Land Use


The term “Smart Growth” has become common parlance in the world of land use planning and zoning.  There is no one definition of “Smart Growth”.  The term is used frequently and in various contexts.  Nonetheless, generally speaking, Smart Growth is associated with the establishment of pedestrian-friendly communities that encourage residents and neighbors to shop and to interact in a community with mixed-use development.  Advocates of “Smart Growth” argue that the suburbs built after World War II, which depended on access to highways and brought about the reliance on automobiles to commute to and from a city or metropolitan area for work, are no longer sustainable.  The argument is that Smart Growth is sustainable growth because it does not depend on highways and roadways to sustain a standard of living, the economy and for employment.

In a series of articles and reports issued by the Institute for Social Research at The University of Michigan examining the future of suburban communities, Smart Growth is taken a step further.  See “Negative Environmental Impacts of American Suburban Sprawl and the Environmental Argument for New Urbanism”, 2002, by Anna Islam, Brandon Lynn, and Bridget Maher, at  It is incorporated into a new development concept for the sprawling suburbs called “New Urbanism”.  “New Urbanism” is described as the kind of growth that focuses on mixed land use development and zoning, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, efficient use of natural resources, limited automobile dependency, preservation of open spaces and reinvestment in existing communities, referred to as “In-Fill” development.  Smart Growth principles are a necessary component of New Urbanism.  Moreover, New Urbanism is described as looking to the past for inspiration and taking 18th and 19th Century American and European towns as models for modern consideration in order to reshape communities and avoid suburban sprawl.

These concepts will certainly provide the basis for debate as suburban communities around the New York metropolitan area examine their zoning and land use development plans.  The need to create affordable housing opportunities, lower real estate tax burdens on existing homeowners and commercial owners, recycle properties now in foreclosure and sustain new commercial development and job creation, will surely lead to a discussion of the proper land use patterns and policies to achieve sustainable communities in the years ahead.  Creative legal solutions to deal with these issues must be mutually examined by developers and municipalities in order to best serve the public interest.  For land use attorneys, beyond the nuts and bolts of every day practice, these issues demand our focus and creative thinking.

** Land use policy and zoning law will always be one of the priority issues for municipal government on Long Island, and in the metropolitan New York area.  As part of the continuing debate over the appropriate scope of land use regulation, and in response to our blog “Beyond Smart Growth: New Urbanism,” we are pleased offer the perspective and comments of Clifford Sondock, President of the Land Use Institute, based in Jericho, New York. When you open this post, Mr. Sondock’s comments will be posted below:

Posted by Michael Sahn