All Politics is Local, All Land Use is Political By Christopher Hopkins and Ben Kelahan, Saint Consulting Group
ormer U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill used to say, “All politics is local.” Today, it’s equally true that, “All land use approvals are political.” Americans consistently say they like affordable housing, windmill farms, new single-family homes, or new hospitals in their town (but never power plants, casinos, quarries or landfills). However, they fight when one is proposed. “We’re not against (whichever type of project proposed),” they claim. “But this is the wrong location.” The project will worsen traffic, block views, reduce green space, increase crime, degrade the environment, lower property values, or destroy the character of their community, opponents insist. Not long ago, few places ever said no to new development. Growth meant progress. Mines provided work where people needed american coal council
For politicians, voting against a project is generally easier than voting for one.
jobs. Power plants delivered jobs, tax revenue and energy. Then came environmental movements, smart growth, anti sprawl, historic preservationists and people who said “not in
my backyard.” Elected officials started listening to them, and the land use approval process became politicized. The old adage “you can’t fight City Hall” was upended. 27