Land use and equitable growth

A growing problem

Governments make decisions about public and private land use—from industrial and agricultural to recreational and residential activities—that have tremendous consequences for communities’ health and quality of life. The South has some of the nation’s highest rates of land development and harmful sprawl, as well as a long history of inequality regarding placement of the most polluting and harmful industries and activities. We work to change and correct these patterns, helping to ensure that future growth and development results in stronger, healthier, and more equitable communities.

Opposing harmful land uses

Many environmental injustices in our region arise from the siting of high-impact land uses such as landfills, oil and gas infrastructure, and heavily-polluting facilities that are often located in communities of color or under-resourced communities. We support communities in opposing such harmful land uses and helping to ensure that their voices are fully and meaningfully considered in decision-making processes. In addition, we engage with state and local leaders to create stronger safeguards and more equitable policies to prevent further harm to overburdened communities.

Guiding new development

The list of problems that stem from the sprawling development patterns that continue to dominate in the South is a lengthy one. It is nearly impossible to move about without owning a car, which limits opportunities and adds to the financial burdens of many households. It also increases air and water pollution from transportation. Moreover, the ever-expanding highways and infrastructure required to support this growth have resulted in the loss of countless wetlands, forests, and farmland, and have led to increased public service and maintenance costs.

To address the high costs of growth, we advocate for a more sustainable, smarter growth approach that aims to reconnect and revitalize communities. Among other things, we are encouraging infill development, guiding new development to designated areas, and prioritizing the redevelopment of historically-overlooked and under-resourced areas while minimizing environmental impacts and promoting equity and accessibility by enabling public transit, biking, walking, and accessible options for people of all abilities.

The noise, dust, and odors are a constant, stressful reminder of what is happening in our own backyards, where our children should be able to play without worrying about what they might be breathing. We should be able to feel safe and at peace in our own homes.

Kamla Gonzales, resident of Stonecrest, Georgia

Amplifying community voices

At the core of many inequitable land use decisions and harmful projects is a failure to adequately engage and understand the communities being served or impacted by such decisions. That’s why we are also advocating for more robust, equitable, and inclusive community engagement in land use decision-making and permitting processes conducted by local governments and state and federal agencies throughout our region.