Since capital expenditures and land-use controls are the two principal methods by which municipalities may affect land use, the enlightened community strives to coordinate them so that they reinforce each other. Capital investment in transportation, public facilities, and infrastructure can shape the land market. Land-use controls can permit what is desired and, within the sorts of limitations described, can prohibit what is not desired.

For example, consider the case of Westchester County, New York's so- called Platinum Mile. The name was chosen by local promoters with the usual lack of modesty that attends such christenings, but it is reasonably accurate. Along the border between two municipalities, namely the city of White Plains and the town of Harrison, is a massive collection of corporate headquarters and other office development. All told, these facilities provide many thousands of jobs and constitute hundreds of millions of dollars of tax base. It is the sort of complex that most communities would be delighted to have. How did it come into being?

First, the basic preconditions were there. One fact was a good location within the New York metropolitan area. This made it possible to capture firms that were moving out of New York City but wished to remain within the metropolitan area. It also made the area attractive to firms that were moving into the metropolitan area but did not need a Manhattan location with its very high costs.

But, given the existence of these preconditions, it was still necessary to turn them into reality. At the end of the 1950s, White Plains had been planning to build a bypass along its border with the town of Harrison. The road was to have been called the White Plains Arterial. At this time the Interstate Highway System was being laid out by the federal government in coordination with the states. City officials were quick to see the opportunity. They dropped the concept of the bypass and pushed to get the pathway of the arterial incorporated into the design for the Interstate Highway System.

The city was successful, and so Interstate Highway I-287 now runs between the two municipalities, increasing accessibility and greatly increasing land values and the potential for development. The crucial role of capital investment is clear. However, we note that 90 percent of the cost of building the interstate came from the federal government. Only the remaining 10 percent was paid by state and local governments. State and local funds were used to construct wide service roads on either side of the interstate and a series of overpasses across the interstate linking these roads. Thus a motorist leaving the interstate at one of several interchanges would have quick access to any point in the entire strip.

Having used capital investment—whether local funds or "foreign aid" from the federal government—to create demand on the site, it now remained to control land uses to produce a desirable result. The strategy used was to permit that which was desired and to prevent other land uses from blocking desirable development. Clearly, zoning to permit office development was one part of the strategy. Requiring large minimum sites for development prevented land from being chopped up by small, scattered development. Where there is good highway access in a relatively populous area, retailing is clearly a possibility. But strip commercial development would foreclose the possibility of office park development, both by eating up road frontage and also by creating an environment that would not be attractive to corporate headquarters and other "upscale" office development. That was eventually blocked by simply prohibiting retail uses. Thus, as a gardener favors the plants he or she wants by weeding out others, land-use controls were used to favor particular types of development by blocking other types.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >