Posted by: Patricia Salkin | October 11, 2008

A Legal Guide to Urban and Sustainable Development for Planners, Developers and Architects

A famous often quoted line by Justice Brennan, “If a policeman must know the Constitution, then why not a planner?” is a perfect lead-in to a wonderful new book by Daniel K. Sloane, Doris Goldstein and W. Andrew Gowder, Jr. (with contributions by other notable lawyers and planners) on urban and sustainable development.  With a forward by the “father” of the new urbanist movement, Andres Duany, this book is a terrific resource for professionals desiring to incorporate the concepts promoted by the Congress for the New Urbanism into their projects and communities where they work. 




As the preface explains, the book is a “guide to the laws and legal theories that are specific to urbanism, describing their basis and history…their current state and the direction of their development.”  Pictures and graphics are used liberally throughout the book to demonstrate key concepts discussed.  The book begins with an explanation of how urbanist law is different from traditional planning law, followed by a discussion with examples of sustainable urbanism. Chapter three offers a roadmap of how to get these types of projects built and code changed under existing zoning system by looking at incremental ways in which communities can better accommodate urbanism within the existing regulatory scheme. The next chapter jumps into methods for changing the existing approached to zoning through the design and adoption of form-based codes and the model  “Smartcode” developed by Andres Duany and his team. Chapter five recommends a range of methods and approaches that have been effectively employed to overcome impediments in the subdivision, plat-review and site-plan processes.  The underlying tension that may be created when combining new urbanism with private governance, or common-interest communities, is the focus of the next chapter. A number of case studies are provided offering practitioners excellent examples of how urbanist concepts can be effectively incorporated into various governance documents. In chapter seven, special building types to create walkable communities (e.g., mixed-use buildings, town houses, granny flats and other accessory buildings, side yard houses, etc.) are examined with consideration of the unique legal considerations that might arise, included ownership issues. Getting to the heart of the legal matter, Chapter 8 focuses on litigation in support of urbanism. Zone changes, entitlements, design-review issues interpretation and enforcement of covenants, liability, and turnover of common property are discussed, with examples highlighting these issues along with the political process. This is followed by a discussion of federal policy, initiatives and alliances that have arisen in response to the urbanism movement. The book concludes with a chapter on strategies for change. The U.S. Grenn Building Council’s LEED standards are addressed along with other strategies that urbanists can employ to lead inclusive social change in private communities. An appendix offers an approach to “greening” projects or communities.


In short, this book is an excellent resource and one that should be read and used as a reference for project design and implementation.  The book is published by Wiley & Sons and is available at: or at Amazon at: . 

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