Tensions Between Competing Public Concerns


Land use decisions have become increasingly complex. When making these decisions, cities and towns throughout the nation must weigh the often inconsistent needs of natural resource protection, provision of affordable housing, residential and commercial development, fiscal policy, public education, and public safety.


As the Mount Laurel case classically demonstrated, the lack of low- and moderate-income housing is a problem that affects large sectors of the population all across America. Yet affordable housing is often perceived as conflicting with other local, regional, or statewide goals, including the need to preserve water supplies, protect wetlands and open space, and maintain relatively low densities in rural and suburban areas.


A major focus of the perceived tension is between, on one hand, the concerns of local governments—which have traditionally played a primary or exclusive role in land use planning, zoning, subdivision control, and other environmental regulation—and, on the other, regional and statewide interests, most notably with regard to affordable housing, as in Mount Laurel.

[*PG434]Reconciling the Competing Public Concerns


Conflicts between affordable housing and environmental protection will persist until statewide and local policies for environmental protection are integrated into statewide goals for affordable housing. The vehicle for functionally integrating these competing public concerns must include an active, cooperative planning process involving state and local governments.

Comprehensive Planning


Attempts to address the affordable housing issue will be most effective if they consider a comprehensive range of planning and policy options. This Principle recognizes the unavoidable connections among the critical issues that face cities and towns, and rejects the notion that any one of those issues should be addressed without first accounting for the impact this will have upon other concerns of local, regional or statewide importance.

The Requirement of a Comprehensive Land Use Plan


Nationally, legislative efforts to increase the supply of low- and moderate-income housing have been most successful where municipalities are required to prepare and implement comprehensive land use plans. Although Massachusetts, Mississippi, and a few other states do not currently require that land use decisions conform to larger planning goals, for many years the national trend has favored mandatory comprehensive plans at the local level, with formal coordination of those plans with regional or statewide policy objectives.

Coherent Planning Principles, Not Site-by-Site Decisionmaking


The fundamental logic of comprehensive planning is that it allows local governments to base operating decisions on a coherent and inclusive range of planning options, not on an ad hoc, site-by-site process. In a planning system, increased production and rehabilitation of [*PG435]low- and moderate-income housing is integrated with other important goals—open space and natural resource protection, for example. Similarly, open space protection is not allowed to override the need for affordable housing.

A Framework of Critical Elements in Planning


Comprehensive planning processes typically address a series of defined critical elements that are to be analyzed and integrated into the plan. The plan establishes the framework through which cities and towns identify and develop short- and long-range goals, and frameworks for implementing those goals in concordance with overall municipal, regional and statewide policies. These fundamental elements include affordable housing, transportation systems, private and public economic concerns, open space, natural resource management, public safety, and recreation.



The comprehensive plan should guide the adoption of regulatory and non-regulatory programs that affect matters that are the subject of the plan. Regulatory and non-regulatory programs therefore should be consistent with the plan. They also should support predictable and equitable processes for managing and reconciling potentially competing elements of the plan.

The consensus represented by these observations and principles, which emerged in rough form over the course of the Symposium proceedings, has subsequently been edited and affirmed in these terms by all Symposium presenters. These observations and principles can offer useful and necessary guidance to those who are committed to resolving the ongoing challenges of modern land use management.[*PG436]BLANK PAGE

?? ??