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John R. Nolon, Distinguished Professor of Law at Pace University, wrote a Blog about Low Carbon Land Use in "Law Professor Blogs Network"

02/16/2018

John R. Nolon, Distinguished Professor of Law at Pace University, wrote a Blog about Low Carbon Land Use in "Law Professor Blogs Network"

Law Professor Blogs Network: "Low Carbon Land Use: Paris, Pittsburgh, and the IPCC"

IPCC: Post 4: Shaping Human Settlements: A Series 

by John R. Nolon Distinguished Professor of Law at Pace University

From "Law Professor Blogs Network:"

The concept that municipal governments can physically shape their development is not well understood. The uniform, single-use land use pattern originally created by zoning designed communities to accomplish discrete objectives such as protecting child health and safety, controlling traffic congestion, and providing housing and commercial space to meet market demands.  As time progressed, the environmental and economic harm caused by the resultant urban patterns led many local governments to reshape their settlements.

The 1972 Petaluma Plan discussed in the previous post rebalanced the future housing stock of the City through zoning reform that required an even mix of single-family and multi-family housing. The local legislature changed its land use law to achieve more environmentally friendly design, protect open space, create a greenbelt around the community, provide for a variety of housing choices, evenly distribute housing between the east and west sides of the City, and to service growth efficiently.  Only in retrospect do we recognize these strategies as mitigation measures that reduce per capita energy consumption and protect the sequestering environment.

Petaluma’s reforms were not novel, even in 1972. In 1937, for example, the local legislature in Bridgeport, Connecticut amended its zoning ordinance to allow small commercial developments along major arterials in single-family neighborhoods in order to reduce downtown traffic congestion. As the population increased in Bridgeport’s single-family zones, more and more residents drove to the central business district to shop for goods and services. The commercial uses allowed in these new small districts included hardware, grocery, and drug stores, bake shops, and beauty parlors.  Permitting these developments reduced downtown congestion but also vehicle trips and vehicle miles travelled, one of the largest contributors to CO2 emissions.  This climate change mitigation effect was not on the minds of Bridgeport’s legislators at the time, but the zoning technique they created can be used today to reduce carbon emissions from vehicle travel.

A decade after Bridgeport’s innovation, the Village of Tarrytown, New York, adopted a floating zone to provide affordable garden apartments to attract workers needed for employers whose businesses were essential to stabilize the Village’s real property tax base.  The 1947 zoning ordinance created a floating garden apartment zone, but it did not specify where the dwelling units would be permitted. This was left to private-market developers who could petition the Village legislature for a zoning map amendment, allowing them to build garden apartments. Significant landscaping was required to buffer the effect of multi-family housing in single-family neighborhoods where the new housing type was permitted. By zoning for workforce housing close to jobs and requiring significant landscaping, the Village created a mechanism that communities today can use to mitigate climate change.

Read the full article.