In chapter 9 of John Levy’s Contemporary Urban Planning, he describes the use and purpose of various “land -use controls”. The first, which is much less common than the second, is the use of subdivision regulations. Planning by use of subdivision simply means that a municipality can divide parts of its land into smaller pieces for sale, as long as the development fits within the view of the municipality. Though the developmental process is performed by a private party, they are responsible for providing utilities such as roads, sewage lines, traffic lights etc. that the municipality can regulate under the police power.
Anyone who has driven by a housing development, something almost inescapable in New Jersey, knows that they emit an aura of sterility. In these developments, the houses either all look the same, or are one of maybe five to ten house types in the community. The communities are boring and lack character. However, just as Levy states, subdivision regulation is “an old form of land-use control”.
The second major type of land-use control that Levy describes, one very common today, is the use of zoning ordinances. Zoning allows a municipality to essentially perform the same goals as subdivision regulation and create a community which fits their view, without having to have first owned the land. This form of land-use control allows a planner/planning board to describe what type of development they want in a certain area, exlcuding all others to build. Zoning is considered to be an extension of police power, and is seen as beneficial to the health of a community. However, just as Levy describes, through the opinions of Jane Jacobs, zoning can “produce an urban environment that is sterile”.
This raises an awesome point when it comes to zoning. So often do people believe that a zoning ordinance is the best form of planning. Yes it may be the easiest, and at times, very cost effective, but when it comes to the aura of the town and how people feel about being there and living there, it is a very different story.
- Many municipalities will use planning to implement low-income housing; however, this has led to, in many cases, class segregation. Being that society’s poorest are not white, at times, it has also led to racial segregation. This is not healthy for a community, nor is it healthy for its people. On paper it may look nice when a new “low- income development” has a recreation area, a community center, a pool, etc but in reality it often leads to communities that are physically split, containing two sub-communities which do not often mix. I have witnessed this personally being that my home (Lawrenceville NJ) is very similar to this hypothetical town which I have mentioned. Through this type of zoning, many people from the wealthier part of town have false stereotypes and stigmas about the poorest of the community simply because they haven’t been exposed to one another and vice versa.
- As Levy stated, Zoning is DULL. Pretty much any type of restriction or regulation on a grand scale can lead to the sense of sterility. The key, I think, to planning is to make it appear that no planning has in fact been done, while still achieving the municipalities goals and conforming to the restrictions and regulations of the town.