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I am an urban planning student currently taking Planning Law. We have a 30-page paper assignment. Does anybody know of any good sources that may help with topics? Does the use of urban design codes have many case precedents?
Probably the best way to sift for topics would be to use one of the big multi-volume planning treatises, like Williams' or Rathkopf's. You can quickly see which topics have a lot of case law, and which only a few. Its the nature of planning law that trivial (in the big picture) topics get litigated more often than what you might think of as important! So if you want a topic with lots of material, choose nonconforming uses or variances …_I think you can find enough material to work with on design guidelines, though.
I like findlaw.com. They have a pretty comprehensive site. Also, since you are in school, you may have free access to Lexis Nexis, which is what most lawyers use for research. I had a legal research class and I basically did all of my research on lexis. Sometimes your state bar association will have a good website too.
In a couple of weeks, our class will be given an intro to Lexis Nexis and other library resources. As 4/5 of the class are planning students (1/5 law), this will help tremendously. Also, thanks to jtfortin for the bit about findlaw.com.
I've decided to write the paper on the the practical and legal foundations of architectural design review, as imposed by municipalities and individual design districts. I also want to highlight other means of design controls, such as developer agreements.