Saturday, June 23, 2007

Introduction to Land Control Mechanisms and the Dynamics of Politics

In order to understand what a zoning ordinance is, we must look at the different land control mechanisms.

I've written a paper on Planned Unit Development for my Plan 201 class last semester. I have inserted a portion from that paper below:

"Land uses in a parcel of land are regulated by a land control system. It is hinged on the principle that gives the State the authority to monitor and impose restrictions upon private rights of its citizens. Police power is exercised by the State to promote order and safety, health, morals, and general welfare of the public. It is “reasonable control over persons and property”[1].

Mechanisms used for control over land developments are the Master Plan, Zoning Ordinances, and Subdivision Regulations. The Master Plan is a policy framework of the physical development of the subject area. It depicts physical characteristics and socio-economic profile, and gives recommendations to address the needs of that community. The Master Plan is a useful tool used by administrators and policy makers in deciding how an area is to be developed, affording them a broad picture of the present situations as well as projections in a given span of time.

The Master Plan serves as a guide from which two other control mechanisms are based—the zoning ordinance and the subdivision regulations. Zoning ordinances govern land use and placement of buildings. Different parts of the community are segregated and land use is prescribed to the resulting sub-areas. The type of land use of a given property is determined by its location and relative to the land use of the adjacent properties.

Zoning ordinances are imposed to ensure the compatibility of land uses within an area. Incongruities may result to negative effects such as depreciation of market value, traffic congestion, and hazardous living conditions. Setting up bars and restaurants that serve alcoholic drinks near academic institutions, locating cemeteries beside sources of drinking water, and residences within a volcano’s danger zone are some examples of incompatible land uses that zoning ordinances aim to prevent.

Subdivision regulations, on the other hand, controls “the way in which land is divided and subsequently made ready for building development.”[2] The provisions set are promulgated by a regulatory board, such the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board in the Philippines. These set minimum design standards, procedures for application, and requirements for the registration of different residential developments."

[1] Online Britannica Concise Encyclopedia

[2] page 24, Planned Unit Development by Robert W. Burchell


We will be discussing more about zoning ordinances in our class in our next meetings, and as our lessons progress I will also be sharing them with you.

For now, we will be defining a Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) as a set of policies describing a local government unit's (LGU) strategies of how physical development in their jurisdiction will take place. But a CLUP is just a plan and as all plans go, they are just guidelines. A CLUP has no real teeth unless a Zoning Ordinance is enacted. A Zoning Ordinance is a legal instrument that ensures the enforceability of the CLUP.

A CLUP is composed of technical, political, and social guidelines. The technical component is always the foundation upon which all CLUPs are built. Why? The political component is self-serving and the social component might serve only a specific group. Math and science, on the other hand, are unbiased and do not lean to a particular sector.

The way land is utilized is an arbitrary choice, depends on who makes the decisions, and on what end the stakeholders aim to accomplish. The best land use isn't always the highest land use. The converse is true.

What is the difference between highest use of a land and its best use. For example, the planning board determines that a certain land is more suitable for residential development. However, the mayor insists that he/ she intends to use the land for commercial development. More buildings and more businesses, more taxes for the town. Best use is what is more politically and socially viable, while highest use is geared towards maximizing land for more profitable ends.

More on the dynamics of political and economic entities in land use planning coming in the next meetings.

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