TOWN BUILDERS AND THEIR HOSTS: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN DEVELOPERS AND GOVERNMENT IN THE DEVELOPMENT APPROVAL PROCESS

WILLIAM GUTHRIE HENGST, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

At the fringe of urban areas, farmland and other underutilized lands are transformed into new additions to the urban landscape through an interactive process between private developers and governments. In America, the process usually is initiated by private entrepreneurs. This study of the development approval process has two primary concerns: (1) the impact of the scale of a project upon the approval process; and (2) the historic changes, since 1951, to that process. Large-scale projects have distinct economic, physical, and social advantages over smaller projects, yet encounter more difficulties and setbacks while securing government's approval because of their potential impacts upon the host town. Over the last twenty years, a "quiet revolution in land use control" has expanded government's regulatory purview over development to include higher levels of government, particularly the States. The impacts of scale and historic change upon the approval process are examined through case histories of development in three distinct settings: Lower Bucks County, Pennsylvania, between 1951 and 1954; Galloway Township, New Jersey, between 1979 and 1981; and the Hackensack Meadowlands District, in New Jersey, during the 1970s. In each setting, particular attention is paid to the residents' response, political repercussions, and development outcomes for proposals from the time they first are presented to their hosts until they are approved. The largest projects, Levittown in Lower Bucks, and Smithville, in Galloway, generated more citizen resistance than smaller projects. The Galloway history demonstrates, however, that other variables besides scale--the level of trust between developer and host, the project's location, timing and the nature of the proposal, and the presence or absence of neighbors--also influence outcomes. In the Meadowlands District, presence of the State Meadowlands Commission, with powers to pre-empt local zoning, enabled more intensive residential development to occur than would have otherwise. The State's involvement in regulating New Jersey's coastal zone and Pinelands has complicated the approval process and altered the outcomes for some proposals in Galloway, where State and local policies did not always agree. Several modifications to the development approval system are recommended.

Subject Area

Urban planning|Area planning & development

Recommended Citation

HENGST, WILLIAM GUTHRIE, "TOWN BUILDERS AND THEIR HOSTS: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN DEVELOPERS AND GOVERNMENT IN THE DEVELOPMENT APPROVAL PROCESS" (1985). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8515383.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI8515383

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