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Engineering Earth pp 2053-2065 | Cite as

Zoning as a Form of Social Engineering

  • Bobby M. Wilson
  • Seth Appiah-Opoku
Chapter

Abstract

Zoning affects almost every aspect of life in the U.S. It helps determine where and how homes, factories, parks, hospitals, schools, roads, sewers and other essential services are located in our communities. Strong market forces, as well as individual and societal values play a major role in decisions regarding types and intensities of land uses. For instance, developers, preservationists, homeowners, renters, businesses, planners and politicians have respectable but different perspectives concerning the use of land. In this sense, zoning mirrors the clash of values in our society. This chapter discusses the history and evolution of zoning as a land use regulatory tool in the U.S. The nature, purpose, legal basis and the limitations of zoning as practiced in the U.S. are also discussed. Zoning involves the division of a community into districts and determining what can and cannot be built on the parcels of land within each district. Historically the districts or zones took the shape of a pyramid in structure and this is typically known as the Euclidean zoning. A major criticism of Euclidean zoning was its inflexibility. In response, local governments have increasingly enacted sophisticated zoning tools designed to resolve rigid and conflicting interests in land use. More flexible zoning methods like overlay zones, floating zones, conditional and performance zoning have evolved to support more sustainable communities. The chapter concludes with a discussion of specific case examples that underline the fact that zoning is a form of social engineering designed to ensure both flexibility and predictability in land use decisions in the U.S.

Keywords

Property Owner Urban Renewal Affordable Housing Social Engineering Performance Zoning 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA

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