ENV 820b () / 2023-2024

Land Use Law and Environmental Planning

Credits: 3

Spring 2024: M,W, 4:00-5:20, Kroon G01


This course explores the regulation by local governments of land uses in urban, rural, and suburban areas and the effect of development on the natural environment. The course helps students understand how the environment can be protected through effective regulation at the local level. It provides an introduction to federal, state, regional, and local laws and programs that promote watershed protection and to the laws that delegate to local governments primary responsibility for decision-making in the land use field. Theories of federalism, regionalism, states’ rights, and localism are studied, as are the cases that provide a foundation in regulatory takings and the legitimate scope of land use regulation. The history of the delegation of planning and land use authority to local governments is traced, leading to an examination of local land use practices that relate to human settlement patterns, water resources, low impact development, watershed protection, alternatives to Euclidean zoning, brownfields redevelopment, resiliency and adaptation in response to sea-level rise and climate change. Students engage in empirical research to identify, catalogue, and evaluate innovative local laws that successfully protect environmental functions and natural resources, and the manner in which towns incorporate climate change into their planning and regulations. Nearby watersheds are used as a context for the students’ understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of local planning and regulation. Attention is paid, in detail, to how the development of the land adversely affects natural resources and how these impacts can be mitigated through local planning and subsequent adoption of environmental and other regulations designed to promote sustainable development in a climate-changing world.