Public Land Use Control Powers

1) The State, meaning the various levels of government, has constitutionally defined legal and police powers, that affect land ownership and uses:
tax property  
seize land: eminent domain
own land outright as public land  
regulate private land use: zoning laws, nuisance laws, e.g., weeds, noise; health laws
public infrastructure expenditures: where to build a road, sewer and water lines, school, fire station, etc.
recover land by escheat: ensure that property is not left in limbo and ownerless, e.g., failure of heirs to be identified -- private lands default to public lands

acquire land by reliction:

land added and uncovered by a gradual subsidence of water from any cause results in the change of state boundaries, for example, along the Mississippi River

2) Land use management tools reflect a hierarchy of authority in the United States:

U.S. constitution and federal government
  State constitution and government  
Enabling acts

expert input: plan(ning commissions) >>

Local elected body

<< testimony from public hearings

Acquisition Regulation Incentive
voluntary sale of property health regulations preferential assessment of farmland
eminent domain building codes income tax deductions for public land use improvements
private land gift zoning ordinances density bonus for public land use improvements
property tax default subdivision regulations
wetland, floodplain regulations, usually federal and/or state laws
3) Governmental level of land use control powers:
  Federal  State Local


voluntary sale of property      
eminent domain      
private land gift      
property tax default      


health regulations      
building codes      
zoning ordinances      
wetland, floodplain regulations      


preferential assessment 


income tax


density bonus


wpe96.jpg (7905 bytes)The ultimate use of federal land use powers was the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority by F.D. Roosevelt in 1933.