I am delighted to have received a copy of Sara Bronin’s article, The Quiet Revolution Revived: Sustainable Design, Land Use Regulation, and the States, published in November of last year by the Minnesota Law Review (93 Minnesota Law Review 231-73 (2008)).
Those of you who attended Sara’s workshop on the topic know that the article begins with an important observation: Contemporary land use regulations have failed to keep up with recent developments in design. Builders looking to save water and energy, employ recycled materials, and improve indoor air quality often encounter obstacles from local land use ordinances. Consider, for example, the clash between solar panels and aesthetic concerns or the tension between new energy-efficient windows and historic preservation. Much of the piece tours the reader through these conflicts and illustrates how progress in sustainable design will depend upon an improved regulatory approach.
In the published version, Sara has added a theme exemplified by the title: The Quiet Revolution Revived. Sara builds upon a 1971 book The Quiet Revolution in Land Use Control by Fred Bosselman and David Callies, in which these scholars predicted a growing role for state governments in land use regulation. Sara explains why tradition and local officials’ fierce claims to autonomy prevented this revolution from materializing. Yet she argues that the new emphasis on sustainable design may prove to be this subject’s shot heard ‘round the world. She is entirely convincing in her argument that national regulation of land use is unlikely and regional cooperation very difficult to accomplish. Thus she asserts that regulation at the state level is the best hope for environmentally sensitive land use controls. Particularly useful are her examples from Connecticut, California, and Arizona of how states can guide localities in a “green” direction without trampling on local autonomy. Whether the law will evolve in this direction, of course, remains to be seen. But her concluding note that we plan to repair or replace 75% of our building stock over the next two decades, and that sustainable design can cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30% make it imperative that serious attention continue to be devoted to this topic. Congratulations Sara!