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The Concept of Planning

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August 7, 2011 by wcobserver

“When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.” – John M. Richardson, Jr. (1938 – ) Professor Emeritus in American University’s International Development Program at the School of International Service

At first glance the idea of regulating the social and economic character of a town may seem counter intuitive – “It’s my land I’ll do whatever I want with it”. But the concept of planned communities has existed since humans corralled their animals and started living close together. It has only been in the last century that urban planning became a profession built on research and theory.

The ownership of private property, and the use of that property, are topics for contention everywhere. This is due to the indisputable fact that every parcel of property has limits. Even the 600-acre ranch has a boundary line. And for the quarter-acre city lot the boundary line puts you in close proximity to your neighbor’s property and that neighbor may also wonder why he can’t do whatever he wants with his property. Your deed says you have a right to enjoyment and use of your land; your neighbor’s deed uses the same language. That’s why we have laws governing real estate.

Because every parcel of land adjoins another what happens on one’s property impacts someone else’s property in both economic value and quiet enjoyment.

To paraphrase the John Donne poem – No man’s property is an island entire of itself: every city lot is a part of the neighborhood, a part of the town. If your neighbor’s house gets washed to the sea, it might as well be yours. Every​body’s public nuisance property diminishes the value of mine, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never ask to know for whom the zoning laws apply; they apply to thee.

Greenland is a town that has embraced the concept of city planning. They have learned how to condemn nuisance property, control signage, eliminate the salvage yards and have come to recognize their potential as a desirable little town in Fayetteville’s shadow. Their current conundrum seems to involve separating the land itself from the owners – the people.

Property is all about location (real estate agents like to say it three times). The land sits in a geographically designated spot on the earth; the people come and go. They are just names on a deed. Long range planners need to incorporate that fact in their deliberations. Of course there will be exceptions and conditional uses proposed but the welfare of the community in terms of its orderly social and economic growth relies on the planning commissioners making their decisions in tandem with the established plan.

There’s an old saw that is equally valid for building a house or building a town: Plan the work and work the plan.

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