Publication Title

George Washington Law Review


growth management laws, NIMBY, not in my back yard

Document Type



The “smart growth” movement has had a significant influence on land use regulation over the past few decades, and promises to offer the antidote to suburban sprawl. But states and local governments that once enthusiastically touted smart growth legislation are beginning to confront unforeseen obstacles and unintended consequences resulting from their new policies.

This Article explores the impact of growth management acts on private property rights, noting the inevitable and growing conflicts between the two sides that legislatures and courts are now being asked to sort out. It assesses the problems with creating truly intelligent urban growth, ranging from political motivations to inconsistent judicial determinations to NIMBYs to constitutional takings jurisprudence.

This Article predicts dramatically increased land use litigation as the likely result of smart growth legislation in the coming decades unless legislatures and courts enact sensible reforms today. If we want “smart growth” to live up to its name, we must remove it from local politics, get serious about consistently enforcing urban growth boundaries or priority funding areas, and even consider reforming America’s individualistic notion of private property rights as we know it.



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