Intention and Action: Plan and Policy Implementation for Water Resource Protection Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Spurlock, Danielle
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of City and Regional Planning
  • Urban land development is one of the principal means through which human activities alter water resources. An extensive body of research links land use to water quality outcomes, but these studies often do not account for how human behavior and institutional action shape urban land development. This gap in the planning scholarship offers an opportunity to examine the land development process and the policies aimed at protecting water quality. Comprehensive plans, development management ordinances, and approved development applications help organize the land use development process. The translation of a plan and ordinances into action to protect water resources, however, cannot be assumed. This dissertation examines 1) the quality of policy inputs (i.e., comprehensive plans and ordinances); 2) the influence of mandates on the quality of policy inputs; and 3) the implementation of one key best management practice to protect water quality—riparian buffers. The study focused on two watersheds in Maryland and North Carolina, which have differing mandates for comprehensive planning and the protection of environmentally sensitive areas. Established plan quality content analysis methods were adapted for water resource protection and extended to an ordinance quality analysis of riparian buffer policies. These riparian buffer policies were compared to development applications, which, in turn, were compared to high-resolution land cover classification maps to investigate policy slippage and implementation. The findings suggest comprehensive planning mandates without substantive guidance or geographically-limited mandates that only encourage extension to other sensitive areas are insufficient conditions for higher quality policy inputs. Low overall plan and ordinance quality scores highlight the gap between scientific knowledge accumulated about water resource protection and the planning inputs created and utilized by the planning profession. Finally, the three logistics regressions used to investigate the relationships among the quality of policy inputs, local context, and riparian buffer outcomes found statistically significant relationships. Conceptual groupings of both plan and ordinance quality principles as well as project-specific characteristics were associated with more tree cover and less impervious surface within the buffer. Additional research opportunities and immediate recommendations for planning monitoring and enforcement programs are provided.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Song, Yan
  • BenDor, Todd
  • Band, Lawrence
  • Henry, Gary
  • Berke, Philip
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2015
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
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