Ramsin G. Canon


Can the development agreement become a tool for community-based planning? Development agreements and related land use planning instruments have steadily increased in popularity over the last few decades. Standard zoning regimes have proven to be too rigid and inflexible to accommodate the evolving nature of large-scale, and particularly mixed-use, developments. The bilateral nature of development agreements also allows cities and counties to effectively compete for development dollars by crafting incentives. However, this type of ad-hoc planning can run afoul of the reserved powers doctrine and its progeny, and can face vehement political and social opposition. This type of opposition results in process inefficiencies, in the form of unnecessary risk, deleterious delay, and sometimes-disastrous financial losses. This paper considers the various jurisprudential and political challenges facing these types of planning instruments, and offers progressive alternatives that could both allow for flexibility, and better incorporate principles of community empowerment into the planning process. Elements of charettes, community-based research, mutual gains negotiation, and transparency are all considered as elements of a flexible, but still accountable, planning process less susceptible to judicial challenge and less likely to spark political opposition.