Chapter 13 | Controlling When and Where Development Takes Place


If a zoning map shows that an area is zoned for low-density, single-family homes, it is impossible to determine from the zoning map whether the area is:  an area of well-established neighborhoods;  currently under development for housing;  pending review for a new subdivision for housing in the area; or used for growing corn, beans or wheat. Zoning simply does not answer the timing question. Subdivision controls address the quality of development as it takes place, but they also do not address timing. For local officials deciding when and where to invest in new infrastructure, the timing of growth in a particular location is very important. This chapter discusses techniques of growth management used by local governments to influence the timing of growth at particular locations, including: adequate public facilities (APF) controls, phased growth programs, rate-of-growth programs and urban growth boundaries and urban service area boundaries. It also discusses the role of municipal annexation decisions in shaping the patterns of growth. Finally, it explains how some communities are now using “smart growth” to coordinate capital investment decisions (see Chapter 14) and land development regulations to achieve more efficient and better-planned patterns of growth.

Weblinks from Chapter


  1. Designate a representative of your class or group to contact your local government to determine the currently available capacity of the local sewer and water systems to absorb more growth. At today’s rate of building, how many more years of growth can each system handle? Does the local government have plans to upgrade or expand those systems before they run out of capacity?
  2. Ask the same student representative also to obtain maps or descriptions of: the maximum service elevation for water that will meet current fire-flow and pressure standards in your community; the limits to the drainage basins that have gravity flow to the sewage treatment plant. Using USGS (or other) topographic maps, locate the two boundaries and the related service areas. How do the two compare to each other? To emerging development patterns?
  3. What level of traffic congestion is the maximum that people will tolerate in your community? Use the criteria in table 8.1 to evaluate major roads in the community to help you in answering this question. Can you identify intersections or road segments that have a lower level of service than the one that you think most people will accept? Has there been recent development activity that affects those intersections or segments? Has that development increased the problem or simply used up available capacity at odd hours?
  4. Has the largest city in your area annexed territory recently? Can it? Should it?

Discussion Question

  1. Should your community attempt to manage the timing and location of growth? If so, why? If not, why not? If it had begun managing growth five years ago, how might it be different today?


  • Austin, Texas, provides an overview of its Smart Growth program on-line, with links to specific program elements.
  • Annapolis, Maryland adopted an Adequate Public Facilities (APF) ordinance and provides an overview of it on the city website with links to the specific standards applied to various public facilities, ranging from fire and emergency services to stormwater management.
  • Adequate public facilities programs in Florida are called “concurrency” and are mandated for local governments by state law. Orange County, which includes Orlando and borders a large section of Disney World, provides a helpful description of the program on its website.
  • For  current information on the urban growth boundary in Portland (discussed in chapter), see the Metro website.
  • Hillsborough County, Florida (Tampa area), provides a pamphlet with a good description of its urban service area policy.
  • Montgomery County, Maryland, has one of the oldest and most effective growth management programs in the United States. The county updates its growth policy every two years. For the most current one, see the County website.

Supplemental Resources

  • The American Planning Association’s Growing SmartSM project incorporated a number of growth management techniques into proposals for updating state planning legislation.
  • Two websites provide a lot of information about smart growth and growth management techniques in general:

  • The Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) has published a Smart Tools Handbook to help individual communities use smart growth principles in their local planning and development review process. Although the document was written for Indiana communities, most of the recommendations are generic. It includes a number of checklists and worksheets. Download it for free from the “Archives” section at the NIRPC website.

Common Search Terms

Use these terms in search engines to find additional examples and other resources:

growth management, smart growth, adequate public facilities, concurrency, level of service