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Farmland Preservation, Development Rights and The Theory of The Growth Machine: The Views of Planners

We examine the effectiveness of farmland preservation measures in challenging efforts to convert agricultural land to nonfarm uses in rural/urban fringe areas. Our focus is on programs based on the exchange of development rights in the northeastern United States. We employ theoretical constructs from Logan and Molotch’s theory of the urban growth machine. They argue that the commodification of land associated with urbanization is the most important source of wealth and power for land-based elites. Yet, the activities of these elites are sometimes challenged with growth control measures like farmland preservation. To evaluate the effectiveness of these programs to defend farm land-use over purely commercial land exchange for speculative gain, we draw on data from focus group discussions and a survey of planners in metropolitan areas of the region. Our analysis also considers the limitations of such programs in the context of the absence of regional land-use planning. We find that farmland preservation programs based on the exchange of development rights do challenge some aspects of urban growth, but are also the result of those same development dynamics. Thus, they reflect certain class biases associated with the development of rural/urban fringe areas. However, we conclude that these programs could become more effective farmland protection tools with the implementation of comprehensive land-use planning.

Publication Name
Journal of Rural Studies
Max J. Pfeffer and Mark. B. Lapping
Bristol, UK: Journal of Rural Studies
Page Numbers
Publication Date
January 01, 1994
Publication Type
Land Use Planning, Transfer of Development Rights

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