A new report by the Brookings Institution examines land use regulations around the country, classifying regimes employed by local government into one of four orders -- Traditional, Exclusion, Wild Wild Texas, and Reform -- with each order further broken down into several families.
Howard County falls into the "Containment Lite" family of the Reform order. Jurisdictions in the Reform order, Brookings says, "use tools beyond comprehensive plans, zoning, and subdivision regulation to manage and control land use." Among these additional tools are the use of containment (target locations for development, like Priority Funding Areas or urban growth boundaries), infrastructure regulation, impact fees and building permit caps.
From the study:
As suggested by the title, "Containment Lite" means a moderate level of containment among the Reform families...But it also involves a more modest commitment to other growth management tools and a more active growth control agenda...permissive high-density zoning is less common...The nuanced difference between growth management and growth control, according to the study, is that management emphasizes infrastructure regulation (APFOs and such) while control makes use of permit caps.
Since metropolitan areas were studied as a whole, some of the differences between us and our neighbors are washed out of the analysis. Howard County, it should be noted, makes use of just about every tool mentioned. We have an APFO. We have permit caps. We have a (state mandated) Priority Funding Area. We have zoning. We have comprehensive plans. We have density limits. And we have impact fees.
And, still, we have problems.
Judging from the study's findings about the impact of land use regulations, however, that we have problems managing growth shouldn't come as a surprise.
[L]ocal regulations shape the built form and character of cities, towns, counties, and entire regions. Zoning, Comprehensive plans, infrastructure finance, urban containment, building moratoriums, and permit caps can foster low density development and metropolitan decentralization or promote a more compact development pattern. They can also directly affect the socioeconomic composition of the local populace by opening or closing doors for renters and low-income people. Together, local land use regulations and hosing programs can produce regional equity or inequity, safeguard or undermine environmental quality and public healthy, and create a more efficient or inefficient patter of public services.In short, land use regulations can be good or bad. Or, as the study more succinctly says, "it depends."