Problems of National Land Use Planning

G. Graham Waite, The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law


A national land use plan presents a problem common to land use plans generally. How much of the initial costs of implementing the plan should be paid by government, and how much by the private persons immediately affected? The question is answered by a combination of the legislative intention that costs be distributed a certain way, and the constitutional mandate as interpreted by the courts that certain costs be borne by government. The protagonists in the resolution of the problem usually are private land owners on the one hand and government on the other, and the problem is basically unchanged whether the government is local, state or federal.5 A national land use plan that includes population redistribution as an explicit goal, however, adds a new dimension. Should local communities, as distinct from private landowners, be compensated for being required either to accept an influx of population, industry and the like or to forego efforts to achieve it? And, if the population redistribution is not simply to spread the spoilation of nature evenly over the nation, a national land use plan requires with heightened urgency what local planners have long recognizedmethods of preserving open space and freezing development of other areas at moderate cost to the government. Apart from compensation questions, there is the difficulty of incorporating detailed knowledge of local land use patterns into the national plan without allowing the national goals to be stifled by excessive localism. It is with these problems that this article is concerned.