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Wolf’s new book provides unique insight into history of land use law

by Scott Emerson
Senior Writer

Zoning of AmericaThe historic case of Euclid v. Ambler (1926) literally changed the landscape of America. What started out as a local legal battle concerning zoning and land use in a small village in Cleveland ended in an historic Supreme Court ruling that still dictates policy for every zoning official and urban and city planner in the U.S.

In his new book titled, The Zoning of America: Euclid v. Ambler, author and land-use expert Michael Allan Wolf, a University of Florida Levin College of Law professor, and Richard E. Nelson Chair in Local Government, describes how the ordinance, and its defense, burst onto the national stage and became the focus of litigation before moving to the nation’s highest court. Wolf breathes life into the story by recreating the human drama that surrounded the case and by providing an historical perspective as it relates to urban development.

“We still refer to basic height, area, and use controls as ‘Euclidean zoning,’” said Wolf, “and many of the legal principles addressed by the Taft Court in 1926 govern the work of American land use and environmental law attorneys to this day.”

The Zoning of America: Euclid v. Ambler (University Press of Kansas) draws on Wolf’s academic scholarship, land-use expertise and two decades of research into the intricacies and meaning of the case. Wolf’s compelling account of this landmark case, which Daniel Mandelker, the Howard A. Stamper Professor of Law at Washington University called “marvelous reading,” makes it clear that Euclid v. Ambler fundamentally changed how we think about the urban landscape, transformed the organization of our cities and suburbs, and left a long shadow over subsequent cases like Kelo v. New London (2005).

“Wolf is able to get readers instantly interested in the story behind the case through an examination of the various players including the parties, the lawyers, the judges and the court of public opinion,” said Patricia E. Salkin, Raymond & Ella Smith Distinguished Professor of Law, associate dean and director, Government Law Center of Albany Law School, NY. “For planners, the book is full of information about urban planning history; and for lawyers, the litigation strategy and the relationship among and between the attorneys and the judges makes for interesting fodder about the reasons for certain significant case-related legal activities.”

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