Land use regulations that protect public health have a long history. In 1189, England required stone walls (walls that divide two adjoining properties) to be three feet thick and sixteen feet tall. By 1297, front yards were required to be cleared and maintained, and in the fifteenth century all roofs in urban areas were required to be stone, lead, or tile, for fire protection. Public safety was the basis for a 1692 Boston ordinance restricting slaughterhouses, currier houses, and tallow chandler houses to less populous areas of the city.
HISTORY OF LAND USE PLANNING
America's first cities reflected the land planning traditions of the early settlers. The Spanish "Law of the Indies" required central plazas and parks in St. Augustine, Florida, established in 1565. English town planning influenced Sir Francis Nicholson's 1694 radial spoke design for Annapolis, Maryland, and James Ogelthorpe's 1733 neighborhood square plan for Savannah, Georgia. There were twenty-four park squares, with forty families per square in Savannah's grid. Twenty-three of these squares remain, and the original city layout is considered one of America's most lovely and livable.
By the mid-1800s, New York City's crowded, unhealthy environment lacked adequate light and air. In 1858, landscape architects Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vance laid out Central Park in response to the need for open space. The Public Health movement of the 1860s prompted New York and San Francisco to regulate tenements and slaughterhouses, and to separate incompatible land uses to benefit public health. In 1869 Olmstead and Vaux created a design for Riverside, Illinois, an English garden-style city using curved, tree-lined streets, deep setbacks, and single family detached houses in exclusively residential neighborhoods. This design became the standard suburban streetscape.
At the turn of the twentieth century the City Beautiful movement used parks and public open spaces as centerpieces of the future city as exemplified by the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, commonly known as the "White City." After the First World War, the movement turned to legal and technical standards for planning. What began as common-sense measures for preserving public safety evolved to include aesthetic, economic, traffic, noise, social, and cultural considerations.
THE PURPOSE OF PLANNING AND ZONING
Daniel Hudson Burnham (1846–1912), the creator of the city plan of Chicago (1909), wrote: "Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty." Burnham was at the forefront of the City Planning movement, the intent of which was to plan for the future. This was done by the creation of zones with separate land use regulations. In some communities, a plan was the basis for zoning. In most communities, zoning itself was the plan.
A comprehensive plan is the basis for current American land use planning. Such a plan must consider the community's vision for future development; the policies, goals, principles, and standards upon which the development of the community are based; the proposed location, extent, and intensity of future land usage; existing and anticipated future housing needs; the location and types of transportation required; the location of public and private utilities; and the location of educational, recreational, and cultural facilities including libraries, hospitals, and fire and police stations. It is also important to determine how a community's natural resources will be utilized.
After a comprehensive plan is in place, zoning is adopted that conforms to the plan. Zoning is the legal tool used to promote the public health, safety, and welfare of a community. Land is typically divided into zones for different land uses, such as commercial, industrial, and residential. Typically
THE EFFECTS OF LAND USE PLANNING ON ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Delaware County was the fastest-growing county in Ohio in the late 1990s. With this growth came increased concerns related to environmental stress. The frequency of road rage, for example, increased due to heavy traffic on what were formerly quiet country roads. A detailed environmental health survey was performed in 1998, which confirmed the concerns of public health professionals that more parks, green space, and wildlife habitat were needed; and that county development, zoning, and land annexation were out of control. The Delaware County Board of Health began working to create environmental health programs that would coordinate with land use planning to reduce the environmental stress. The Delaware County Regional Planning Commission worked with communities to identify an environmentally sound vision for the county, and has assisted them in meeting their goals.
Sustainable, livable cities, like Savannah, Georgia, and Portland, Oregon, have many land use elements in common. Among these are:
- Central public open spaces (parks, squares, or water) in every neighborhood
- A variety of architectural styles, with compatible elements
- Retention of history through restoration of structures
- Downtown or village centers with intimate, human scale and mixed uses
- Commercial districts with greenbelts, controlled traffic access points, and sign controls
- Residential areas with traffic-calming features, low speed limits, and separation of residential uses
- Industrial parks with wide roads for heavy trucks and landscaped greenbelts
- Preserved natural features (natural topography, wetlands, floodplains, and water)
- Preserved agriculture areas
PLANNING RETURNS TO ITS ROOTS
The built environment can affect personal health in ways we are only beginning to measure. Entering the twenty-first century, there was a renewed interest in land use planning and environmental health. Authors like Randall Arendt and Peter Katz have espoused open-space community designs for rural and urban areas. A century after the City Beautiful movement, Americans are once again interested in the quality of life in their communities and in linking land use planning with environmental health.
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