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Land-Use Control

Private Land-use Restrictions, The Master Plan And Official Map, Planned Communities: Read The Fine Print

Activities such as ZONING, the regulation of the development of real estate, and city planning.

Land-use controls have been a part of Western civilization since the Roman Empire in 450 B.C. promulgated regulations concerning setback lines of buildings from boundaries and for distances between trees and boundaries. Regulations on the use of land existed in colonial America, but the demand for public regulation of real estate development did not become significant until the twentieth century. As the United States shifted from a rural to an urban society, city governments sought to gain control over the location of industry, commerce, and housing. New York City adopted the first comprehensive zoning ordinance in 1916. By the 1930s zoning laws had been adopted in most urban areas.

The development of master plans and zoning regulations became an accepted part of urban life. Following WORLD WAR II, housing patterns shifted from the inner city to suburbia. The suburbanization of the United States led to the creation of discrete housing developments. Growing suburban communities began imposing regulations on the amount and type of housing that would be allowed within their municipal boundaries. Beginning in the 1970s, as urban sprawl created problems that crossed municipal borders, attention turned to regional planning. Concerns about the environment and historic preservation led to further regulation of land use.

Federal, state, and local governments, to varying degrees, regulate growth and development through statutory law. Nevertheless, a majority of controls on land stem from actions of private developers and government units. The use of land can be affected by judicial determinations that frequently arise in one of three situations: (1) suits brought by one neighbor against another, (2) suits brought by a public official against a neighboring landowner on behalf of the public at large, and (3) suits involving individuals who share ownership of a particular parcel of land.

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