Monday, February 19, 2018

John Nolon on Contemporary Issues in Teaching Land Use: Question 7: How Do You Teach the Contract Transformation in Land Use Regulation?

[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, and we are now up to Chapter 3. 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 Nolon, Patricia Salkin, Stephen Miller, & Jonathan Rosenbloom.]

Contemporary Issues in Teaching Land Use

Question 7:  How Do You Teach the Contract Transformation in Land Use Regulation?

by John Nolon

I cover portions of Chapter 4 in five sessions, and struggle, like Stephen, to teach the basics as well as how they build on one another. The crescendo that he creates is extraordinarily exciting, fun to teach, and a great challenge for his students.  I am considering travelling his steeper path the next time I teach, rather than the narrower one that my practice-oriented approach has followed. My “crescendos,” as it were, are much smaller in scale and less dramatic in scope than his.  There is some merit, however, in the gentler rise and fall of the road my students and I travel. One point of these blogs regarding our Land Use casebook is to present these choices for you to consider.

The traditional practice-related topics covered in Chapter 4 include the subdivision of land, site plan approval, cluster development, innovative techniques such as clustering and planned unit developments, exactions, impact fees, access to infrastructure, vested rights, and developer agreements.  In New York, all of the land use board actions that these techniques involve require environmental impact review, with its separate forms and regulations.

One small crescendo in my approach is to explore how the different land use boards relate to each other when multiple approvals are required.  Another is the relationship between land use approval and local capital budgets, state and federal transportation funding, and water and sewer districts.  Yet another is the relationship between the subdivision and site plan regulatory standards that local boards enforce as administrative agencies and the separate and specific mandate of the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which makes such boards the stewards of the environment and requires them to master and enforce 35 pages of regulations issued by the Commissioner of Environmental Conservation of the State.  Still another is the interplay between the forms required by the State for environmental review and the local forms crafted to solicit information needed for site plan or subdivision approval.

Traversing these small hills and keeping track of where we have been and are going has occupied my approach to Chapter 4 for many years.  I see a steeper trajectory and potentially better view from the top in Stephen’s.  He presents a valuable framework for assembling and understanding the aggregated techniques that go into large-scale urban projects. This has significant appeal. His dramatic crescendo and my smaller assents represent just one of the dozens of teaching dilemmas presented by so relevant, complex, varied, and textured a subject as Land Use Law.


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]

Question 3:  Teaching the Economics of Land Use Regulation and Ethics [ Salkin | Nolon | Miller | Rosenbloom]

Question 4:  Teaching about the Comprehensive Land Use Plan [Salkin | Nolon | Miller | Rosenbloom] 

Question 5:  How to Create a Practical Context for Learning? [Nolon | Miller | Rosenbloom | Salkin]

Question 6:  Introducing the Common Law and the Power of the Pen [Salkin | Miller | Rosenbloom | Nolon]

Question 7:  How to Teach the Contract Transformation in Land Use Regulation?  [Miller | Nolon | Rosenbloom | Salkin]

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