Monday, July 17, 2017

John Nolon on Contemporary Issues in Teaching Land Use: Question 2: Teaching the 1916 NYC Zoning Ordinance and the Standard State Zoning Enabling Act

[While updating the recently released ninth edition to the casebook Land Use and Sustainable Development Law, the four co-authors engaged in numerous spirited discussions about teaching land use. We wanted to open this discussion to others to get their comments and thoughts as we continue to rethink the teaching of this important subject. Each month on this blog, we will introduce a new topic relevant to teaching land use. The topics will loosely follow our casebook chapters, beginning with Chapter 1. We'll explore each topic through four blog posts, one from each of us. We hope you find the discussion enriching, and encourage you to contribute to the conversation in the comments section below or off-line.  -- John NolonPatricia SalkinStephen Miller, & Jonathan Rosenbloom.]

Contemporary Issues in Teaching Land Use

Question 2:  Teaching the 1916 NYC Zoning Ordinance and the Standard State Zoning Enabling Act

by John Nolon

The New York City zoning ordinance, the Standard Zoning Enabling Act, and the zoning laws in the village of Euclid and in the city of Cambridge cases, described in Chapter 1 of our casebook, provide an opportunity to discuss the basics of statutory law in the U.S.  It takes a while in my classes for students to realize that the federal government had nothing to do with regulating land use when the Hoover Commission “promulgated” the SZEA. How did New York City get its power to adopt zoning in 1916, six years before the SZEA was distributed to the states, and a few more years before New York and other states actually delegated land use authority to local governments. New York is a charter city and received discrete authority from the state legislature to adopt zoning, creating a strategic precedent for the federal Commission and the SZEA. What is a charter city and what is the nature of a local government, with or without a charter? 

If the federal government and the Commission didn’t have the power to enable state legislatures to delegate zoning authority to municipalities, where does that power reside?  This provides the first chance during the course to discuss the state police power.  What is that power, how broad is it, and how does its breadth affect the scope of power that local governments are delegated  to serve the public health, safety, welfare, and morals through zoning? 

What really are these other municipalities: a village in Ohio and a city in Massachusetts?  How were charter cities, statutory cities, and villages (later we encounter counties) created and what is their function?  Why would the state legislature decide to delegate this incredible power to hundreds of local governments, which, by the way, have other functions as instrumentalities of the state, such as taxing property and providing public services and infrastructure—functions that could not be well served without the power to zone. 

Most students have participated in campaigns to lobby Congress, write to POTUS, or descend on their state lawmakers to argue one cause or another, but most have a foggy view of the distinctions among the three different legislatures whose powers are implicated in Chapter 1: Congress, state legislatures, and local legislatures: all of which adopt laws.  As Jonathan says, what a great opportunity to show students that they have to find and read the relevant law to represent land use clients and, most of the time, that law is local and varies greatly from one place, like Euclid, to another, like Cambridge.

The  ninth edition of Land Use and Sustainable Development Law, is now available for the 2017-18 academic year.  Feel free to contact any of the co-authors if you would like to discuss the book--or just teaching land use law in general.

Land Use Book Image

Previous posts in the Contemporary Issues in Teaching Land Use series

Question 1: Teaching the Crossroads Where Nuisance & Zoning Meet [Rosenbloom | Nolon | Salkin | Miller]

Question 2:  Teaching the 1916 NYC Zoning Ordinance and the Standard State Zoning Enabling Act [Rosenbloom | Nolon | Salkin | Miller]

| Permalink