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Carrying Capacity and the Comprehensive Plan: Establishing and Defending Limits to Growth

By Jonathan Douglas Witten


Natural and built resources have finite capacities for assimilating growth and associated impacts. The use of analytical tools such as carrying capacity analyses is recommended to assess the cumulative impact of land development upon these resources. Once carrying capacity thresholds have been established, local governments should apply appropriate regulatory controls to ensure that capacities are not exceeded. The application of carrying capacity tools is suggested in all jurisdictions, including states that do not mandate the preparation of comprehensive plans. The adoption of carrying capacity regulations may trigger a regulatory takings analysis. Adoption of legislative actions to preserve carrying capacity limitations, however, are generally entitled to a presumption of validity. This is contrasted with the use of adjudicative permits to assess assimilative capacity thresholds. While adjudicative permits allow for aggressive review of development in relation to cumulative impacts, their ad hoc nature demands precise application by local governments

Topics: Law
Publisher: Digital Commons @ Boston College Law School
Year: 2001
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