US Supreme Court uphold right to levy a charge against Sprawl #NPPF

Silicon Valley Mercury News

In a key precedent against sprawl the US supreme court has upheld a case  which affirms the right of a California pollution control agency to charge developers fees for building in places that will significantly increase driving and smog-causing emissions.

For decades now, local land-use authorities have been charging development impact fees to partially offset the municipal costs associated with providing services to new suburban subdivisions.  (The fees are almost always inadequate because they cover only the costs of infrastructure construction, not required maintenance and repair down the road.)

But, because building in ever-more spread-out locations significantly increases both the frequency and (especially) the length of motor vehicle trips, there are additional burdens placed on society by these development location decisions.  Not the least of these are increased emissions, including smog-causing nitrogen oxides; smog has been shown to contribute significantly to asthma and emphysema, imposing public medical costs.

In 2005, the San Joaquin Unified Air Pollution Control District, covering eight California counties and based in Fresno, adopted a new rule requiring developers to go beyond the usual infrastructure impact fees and also pay to offset the air pollution caused by their construction equipment and by the new traffic generated by their projects.

The National Association of Home Builders sued and lost, first in the US District Court and next at the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. On Monday, the first day of its new term, the Supreme Court denied a petition for a writ of certiorari that would have put the case before the court for review this term.  (The court typically accepts only 80 to 150 cases each term for full review, out of a typical pool of 8000 or so petitions.  For a writ to be granted, at least four of the Court’s nine justices must believe the circumstances of the case are such as to warrant a full review.)

Other California air districts have been following the case closely and can be expected to follow suit.

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