional review of property rulings in the aftermath of Stop the Beach Renourishment, takings claims in the era of climate change, eminent domain practice five years after Kelo, takings questions arising from regulation of water use, and other topics. The program brochure and registration information are available here.

Jamie Baker Roskie


August 30, 2010 in Conferences, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)