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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1860/322

Title: Separation of use or misuse: multifaceted empirical study of zoning variances
Authors: Dispensa, Jaclyn Marisa
Keywords: Culture and communication;Zoning boards;Zoning law
Issue Date: 30-Jun-2004
Abstract: In Pennsylvania, sprawl, simply known as unplanned suburban development, is consuming land at a rate greater than the population increase. Sprawl continues for several reasons many of which are uninvestigated. The goals of this research are to evaluate the process of zoning variances and zoning boards from 1981 - 2001: the composition of the zoning board, the board's decision-making, and the result of their decision-making on the environment. Zoning boards wield power over special exceptions and zoning variances; unknowingly, variances may be requested before new development begins, thus these variance requests are required for development to continue or even to occur. The process is compared to Molotch's Growth Machine theory which states that localities are in economic competition with other localities, therefore entities and individuals that support those entities (real estate professionals, lawyers, judges and the like) will work towards the economic growth of their area as it benefits themselves in return. As a result of the Growth Machine process, regulations are hardly enforced, specifically when zoning becomes too burdensome on the real estate, zoning is changed and/or variances given. This research investigates this process in eight townships of Chester County, Pennsylvania: Birmingham, East Bradford, East Goshen, Easttown, East Whiteland, Pennsbury, Tredyffrin and Westtown. Research findings show that the Growth Machine is more prevalent in Birmingham, Easttown, Pennsbury, and Tredyffrin. Elements of the Growth Machine include high overall approval ratings of zoning variances, percentage of variances illegally approved, influence of townships' economics in approval ratings, and significant differences identified among approval ratings for commercial and residential environmental variances. The presence of real-estate professionals and little professional and gender diversity may be elements, but not necessarily deciding factors as well. In addition, zoning variances contribute to increases in impervious surface. This research represents a robust evaluation of the process of zoning board development, decision-making, and the environmental effects of zoning variances, and how zoning variances and boards play an important role in the contribution to sprawling development.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1860/322
Appears in Collections:Drexel Theses and Dissertations

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