Parkland Dedication: How are Cities Implementing the Rough Proportionality Principle?


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parkland dedication, rough proportionality, best practice, empirical process, implementation strategies


As part of local governments’ mandate to regulate for the “health, safety, and general welfare” of their residents, many have included a parkland dedication exaction on new development in their sub-division regulations. The rules governing the magnitude of the dedication were established in 1994 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Dolan v City of Tigard. The Court ruled there must be “rough proportionality” between a dedication exaction and the projected new demand from a development. The ruling requires a local jurisdiction to be proactive in quantifying the justification for the magnitude of a dedication it imposes, but the Court offered no guidance on how the quantification should be done. This study’s two objectives were: (i) to investigate the extent to which cities’ ordinances comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling, and (ii) to identify best practices among cities’ ordinances relating to operationalizing the “rough proportionality” principle. Parkland dedication ordinances were analyzed from 73 Texas cities, supplemented by insights from those of 29 large cities outside Texas. In 65 of the Texas ordinances where “rough proportionality” comparisons could be made, the analyses found percentage under-dedications ranging from 9% to 1,250%. In defiance of the Court’s ruling, almost two-thirds of the ordinances showed no evidence of using an empirical quantitative method to establish “rough proportionality.” Many of these ordinances provided a service level ratio, but it appeared to be arbitrarily determined. These findings are especially egregious in Texas, since state law requires that the quantification of “rough proportionality” be certified as being appropriate by a professional engineer. Three models of best practice that used empirical methods to derive rough proportionality and met the Supreme Court guidelines are identified, described, and illustrated. Under-dedication often reflects the reluctance of elected officials to antagonize the development community. Thus, four strategies are offered to facilitate their efforts to impose a substantive exaction that relieves the burden on taxpayers, while demonstrating sensitivity to any protests arising from members of the development community.





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