- Regional plans have basic flaws that prevent successful implementation. In most states, plans have little to no legal force, they can be relatively easily changed, and they must be implemented parcel-by-parcel, project-by-project. Add on top of that the fact that these plans, whose lifespan could be measured in decades, are supposed to weather political change and roller coaster funding cycles, and you can be nearly assured of their failure.
When was the last time you saw a property owner involved in a planning meeting that didn't specifically address the owner and the owner's property? The public, property owners in particular, have grown apathetic to planning. They know that a few years down the road "something" will change and any decision made today will simply be decided again later.
The lack of certainty and predictability regional plans offer is driving many property owners to find their own solutions. People today are educated and empowered as never before. Anyone with internet access can find and communicate information about issues that affect them. Satellite imagery and simple GIS capabilities are now available to nearly everyone with the ability to push a button.
In suburban Washington, D.C., property owners are forming groups to sell en masse to developers attracted to redevelopment opportunities. Not far from Atlanta, property owners created their own land use plan covering over 43,000 acres. Outside of Chicago, farmers pursue specific plans together to ease acquisition of development entitlements. Landowners and land trusts around the country are working together to protect open space and critical natural habitats and resources privately.
What is bringing these people together? With the recent resurgence of private property rights interests, one would think property owners would hold out for their own self-interest, all others be damned. In the case of land conservation, development and redevelopment, however, people are realizing that parcel and political lines fragment economic and environmental opportunities. Property owners are working together to increase their properties' value and to protect the environment.
This new involvement should be strongly encouraged. The system that discourages property owner participation must be changed. Property owners are in the best position to create, implement and manage land uses regionally. In many cases, they have lived in their area for generations and witnessed first hand the changes and deeds that made their community what it is.
Privatizing Regional Planning
Planetizen has an interesting new focus piece this week that argues for the privatization of regional planning. Here's an excerpt: