On December 11, 2015, Pace Law School hosted the 14th Annual Alfred B. DelBello Land Use and Sustainable Development Conference. The event has formally now been renamed in honor of the former New York State Lieutenant Governor, Westchester County Executive, City of Yonkers Mayor and Councilman to recognize his contributions and service to the region.
This year’s conference theme was: Reflecting on the Past, Planning for the Future: Celebrating 100 years of Zoning. Tiffany Zezula opened up the event by jokingly mentioning how Professor John Nolon had been eagerly awaiting this event all year, and how he may have been the only person to recognize that it was in fact the 100th anniversary or zoning. The opening plenary panel set out to discuss the history of land use laws and zoning and how the world has been changing with them. Patricia Salkin, Dean and Professor of Law at Touro Law, began by giving a quick summary of the entire 100 years of zoning. Next, Michael Wolf, Professor of Law at University of Florida Levin College of Law, spoke about how zoning and environmental law has intertwined throughout the years. Dwight Merriam, partner at Robinson & Cole LLP, next discussed how technology has affected land use. Followed by Donald Elliot, Director of Clarion Associates, discussed ethical flaws of exclusionary zoning.
Governor Parris Glendening, President of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute and the Governors’ Institute on Community Design gave the keynote address on the transformation of smart growth and its implications for the future. He began by giving insight into the factors that affect land use, such as the diversity of the population. Different groups of people desire to live in different kinds of places, such as the current shift of “Millennials” to city areas and the need to have transit lines located nearby. This conflicts with “baby boomers,” whom like to stay located where they are once they have made a home, which raises the question, do zoning developments permit for mixing of generations? The Governor also mentioned the economic factors that have influenced smart growth. The shift in economic development to a “knowledge” based economy from a manufacturing has lead to growth in city areas.
Another point made by the Governor is the need to enact change before an environmental disaster occurs. Almost no effort is made before a disaster to mitigate damage in many regions that are devastated by extreme weather. Changes in the zoning and building codes of such areas can help reduce those damages. If some changes can be made there will be positive economic effects for the residents such as insurance policies no longer listing the area as high risk which will lower their bills. With smart growth, disasters can be mitigated or prevented.
The Land Use and Sustainable Development Conference was a remarkable event with a gathering of some of the best land developers and lawyers in the region. The knowledge and passion of these professionals could be felt all day and made for a truly wonderful event.