Americans witnessing the bulldozing of their country’s pastures, farmlands, and sensitive habitats to erect suburban housing tracts and commercial centers have come to realize that the remaining open land may be too precious to waste. Residential and commercial development is no longer quickly embraced to stimulate economic progress and prosperity. Municipalities are learning that development often extracts a price — sometimes the loss of community character and local charm, sometimes tax revenues that fall short of increased expenditures, and sometimes just plain ugliness. Responding to the new reality, many community officials have initiated unilateral ordinances regulating the development of open spaces to protect the residents’ way of life. Too often, however, most land-use policies are easily circumvented, leading to a rash of unintended outcomes that more than neutralize their derived benefits. Long accustomed to vast open spaces and the allure of large suburban lots and dwellings, the citizens do not readily embrace restrictions on where and how they may live. This article investigates sprawl by examining the human desires and economic realities that drive it and its development. More important, it examines the benefits of commonly used land regulations and their unintended consequences.



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