Combating Urban Sprawl in Massachusetts: Reforming the Zoning Act Through Legal Challenges

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Vol: 30, Issue: 3, Page: 605

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Krass, Benjamin
Land Use Law
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Urban sprawl is one of today’s most pressing environmental challenges, especially in Massachusetts. The desire to live in rural areas, while demanding urban services, threatens to make Massachusetts a checkerboard of development, with long-lasting ecological, aesthetic, and social effects. Ironically, although Massachusetts is seen as a national leader in various environmental policy areas, the Common-wealth lags far behind other states in progressive land use planning. This anomaly is perpetuated by the Zoning Act, which gives broad zoning-freeze protection to vacant land, thereby unduly constraining a locality’s ability to plan for growth. Without comprehen-sive reform of the Zoning Act, localities cannot adequately manage growth and will continue to be overburdened in providing the level of basic services necessitated by unplanned growth. With no legislative solution ahead, those portions of the Zoning Act that severely restrict a locality’s ability to plan for growth should be challenged in the courts.