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Article Summary

Staley, Samuel and Lynn Scarlett. 1997. "Market Oriented Planning: Principles and Tools." Los Angeles: Reason Public Policy Institute.

The Reason Public Policy Institute promotes market solutions over government regulation. (See

In this article, Staley and Scarlett propose a system of market-oriented planning that would be more conducive to rapid land development and would use a common law, nuisance-based standard in those instances in which regulation was needed. They argue that traditional land-use planning slows down the land development process with unnecessary bureaucratic delays, that it favors special interests, and is incapable of adapting sufficiently rapidly to societys changing land use needs.

Current planning and zoning practices include the present the following obstacles:

  • Development approval processes often involve some combination of bargaining, legislative action, appeals, and litigation, and can be time-consuming, inefficient, and costly both for the private developer and for the municipality.
  • Planning processes sometimes result precisely in those conditions planners had hoped to avoid, such as unaffordable housing and traffic congestion.
  • Problems often extend beyond jurisdictional boundaries, making it difficult to find comprehensive solutions.
  • Planners visions of future land use needs have, in the past, proven woefully incorrect; (e.g. planners did not anticipate societal changes that have spatial effects, two-income households, the digital revolution and just-in-time inventory strategies)
  • Politicization of land use decision-making impinges on private property rights and nuisance protections through the power of legislatures and special interest groups.

Staley and Scarlett offer the following prescriptions for local land use policy.

  • Land use decisions should be made at the local level and should be protected from state or federal interference.
  • Development should not be impeded unless the government or an individual directly and tangibly affected requests a hearing based on potential negative impacts, which must be tangible and measurable.
  • The government should be given a time limit within which to take action or to review an application.
  • Site plan review should be rapid and efficient, and should have clearly defined criteria.
  • Zoning districts should be mixed-use or should have broadly defined use categories to give greater latitude to developers.
  • The developer should pay for all infrastructure associated with the development, but should be able to choose what type of infrastructure is appropriate.
  • Land use planning should not attempt to achieve a substantive end goal, but rather should establish an efficient process to guide market development.