Urban Containment in the United States (PAS 520)

History, Models, and Techniques for Regional and Metropolitan Growth Management

By Arthur Nelson, FAICP, Casey Dawkins

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Urban containment is most simply expressed as a line on a map separating urban and rural uses. The line may be locally identified as an urban growth boundary, urban service limit, or priority growth area. But the significance of the line resides in the mechanisms implemented to make containment work—from innovative zoning programs to infill and redevelopment, open space conversation, and ...

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Date Published
May 1, 2004
APA Planning Advisory Service

About the Authors

Arthur Nelson
Dr. Arthur C. (Christian “Chris”) Nelson, FAICP, is Professor of Planning and Real Estate Development in the College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture and Professor of Geography and Development in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Arizona. He is also Presidential Professor Emeritus of City & Metropolitan Planning in the College of Architecture + Planning, Professor Emeritus of Finance in the Daved Eccles School of Business, Executive Director Emeritus of the Metropolitan Research Center, and Director of Emeritus of the Master of Real Estate Development Program at the University of Utah. For the past forty years, Dr. Nelson has conducted pioneering research in public facility finance, economic development, transportation and land use planning, and metropolitan development patterns. He has written nearly 30 books and more than 300 other works, and has made more than 300 scholarly and professional presentations. His current research focuses on how changing demographics and preferences will reshape metropolitan America.

Casey Dawkins

Table of Contents


1. The objectives of urban containment

2. Urban containment framework analysis

3. Weak-restrictive urban containment framework

4. Strong-restrictive urban containment framework

5. Weak-accomodating urban containment

6. Strong-accommodating urban containment framework

7. Findings and implications for planning

Appendix A. List of references

Appendix B. Containment framework summary

Appendix C. Summary of plans reviewed

Appendix D. Key urban containment policies

Appendix E. excerpts from the American Planning Association policy guide on smart growth