The Mis/Alignments of Exurban Land Use Controls with the Preferences of Varied Development Interest Groups

By Brian Edward Johnson.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

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Given the growth of exurbia in recent decades, two explanations have emerged to explain this expansion. Studies have claimed that low-density residential development is occurring because this is what the population prefers. Conversely, other research has shown that in many places local land use controls exclusively require low-density development, prohibiting higher densities, irrespective of market desire. Extant studies, based largely in suburban contexts, oversimplify varied local development interests by collapsing the diverse opinions of planners, developers, realtors, and residents into one voice, rather than dissecting the preferences of each group. This paper, then, examines the misalignments and alignments of land use controls with local preferences by separately analyzing the opinions of the diverse groups involved in the development process. Porter County, Indiana, is the field site because this Chicago exurb has recently undergone a sea change in land use control, a response to rapid recent housing construction. In-depth interviews were conducted with 102 subjects, including planners, developers, realtors, and residents. Developers and realtors argued that the unified development ordinance’s mandate for large, costly, and maintenance-intensive properties was at odds with local preference. On the contrary, planners and most residents felt that the unified development ordinance matched local preference because the ordinance slowed construction and limited development to exclusively expensive properties. By thoroughly analyzing what each development interest group considers local preference, this research better identifies how such preferences match and/or do not match current land use controls in exurbia.

Keywords: Exurbia, Exurban Development, Urban Planning, Urban Development, North America, Midwest

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp.27-46. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 741.526KB).

Dr. Brian Edward Johnson

Department of Geography and Environment, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

My research on contemporary exurban settlement investigates the structures that control land use at the urban fringe through zoning and covenants. I am interested in the alignment of land use controls with local preference. Additionally in exurbia, I also study the relative strengths of cost, accessibility, and nature in exurban migration motivations. My research is informed by literature on metropolitan form, migration, culture, and planning.