Planning Politics and the Public Interest
Land-use policy is at the center of suburban political economies because everything has to happen somewhere but nothing happens by itself. In Suburb, Royce Hanson explores how well a century of strategic land-use decisions served the public interest in Montgomery County, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C. Transformed from a rural hinterland into the home a million people and a half-million jobs, Montgomery County built a national reputation for innovation in land use policy—including inclusive zoning, linking zoning to master plans, preservation of farmland and open space, growth management, and transit-oriented development.
A pervasive theme of Suburb involves the struggle for influence over land use policy between two virtual suburban republics. Developers, their business allies, and sympathetic officials sought a virtuous cycle of market-guided growth in which land was a commodity and residents were customers who voted with their feet. Homeowners, environmentalists, and their allies saw themselves as citizens and stakeholders with moral claims on the way development occurred and made their wishes known at the ballot box. In a book that will be of particular interest to planning practitioners, attorneys, builders, and civic activists, Hanson evaluates how well the development pattern produced by decades of planning decisions served the public interest.