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THE PUBLIC CONTROL OF PRIVATE PROPERTY

The reader may have noticed that all the elements discussed in connection with the Plan of Chicago essentially pertained to public land, whether it was actually in public ownership at the time or was to be acquired at some later time. This focus on public-owned land was not accidental, since, at the turn of the century, the public had little control over the uses to which privately owned land might be put.

One important part of the history of planning has been the evolution of some public control over privately owned land. Beginning in the very late nineteenth century, a series of laws and court cases began to establish the right of local government to control the use of land that it did not own. The capacity of government to zone land for different uses was fairly well established by around 1920, though the definitive Supreme Court decision did not come until a few years later. The zoning process is one in which a municipal government can exercise control over the density with which land is developed, the types of uses permitted, and the physical configuration (heights of buildings, setbacks from property lines, etc.) of development. Typically, the community is divided into a number of zones displayed on a zoning map, and the permitted uses, densities, and design for each zone are specified in the zoning ordinance. The zoning process, as well as some related types of land-use controls, is described in detail in Chapter 9.

 
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