Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mulvaney on Road Diets

No, that's not what Prof. Tim Mulvaney eats while traveling.  It's a land use concept that he discusses in a very interesting post on the Environmental Law Prof Blog.  An excerpt:

The neighborhood associations of Mistletoe Heights and Berkeley Place, both part of a historic preservation district in the city of Fort Worth, Texas, recently passed measures encouraging the city to consider a “road diet” for the four-lane road that transects these neighborhoods.  Planners Dan Burden and Peter Lagerway coined the phrase “road diet” in the 1990s to refer to the transportation planning technique of reallocating existing roadway space that is providing excessive carrying capacity in a manner that results in a reduction in the number of vehicle lanes.  For example, a road diet might involve the conversion of a four-lane, undivided road to a three lane road, whereby the land previously used for the fourth lane can be employed for other purposes, such as the creation of a two-way left turn lane and either defined bicycle lanes (image A below), wider sidewalks and landscaping (image B), or angled/parallel parking (image C), or some combination thereof. 

Check out the full post to see the illustrative diagrams and additional pictures and anaylsis.  I hadn't heard the term before, but the concept makes sense.

Matt Festa

May 6, 2012 in Density, Local Government, Pedestrian, Planning, Scholarship, Sustainability, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Schindler on the Future of Abandoned Big Box Stores

Sarah Schindler (Maine) has posted The Future of Abandoned Big Box Stores: Legal Solutions to the Legacies of Poor Planning Decisions, 83 Universtiy of Colorado Law Review 471 (2012).  The abstract:

Big box stores, the defining retail shopping location for the majority of American suburbs, are being abandoned at alarming rates, due in part to the economic downturn. These empty stores impose numerous negative externalities on the communities in which they are located, including blight, reduced property values, loss of tax revenue, environmental problems, and a decrease in social capital. While scholars have generated and critiqued prospective solutions to prevent abandonment of big box stores, this Article asserts that local zoning ordinances can alleviate the harms imposed by the thousands of existing, vacant big boxes. Because local governments control land use decisions and thus made deliberate determinations allowing big box development, this Article argues that those same local governments now have both an economic incentive and a civic responsibility to find alternative uses for these “ghostboxes.” With an eye toward sustainable development, the Article proposes and evaluates four possible alternative uses: retail reuse, adaptive reuse, demolition and redevelopment, and demolition and regreening. It then devises a framework and a series of metrics that local governments can use in deciding which of the possible solutions would be best suited for their communities. The Article concludes by considering issues of property acquisition and management.

Prof. Schindler's article addresses an important problem in communities across the U.S., and offers some innovative solutions.

Matt Festa

May 6, 2012 in Architecture, Development, Economic Development, Green Building, Local Government, Planning, Redevelopment, Scholarship, Suburbs, Sustainability, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Things are (Literally) Looking Up

Many thanks to Matt for inviting me back as a guest blogger!   If nothing else, a bit of blogging will provide me a productive distraction this month from grading spring semester exams.   Matt and the entire team of editors continue to do an outstanding job with the blog, and it’s absolutely one of my favorite morning reads.

I’ll use my first post to respond to Matt’s half-joking question:  why should a land use prof spend time thinking about the space above land?   After all, airspace rights receive scant attention in most land use casebooks.  Discussions of airspace rights might seem better suited for a course on aviation law.  Land use profs should stay down in the dirt, right?       

Not necessarily. Over the past few years, I've managed to convince myself that some of the most perplexing and unsettled land use conflicts of the day involve the oft-forgotten space just above the surface of land.  

For me, it all began while I was still practicing at a large law firm in Seattle.  Our wind energy developer client approached us with a puzzling question:  can a landowner be liable for stealing a neighbor’s wind?   The client and a competing developer had leased adjacent parcels for wind farms.  Our client wanted to install a wind turbine immediately upwind of one of the competitor’s turbine sites that was situated just on the other side of their common property boundary line.  If both turbines were installed, the turbulent “wake” from the upwind turbine would render the downwind turbine largely ineffective.  Only one of these two prime turbine sites could be profitably developed.  Under the law, who should prevail in this dispute over wind – the upwind party or the downwind party

While I was wrestling with that question, I stumbled upon the topic of solar access--a similar sort of airspace use conflict that involves solar energy devices instead of wind turbines.  Should landowners be liable when trees or buildings on their parcels shade a neighbor’s solar panels?  Laws Wyoming and New Mexico effectively give solar energy users strong legal protections against shading—“solar rights”—drawing analogies to water law’s prior appropriation doctrine.  But these analogies to water law are misguided, ignoring neighbors’ longstanding rights in the airspace above their land.  Better governance rules are needed for these conflicts that are capable of balancing policymakers’ general interest in promoting solar energy with the existing airspace rights of neighbors.

These wind and solar energy disputes over airspace are just two examples of how airspace is playing an increasingly crucial role in the sustainability movement.  Vertical construction and infill development that occupy additional airspace continue to be significant strategies for curbing suburban sprawl, and city-based tree planting programs are occupying more urban airspace as well.   At the same time, planners and sustainability advocates are pushing other strategies that require that more airspace be kept open.  For example, city-sponsored urban gardens need significant amounts of un-shaded sunlight to thrive, and even LEED certification standards award points for natural lighting designs that often rely on skylights, windows, and minimal shade.  When combined with the solar and wind energy uses of airspace mentioned above, these developments are collectively generating an unprecedented level of competition for scarce airspace.      

In summary, I think that airspace is very much a topic worth covering in a land use course.  There is reason to believe that the challenge of crafting policies that can fairly and efficiently govern airspace conflicts is only beginning and will continue to vex policymakers and legal scholars well into the future.

Troy Rule

May 2, 2012 in Clean Energy, Density, Development, Green Building, Planning, Property Rights, Smart Growth, Sustainability, Wind Energy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day

Hey everyone, it's February 29th, and that doesn't happen every year.  So Happy Leap Day! 

Some of you who follow the blog might recall that we like to do a holiday post now and then about the land use angles of the tradition-- like on Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Columbus Day, St. Patrick's Day, Veterans Day, Martin Luther King Day, and even Groundhog Day.  Today is the first chance I've had since relaunching the blog in 2009 to consider Leap Day, so it's time to add Feb. 29 to the list.  I must admit, however, that coming up with a land use angle for Feb. 29 looked like a bit of a challenge.  But I take pride in my skill at the game my students call "What Can't Festa Turn into a Land Use Story," so here goes:

First, it's an Irish tradition (supposedly), going back to the times of St. Patrick and St. Bridget, that on the quadrennial occurrence of Leap Day, the women get to make marriage proposals to the men (the legend is probably the progenitor of Sadie Hawkins Day).  In a traditional feudal society with a land-based economy and social structure, with primogeniture and entailments controlling the land, this social inversion could have a significant effect on how feudal power and family wealth get organized.  If it ever actually happened, that is . . . I'm skeptical, but the legend seems to have enough purchase to back the 2010 Amy Adams movie Leap Year

A second land use tie-in is related to the appellation "Leap" Day/Year.  LEAP is also an acronym that stands for "Land-use Effects on Amphibian Populations."  It's a multi-regional collaboration sponsored by the National Science Foundation.  Academic research programs were established at Missouri, Maine, and South Carolina.  And lest you think that I'm stretching here, many organizations today are using the occasion of Leap Day to celebrate Amphibians.  Amphibian Ark has rolled out an international campaign for Leap Day:

To coincide with Leap Day (February 29th) 2012, Amphibian Ark is launching a new international event, Leaping Ahead of Extinction: A celebration of good news for amphibians in 2012.

The event’s been timed to coincide with Leap Day (29th February) 2012, and will promote the great successes in the conservation of amphibians in captivity and in the wild. The focus will be on institutions that are managing amphibian rescue or supplementation programs, recommended either during an AArk conservation needs assessment, or by national governments or field experts.

Many zoos, wildlife and conservation organizations, and even Disney are also getting into the spirit with Leap Day events for amphibians.  Hopefully they won't get too jumpy in Calaveras County.

Once again, a special day with a land use angle!  Kind wishes to our amphibian friends, especially if a princess proposes to one.

Matt Festa

UPDATE: The "Leap Day" observance is broader than I had thought, and implicitly with the amphibian connection too-- I'm getting emails imploring me to take advantage of the Leap Day discounts from the excellent LeapFrog brand of learning toys that my son enjoys.  You know you've arrived as an American holiday when businessess try to commemorate it by selling stuff.  Like the old "life, liberty, and no money down!" type of sales promotions. 

UPDATE 2: For yet another land use angle, DOT Secretary Ray LaHood tells us that we should "Leap Into Safety" today by investigating our states' pipeline profiles. 

February 29, 2012 in Environmentalism, History, Humorous, Property, Sustainability, Wetlands | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Is Tea Sustainable?

There is a growing trend of Tea Party activism against the idea of sustainable energy. Whilst many claim to support environmental protection, Tea Partiers object to what they see as attempts by foreign international bodies, coordinating with local environmental groups and the government, to restrict private property rights. Concerned Tea party members often refer to the UN’s “Agenda 21” and what they see as its attempts to subordinate the rights of man to the needs of the environment. 

 Agenda 21 is comprehensive plan of action that calls for the integration of developmental and environmental concerns to fulfil basic needs and improve living standards for all. It has been adopted but never ratified in the United States. The Tea Party appears to be very concerned with Section I chapter 7 which refers to sustainable human settlements.  The stated goals are promoting housing for all and promoting sustainable construction, amongst other things. Even without considering the fact that “promoting” is a somewhat passive word that certainly does not evoke the idea that there will be “enforcement” of these objectives, the provision seems harmless.

  Yet the agitated tea party members object to the plan whose method of implementation includes broad concepts such as, education on patterns of consumption that do not completely deplete natural resources, one member sees the plan as “caging the humans whilst the animals run free.” Some tea party members see the non-binding UN resolution as merely a hoax to redistribute wealth. Others have gone so far as to liken the mandate of Agenda 21 to communism. Claiming it will result in government rationing of food and water a concept that they believe is at its core, Un-American.

Proponents of the movement use striking images of crowded houses and maps of the United States with nary a trace of the human population to demonstrate what they believe is the end goal of Agenda 21. Opponents to sustainable development claim, without evidence, that the program is already being implemented in states like New Jersey as part of a broader conspiracy theory, despite the fact that the sustainability in New Jersey does not indicate any ties to international or federal efforts to attain sustainability.

In New Jersey, Tea Partiers oppose the State’s proposed Strategic Plan and efforts by an organization called Sustainable New Jersey which offers municipalities monetary grants conditioned on certain actions, ranging from innocuous energy audits and waste reductions to contested sustainable community planning, collaborative land preservation programs, and carbon reduction targets. The Tea Party finds fault with Sustainable New Jersey’s mission to embrace social justice and fairness.  Among their chief complaints is a recommended ordinance reducing lot size and placing homes closer together.  Criticism varies from the “mild” allegation that such programs transfer America’s wealth to developing countries to more extreme charges that the government is clearing the way for insider businesses to exploit the land’s natural resources. The program is entirely voluntary and the New Jersey State government and Wal-Mart are its two largest benefactors. 

 Perhaps the concerns of the Tea Party would be more convincing were they grounded in pertinent law. If even some states choose to conform to international environmental standards the United States is, after all, based on a federal system that allows this. Even a cursory glance anywhere indicates that Agenda 21, which as an example demands huge new sources of material wealth to developing countries, has had little if any impact in the United States and the concept of sustainable development appears much less sinister than its opponents, who believe it is a cover up, would have you believe. In this world, a world of limited resources, it is probably a good idea for us all to be more considerate of our consumption patterns both in terms of resources and space as opposed to clinging to the idea that the world is trying to dupe us into giving up our land. 

Susan Kraham


February 15, 2012 in Comprehensive Plans, Planning, Politics, Property Rights, Smart Growth, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Owley on Exacted Conservation Easements and Enforcement Concerns

Jessica Owley (Buffalo) has posted Exacted Conservation Easements: Emerging Concerns with Enforcement, Probate & Property, Vol. 26, No. 1, p. 51, 2012.  The abstract:

Enforceability of exacted conservation easements is uncertain. Legislators, activists, and academics did not contemplate the proliferation of exacted conservation easements when enacting, advocating for, and writing about state conservation easement statutes. Despite this early oversight, exaction has become one of the most common ways that conservation easements come into being. Enforceability of exacted conservation easements is a threshold question of analysis for the continued use of the tool. Assessing the validity, and thus legal enforceability, of the exacted conservation easements involves examining the state’s conservation-easement statutes and state servitude law as well as the underlying permit scheme.

This article presents a roadmap for investigating the enforceability of exacted conservation easements and makes three suggestions for improvement. First, states should address exaction in their state conservation-easement acts. Second, drafters should increase the precision and detail of the agreements, acknowledging and explaining the nature of the exaction and the underlying permitting law. Third, to clarify the elements and uses of exacted conservation easements to both agencies and citizens, government agencies that use exacted conservation easements should promulgate regulations related to their use. Such regulations should include ensuring that permit issuers retain third-party right of enforcements. This will keep the permitting agency involved even if it is not the holder of the exacted conservation easement.

Uncertainty in enforceability of exacted conservation easements calls into question their use as a method of land conservation. Furthermore, the questionable validity of exacted conservation easements indicates that the permits relying upon such exactions could be ill advised and potentially in jeopardy.


This accessible piece builds on some of the concerns outlined in her recent Vermont Law Review piece, The Enforceability of Exacted Conservation Easements.

Matt Festa

January 26, 2012 in Conservation Easements, Environmental Law, Scholarship, Servitudes, State Government, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Olympics, Marathons, and Parades

028Last year I posted about the Houston Marathon, and my observations about how the route did a good job of taking the runners through a diverse set of neighborhoods, from older to newer, urban to suburban, residential to business.  This year I am even more impressed with another land use angle: the incredible amount of planning it must have taken to pull off the events in town this past weekend--

First, on Saturday Houston hosted the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.  The race route was designed to simulate the Marathon route planned for London, including a gratuitous hairpin turn.  Congrats to Meb and Flanagan!

On Sunday was the regular Marathon--on a different course--for the other 26,000 of us who didn't qualify for the Trials, plus over 250,000 volunteers and spectators.

And between Saturday and Monday, there were five separate Martin Luther King Day parades.

Planning for the street closures alone must have been an enormous task (check out the 11-page spreadsheet), let alone the interagency and public-private cooperation that's necessary for a weekend like this.  It requires organization, community involvement, and a great deal of technical planning expertise.  These things have huge impacts on traffic, transit, facilities, sanitation, sustainability, policing, budgets, and a great array of other local planning issues. 

024We often take having "big events" for granted in a big city, but as a former logistician I'm always impressed by all the behind-the-scenes work that it takes to pull these things off.  And as land use lawyers we should appreciate the very hard work and the professionalism that our colleagues in city planning, local government, and community organizations bring to improve civic life.

So, good job everyone, and please pass the ibuprofen.

Matt Festa 

January 17, 2012 in Downtown, Houston, Local Government, Planning, Sustainability, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Outka on the Energy-Land Use Nexus

Uma Outka (Kansas) has posted an essay called The Energy-Land Use Nexus, forthcoming in the Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law, 2012.  The abstract:

This Symposium Essay explores the contours of the “energy-land use nexus” – the rich set of interrelationships between land use and energy production and consumption. This underexplored nexus encapsulates barriers and opportunities as the trajectory of U.S. energy policy tilts away from fossil fuels. The Essay argues that the energy-land use nexus provides a useful frame for approaching policy to minimize points of conflict between energy goals on the one hand and land conservation on the other.

Matt Festa

January 9, 2012 in Clean Energy, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Oil & Gas, Scholarship, Sprawl, Sustainability, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Welcome Stephen Miller

Stephen-MillerThe New Year brings us to a new month to introduce a new guest blogger, Prof. Stephen Miller.  Stephen is an Associate Professor and Director of the Economic Development Clinic at the University of Idaho College of Law.  From his faculty bio:

Stephen R. Miller joined the faculty of the University of Idaho College of Law in 2011. Miller received his undergraduate degree from Brown University, and a master’s degree in city and regional planning from the University of California, Berkeley. In 2006, he graduated from the University of California, Hastings College of Law, where he was senior articles editor of the Constitutional Law Quarterly, and was a research assistant to Professor Joel Paul. Miller also worked for a land use and environmental law firm in San Francisco, California prior to joining the faculty. His research interests include economic development, sustainable development, land use, environmental law, and local government law.

Welcome aboard!  Stephen gives us an auspicious start to 2012.

Matt Festa


December 31, 2011 in Economic Development, Environmental Law, Local Government, Scholarship, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

ULI Report on What's Next in Urban Land Use

As we head into the New Year, The Urban Land Institute has also been looking ahead at the future of land use.  ULI recently issued its report What's Next? Real Estate in the New Economy.  From the press release:

A new economy is unfolding over the course of this decade, driven by an extraordinary convergence of demographic, financial, technological and environmental trends. Taken together, these trends will dramatically change urban planning, design and development through 2020, according to a new report from the Urban Land Institute (ULI).

What’s Next? Real Estate in the New Economy outlines how every aspect of living, working and connecting will change in major ways, driven in large part by the values, preferences and work ethic of Generation Y, the largest generation in American history. . . .

Among the report’s findings:

  • Technology will reshape work places. Office tenants will decrease space per employee, and new office environments will need to promote interaction and dialogue. Offices will be transforming into meeting places more than work places, with an emphasis on conference rooms, break areas and open configurations. Developers will craft attractive environments to attract young, talented workers.
  • Major companies will value space that enables innovation. They will continue to pay more for space in a global gateway served by a major international airport, or in 24-hour urban centers. Hard-to-reach suburban work places will be less in demand.
  • The influx of Generation Y, now in their teens through early thirties, will change housing demand. They are comfortable with smaller homes and will happily trade living space for an easier commute and better lifestyle. They will drive up the number of single households and prompt a surge in demand for rentals, causing rents to escalate.
  • For most people, finances will still be constrained, leading to more shared housing and multi-generational households. Immigration will support that trend, as many immigrants come from places where it is common for extended families to share housing. This may be the one group that continues to drive demand for large, suburban homes.
  • The senior population will grow fastest, but financial constraints could limit demand for adult housing developments. Many will age in place or move in with relatives to conserve money. Developers may want to recast retirement communities into amenity-laden “age friendly” residences. Homes near hospitals and medical offices will be popular, especially if integrated into mixed-use neighborhoods with shops, restaurants and services.
  • Energy and infrastructure take on greater importance. Businesses cannot afford to have their network connections down, and more will consider self-generated power or onsite generator capacity. Developers, owners and investors are realizing that the slightly higher costs of energy- and water-saving technologies can pay for themselves quickly, creating more marketable and valuable assets. Ignoring sustainability issues speeds property obsolescence.

You can download the full report here

Matt Festa

December 31, 2011 in Architecture, Clean Energy, Density, Development, Downtown, Environmentalism, Finance, Green Building, Housing, Planning, Property, Real Estate Transactions, Redevelopment, Scholarship, Smart Growth, Suburbs, Sustainability, Transportation, Urbanism, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rural Sustainability Report

From the Sustainable Communities folks at EPA:

New Partnership for Sustainable Communities Report:
Supporting Sustainable Rural Communities

The HUD-DOT-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities and the USDA has
just released Supporting Sustainable Rural Communities, a report that
discusses how the four agencies are collaborating to support rural
communities. This publication highlights how small towns and rural
places across the country are using federal resources to strengthen
their economies, provide better quality of life to residents, and build
on local assets such as traditional main streets, agricultural lands,
and natural resources.

The report includes sections on how HUD, DOT, EPA, and USDA programs
support environmentally and economically sustainable growth in rural
places; performance measures rural communities can use to target their
investments; and 12 case studies of rural communities using federal
resources to achieve their development and economic goals. It also
outlines steps the Partnership for Sustainable Communities is pursuing
to support small towns and rural places.

To read the report, please visit this website.

Jamie Baker Roskie

November 18, 2011 in Agriculture, Community Economic Development, Development, Economic Development, Federal Government, Planning, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Nolon on Land Use for Energy Conservation and Sustainable Development

John R. Nolon (Pace) has posted Land Use for Energy Conservation and Sustainable Development: A New Path Toward Climate Change Mitigation. The abstract:

Land use tools and techniques have impressive potential to reduce energy consumption, improve the economy, and mitigate climate change. This article explores the little understood influence of local land use decision-making on energy conservation and sustainable development and how it can mitigate climate change if properly assisted by the federal and state governments. The construction and use of buildings combined with extensive vehicular travel throughout the nation’s human settlements consume large amounts of energy, and much of that consumption is highly inefficient. By enforcing and enhancing energy codes, encouraging the use of combined heat and power and district energy systems, properly orienting and commissioning buildings, incorporating renewable energy resources, and promoting transit and other methods of reducing vehicle miles travelled, local land use law’s potential to achieve energy conservation and sustainable development can be unlocked. These techniques can be organized at the neighborhood level and aggregated by adopting local Energy Conservation Zoning Districts in neighborhoods where significant energy conservation can be achieved. The article proposes federal and state policies, combining features of both the Coastal Zone Management Act and the Enterprise Zone initiative, that can facilitate local land use initiatives that will shape human settlements and control the built environment as a new path toward energy efficiency and climate change mitigation.

In the footnotes, Prof. Nolon notes that this is part of a trilogy:

FN.1. This article is one of three that examine how local land use law that can be used as an effective strategy to mitigate climate change. See John R. Nolon, The Land Use Stabilization Wedge Strategy: Shifting Gound to Mitigate Climate Change, 34 WM. & MARY ENVTL. L. & POLY REV. 1 (2009) [hereinafter Land Use Stablization Wedge] and John R. Nolon, Mitigating Climate Change through Biological Sequestration: Open Space Law Redux, 31 STAN. ENVTL. L.J. (forthcoming Winter 2011) [hereinafter Open Space Law Redux].

This is a great set of articles for anyone interested in the subject from one of the leaders in land use and local environmental law.

Matt Festa

November 7, 2011 in Climate, Coastal Regulation, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Green Building, Local Government, Planning, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ostrow on Land Law Federalism

Ashira Ostrow (Hofstra) has posted Land Law Federalism, 61 Emory L.J. ___ (forthcoming 2012). A must-read, this foundational work explores the theoretical framework for appropriate federal intervention in the state/local-dominated area of land use regulation. Here's the abstract:

In modern society, capital, information and resources pass seamlessly across increasingly porous jurisdictional boundaries; land does not. Perhaps because of its immobility, the dominant descriptive and normative account of land use law is premised upon local control. Yet, land exhibits a unique duality. Each parcel is at once absolutely fixed in location but inextricably linked to a complex array of interconnected systems, natural and man-made. Ecosystems spanning vast geographic areas sustain human life; interstate highways, railways and airports physically connect remote areas; networks of buildings, homes, offices and factories, create communities and provide the physical context in which most human interaction takes place.

Given the traditional commitment to localism, scholars and policymakers often reflexively dismiss the potential for an increased federal role in land use law. Yet, modern land use law already involves a significant federal dimension resulting, in part, from the enactment of federal statutes that have varying degrees of preemptive effect on local authority. Moreover, this Article maintains that federal intervention in land use law is warranted where the cumulative impact of local land use decisions interferes with national regulatory objectives (such as developing nationwide energy or telecommunications infrastructure).

Finally, this Article advances an interjurisdictional framework for federal land law that harnesses (a) the capacity of the federal government, with its distance from local politics and economic pressures, to coordinate land use on a national scale and (b) the capacity of local officials, who have detailed knowledge of the land and are politically accountable to the local community, to implement land use policies.

Jim K.


October 11, 2011 in Climate, Development, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Globalism, Green Building, Inclusionary Zoning, Local Government, NIMBY, Planning, Scholarship, Smart Growth, Sprawl, Subdivision Regulations, Sustainability, Transportation, Wetlands, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hirokawa on Driving Local Governments to Watershed Governance

Keith Hirokawa (Albany) has posted Driving Local Governments to Watershed Governance. The abstract:

This article examines two recent developments in watershed protection. First, the growth of ecosystem services research has reframed the manner in which value accrues in natural resources. At the intersection of economics and ecology, the study of ecosystem services has supported the attribution of economic value to ecosystem processes. Second, local governments are participating quite intentionally in watershed management by identifying with particular watersheds, particular watershed features, and particular watershed functions, in ways that other entities lack the institutional capacity to do. These developments are important for watershed protection in ways not previously seen: even if they leave political boundaries intact, when local governments protect watershed functionality, they are acting to preserve natural capital, and natural capital is geographically situated in ways that defy the sanctity of political boundaries.

This article addresses the importance of driving local governments to watershed planning and management by introducing the perspective of ecosystem and watershed services. Part II of this article discusses the complexity of functional watersheds and identifies watershed features that can be categorized in ecosystem services terms as the provisioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting services. By discussing watershed services, this part identifies the valuable ecosystem services in watersheds and the objectives of watershed investments. Part II furthermore explores the nature of watershed planning in the context of existing regulatory, property, and sovereignty ownership schemes for the purpose of identifying the level at which local governments are held to account for watershed investments. This part explores the notion that local governments are so grounded relative to watersheds that the task of identifying and satisfying local needs and parochial perspectives – often thought to impede sound environmental planning – should be considered a primary driver in a collaborative and developing process. Part III of this article discusses the manner in which the ecosystem services perspective illuminates particular local governance needs.

There must be something in the water in Albany, because Keith is maintaining a frenetic pace in posting interesting new articles.

Matt Festa

October 4, 2011 in Environmental Law, Local Government, Scholarship, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Owley on the Enforceability of Exacted Conservation Easements

Jessica Owley (Buffalo), one of our excellent erstwhile guest bloggers, has posted The Enforceability of Exacted Conservation Easements, forthcoming in 36 Vermont Law Review (2011). The abstract:

The use of exacted conservation easements is widespread. Yet, the study of the implications of their use has been minimal. Conservation easements are nonpossessory interests in land restricting a landowner’s ability to use her land in an otherwise permissible way, with the goal of yielding a conservation benefit. Exacted conservation easements arise in permitting contexts where, in exchange for a government benefit, landowners either create conservation easements on their own property or arrange for conservation easements on other land.

To explore the concern associated with the enforceability of exacted conservation easements in a concrete way, this article examines exacted conservation easements in California, demonstrating that despite their frequent use in the state, their enforceability is uncertain. The three California statutes governing conservation easements limit the ability to exact conservation easements. California caselaw, although thin, indicates that courts may be willing to uphold exacted conservation easements even when they conflict with the state statutes. This examination of the California situation highlights California-specific concerns while providing a framework for examining exacted conservation easements in other states.

This article illustrates not only challenges of enforceability that arise with exacted conservation easements, but uncertainty in their fundamental validity and concerns about public accountability. This exploration illustrates that enforceability is not straightforward. This raises significant concerns about using exacted conservation easements to promote conservation goals, calling into question specifically the use of conservation easements as exactions.

This piece adds to Jessica's series of articles that explore the limits of conservation easements from an environmental perspective.

Matt Festa

October 4, 2011 in Conservation Easements, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Local Government, Property Rights, Scholarship, Servitudes, State Government, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Salkin & Lavine on Regional Foodsheds

Patricia E. Salkin (Albany) and Amy Lavine (Albany) have posted Regional Foodsheds: Are Our Local Zoning and Land Use Regulations Healthy?, Fordham Environmental Law Journal, Vol. XXII (2011). The abstract:

Governments at all levels have become increasingly interested in fostering healthy eating habits and sustainable agricultural production. Promoting access to locally grown produce is an important part of many policy goals seeking to address these concerns, and the concept of regional foodsheds has risen in popularity as one method to achieve these goals. Research indicates that community based food systems have the potential to address food security, public health, social justice, and ecological health. Food production and consumption patterns are influenced by a range of federal, state, and municipal policies, but meaningful change in regional food system policies is likely to start with state and local governments, which can take proactive measures to strengthen their regional foodsheds through a variety of land use planning and regulatory actions. This Article focuses on how existing land use plans and regulations can promote healthier and more sustainable communities through the foodshed movement. In particular, this Article discusses specific land use strategies that can be implemented in urban and suburban settings to facilitate local and regional food production and distribution that go beyond farmland preservation strategies and examine, among other things, smaller-scale community gardens, residential agricultural uses and farmers markets.

Matt Festa

September 14, 2011 in Agriculture, Comprehensive Plans, Environmentalism, Food, Local Government, Scholarship, Suburbs, Sustainability, Urbanism, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hirokawa & Gottlieb on Sustainable Habitat Restoration

Keith H. Hirokawa (Albany) and Charles Gottlieb have posted Sustainable Habitat Restoration: Fish, Farms, and Ecosystem Services. The abstract:

The conversion of estuarine marshes and floodplains to agricultural uses through diking, draining, and filling has left little adequate salmon habitat and, as a result, has been a critical factor in the decline of salmon populations. Current efforts to restore salmon by reestablishing ecosystem functionality. In particular, it has become more common to include dam and dike breaches as feasible solutions. Of course, there is a cost involved in habitat restoration, even if it is not an obvious environmental cost.

This article examines the dialogue on salmon valuation by contrasting the historical view of salmon-as-commodity with insights from "ecosystem services." This emerging trend in ecological economics will play a critical role in justifying restoration projects and formulating sustainability strategies; ecosystem services valuation is showing that investments in natural capital can provide substantial returns. This article also provides a case study of the Smith Island Habitat Restoration Project in Snohomish County, Washington. Smith Island, which was converted to farmland a century ago, exhibits enormous potential value for habitat restoration and begs for an inclusive process that considers the voices for economic, human, and ecosystem well-being. The resolution of the Smith Island controversy provides an insightful example of how a sustainability framework can be useful in showing that restoration strategies can offer substantial benefits to other lands uses and interests.

Matt Festa


September 2, 2011 in Agriculture, Coastal Regulation, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Scholarship, Sustainability, Wetlands | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Craig on Defining Riparian Rights as 'Property' through Takings Litigation

Robin Kundis Craig (Florida State) has posted Defining Riparian Rights as 'Property' Through Takings Litigation: Is There a Property Right to Environmental Quality?, forthcoming in Environmental Law. The abstract:

The U.S. Constitution’s prohibitions on governments taking private property without compensation have always operated most clearly in the context of real property. In contrast, arguments that these takings restrictions should apply to water and water rights throw courts for a loop. A fundamental problem for takings decisions in the water rights context is the fact that both the status of water rights as property and the defining elements of any property rights that exist are contested.

This Article argues that takings litigation can become a productive occasion for defining the status and nature of water rights, especially, increasingly, in the riparianism context. It first provides a quick review of basic takings jurisprudence, emphasizing how the constitutional prohibitions on government takings apply to property use rights, such as easements. It then examines the potential for takings litigation to help define the nature of water rights in general, focusing on relatively recent litigation involving water rights connected with cattle grazing. The Article ends by discussing a series of cases involving riparian water rights and claims that those rights entitle the owners to certain basic environmental quality standards, especially with respect to water quality. It concludes that takings jurisprudence in the riparian rights context may yet align private property rights and environmental protection, providing a more focused - and potentially more predictable/less balancing - private cause of action than nuisance for certain kinds of environmental degradation.

Matt Festa

August 26, 2011 in Agriculture, Environmental Law, Property Rights, Scholarship, Servitudes, Sustainability, Takings, Water | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sean Nolon on Engaging Citizens in Siting Wind Turbines

Sean Nolon (Vermont) has posted Negotiating the Wind: A Framework to Engage Citizens in Siting Wind Turbines, Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 12, p. 327, 2011. The abstract:

Electricity generated from wind turbines must be a central part of any renewable energy regime. The build out of any wind energy infrastructure policy relies on facility siting decisions at the local and state level. Local opposition in some areas has created an implementation impasse that is best addressed from a systematic perspective, recognizing that citizens play a central role in making significant land use decisions. Through this article, the author explores the nature of citizen opposition to locally unwanted land uses like wind turbines and proposes a suite of collaborative mechanisms to address concerns through effective citizen engagement in policy development and during local siting decisions. The author proposes a federal structure that provides incentives to encourage collaborative governance at the state and local level. The framework leaves state siting structures in place and provides resources to improve decision-making processes and the outcomes. By involving citizens effectively at the policy and siting level, the hope is that wind turbine siting decisions will be more effective. Instead of encouraging divisions among the levels of government, this model builds on their strengths and supports their weaknesses.

Matt Festa

August 15, 2011 in Clean Energy, Environmental Law, Federal Government, Local Government, Planning, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability, Wind Energy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

America's Top 10 Walkable Cities, 2011

Or so says WalkScore, according to this article America's Ten Most Walkable Cities of 2011, by Jason Notte in The Street.  A lot of the usual suspects are on the list, which you can see by clicking over to the story.  Also interesting is the description of Walk Score:

The people behind Walk Score, a Seattle-based service that rates the convenience and transit access of 10,000 neighborhoods in 2,500 cities, have spent the past four years judging the distance between residents and amenities and ranking places based on the results. That "walkability" led to the first set of rankings in 2008 and the use of those rankings by more than 10,000 cities, civic organizations and real estate groups in the years that followed.

Once something becomes measurable, then you have numers that start to play a role in policy debates, budgets, and markets.  I suspect we'll see even more use of metrics and quantitative analysis in areas like livability, sustainability, and so on in the years to come. 

I'm not familiar with their methodology, but if you go to the Walk Score website you can check out the walkability score for your own address.  Mine: 68 ("somewhat walkable").

Thanks to Mubaraka Saifee for the pointer.

Matt Festa


August 7, 2011 in Budgeting, Chicago, Density, Local Government, New Urbanism, New York, Pedestrian, Planning, Sustainability, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)