X is for X-Rated Land Uses

May 20th, 2007

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Early American land use controls often focused on what might be considered the “X-rated” land uses of their day: fat trying plants, tar boiling facilities, dead animal disposal lots, slaughter houses, garbage dumps, and industrial production facilities. The principal issue was the location of these uses in relation to residential areas and places of public congregation. The most common local government response was to isolate all such uses, allowing them only in limited geographic areas, identified as “industrial” zones.

Interestingly, however, early 20th century as “model” zoning ordinances did not prohibit offices, retail sales, or even residential uses, from locating within industrial zones. The justification for this, in theory, was that if the owners and occupants didn’t mind having “X-rated” uses for neighbors, they should not be barred from locating in such zones. As the 20th century wore on, however, zoning codes increasingly came to prohibit business and residence uses in industrial zones.

In lieu of zoned isolation, protection from the negative effects of such uses can be accomplished through use of “performance” controls (or standards). Such controls involve setting measurable maximum standards for perimeter impacts, such as light, sound, smell, sight, vibration, and traffic. …

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