Control Land Use
   in Your Community
mountain scene

Replacing the growth machine with a sustainability ethic

"We didn't move here to watch this beautiful community replaced by another one we didn't want!"

Land is a resource that sustains us all. And how land is used has a huge impact on the quality-of-life in the community. However, without controls on land use, individuals and organizations will consume and overdevelop the land to maximize their own private gain at the expense of everyone else's quality-of-life.

Your opposition is the GROWTH MACHINE. The Growth Machine includes elite real estate and development interests. The term was coined by Harvey Molotch, Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Molotch's best known publication on the Growth Machine is Urban Fortunes (John R. Logan and Harvey L. Molotch, University of California Press, 1987).

The Growth Machine is composed of , "...the 'rentier' class - those centering around developers, realtors, and banks who have an interest in the exchange of land and property. Rentiers are supported by a number of auxiliary players, including the media, universities, utilities, professional sports franchises, chambers of commerce, and the like." (The Urban Growth Machine: Critical Reflections Two Decades Later, Andrew E. G. Jonas and David Wilson, The State University of New York Press, 1999, p 5.) Because it has so much money, the Growth Machine wields great influence over local government officials and the media.

The Growth Machine wants land to be used in ways that maximize the economic returns to its members. The Growth Machine does not care that its plans will lower the quality-of-life for current citizens or make the community less sustainable. In economic terms, relinquishing control of land use to the free market (Growth Machine) will not allocate land (a resource) in ways that benefit overall society. In other words, control of land use by the market constitutes a 'market failure.'

Further, citizens cannot depend on our government officials to control land use for our common benefit because these officials protect the rights of property owners (i.e., Growth Machine) over the rights of current residents. In short, government bodies which oversee land use decisions are aristocratic institutions (run by and for the priviledged few), not democratic (serving the common interests of the community). The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is an excellent source of information about aristocratic and corporate control over our governments.

The only way to ensure that land will be used for the benefit of current residents is for citizens to assert democratic control over land use decisions.

To control development and land consumption in your community,
you will need these four tools:

Connect with other activists in your community

Be knowledgeable about growth issues

Educate decision makers and the media

Actively participate in your government

Creating worthy places for our great, great grandchildren

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