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Georgetown Law Library

Land Use Law Research Guide

This guide is for students conducting introductory research in the area of land use law, including zoning.


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Secondary Sources


  • American Land Planning Law (ALPLAW)
    Also available in print, but no longer updated (KF5698 .W54)
    This multi-volume treatise covers public regulation of land use. The most recent edition covers the increasing importance of the federal government, particularly the federal judiciary, in the field.
  • American Law of Zoning (5th ed.) (AMLZONING)
    Also available in print, but no longer updated (KF5698 .A76 2008)
    This multi-volume treatise provides a good introduction to legal authority for land use regulation and entities involved in zoning and planning as well as a history zoning law. Discusses planning, zoning, and subdivision control.
  • Discretionary Land Use Controls: Avoiding Invitations to Abuse Discretion (DISCLU)
    The 2005 edition is also available in print (KF5698 .B59 2005)
    Discusses the situations in which a abuse of discretion is more likely to occur and how to avoid it. There are chapters on, for example variances, special use permits, and site plan review, and each ends with useful "practice tips."
  • Environmental Regulation of Land Use (ENVRLNDU)
    Also available in print, but no longer updated (KF5698 .M264 1990)
    Discusses the major environmental laws that impact land use and planning decisions.
  • Handling the Land Use Case: Land Use Law, Practice & Forms (3d ed.) (LANDUSELAW)
    Summarizes the substantive land use law as well as the practical matters of handling a land use case. The appendices include sample documents for all stages of litigation and appeals and sample agreements.
  • Land Use Law (5th ed.) (Land Use Law)
    Also available in print, but no longer updated (KF5698 .M29 2003)
    This selective treatise is designed to review case law, statutes, and planning practice in land use.
  • Federal Land Use Law & Litigation (FEDLANDLAW)
    Reviews the "federal, constitutional, and statutory limitations on local land use controls" and includes chapters on due process and equal protection, takings, freedom of expression, religious uses, and more.
  • A Practical Guide to Winning Land Use Approvals and Permits (A Practical Guide to Winning Land Use Approvals and Permits)
    Provides practical guidance on obtaining and opposing approvals and permits and covers zoning requirements, environmental requirements, variances, special use permits, and judicial review. This guide also includes step-by-step case studies and forms such as sample ordinances and permit applications.
  • Rathkopf's The Law of Zoning and Planning (4th ed.) (RLZPN)
    Also available in print, but no longer updated (KF5698 .R27 2005)
    This five volume treatise extensively covers zoning law.
  • State and Local Government Land Use Liability (STLOCLAND)
    Discusses the legal issues states and municipalities face when regulating land use. Includes useful information on issues to consider when drafting, adopting and amending, administering, and enforcing land use regulations.
  • Subdivision Law and Growth Management (SUBLAWG)
    This two-volume treatise provides a good introduction to the law and issues surrounding subdivisions and growth management and includes information on various growth management techniques, financing, and evaluation.
  • Zoning and Land Use Controls (Zoning and Land Use Controls)
    Also available in print, but no longer updated (KF5698 .R63)
    Covers modern land use law trends such as sign regulation and adult-use businesses. It focuses on local controls of land, but also discusses state and federal controls. It also incorporates primary materials and practical issues and includes a full set of the Model Planning Statutes. Also includes sample documents and forms.
  • Zoning Law and Practice (2000 rev.) (Zoning Law and Practice)
    Older edition also available in print (KF5698 .Y63 1978)
    An eight-volume practice-oriented treatise covering a range of zoning issues from variances to parking to signage and includes a number of forms.
  • Zoning and Planning Deskbook (2d ed.) (ZPLDESK)
    Two-volume treatise providing a basic, practical introduction to land use and planning law issues.

Many municipal law, real estate and property law, and environmental law treatises are also likely to contain relevant information on land use and zoning law and related issues. Find a list of useful municipal law, real estate and property law, and environmental law treatises in our Treatise Finder.

Study Aids

  • Climate Change and Sustainable Development Law in a Nutshell (2011) (KF3783 .N65)
    Provides a good introduction to the legal framework and has chapters on federal, state, and local law and policies; energy efficient buildings; green buildings; green neighborhoods and transit-oriented development; renewable energy; sequestration; and sea level rise.
  • Land Use in a Nutshell (5th ed. 2006) (KF5695 .Z9 W74 2006)
    This study aid outlines major topics in the study of land use and planning. It offers explanations on the historical development of land use law and also devotes a chapter to discussing critical contemporary land use issues. Chapters also include discussions of zoning, Fifth Amendment limits on land use regulations, housing and urban redevelopment, local environmental law as a land use issue, and historical and cultural interest protection.
  • Land Use Planning and Development Regulation Law (3d ed. 2013) (KF5692 .J84 2013)
    A hornbook that provides an introduction to "the fundamentals of land use planning and control law." The "practitioner" version of this book is available on Westlaw (LUPDRL).
  • Understanding the Law of Zoning and Land Use Controls (3d ed. 2013) (KF5698 .B87 2013)
    This study aid covers zoning, land use, and environmental regulation with sections on authority for zoning and land use regulation, zoning forms of action, economic discrimination and zoning, wetlands and beaches, and more.
  • Historic Preservation Law in a Nutshell (2014) (KF4310 .B76 20014)
    This study aid covers international, federal, state, and local aspects of historic preservation law.

State legal encyclopedias and practice sets are a useful resource for helping to determine how land use is regulated in a particular state. To see if there is an encyclopedia or practice set available for a state, see the relevant Georgetown Law Library state research guide (under "General" resources).

Journal Articles

Articles on land use law and related topics can be found in many law reviews and journals. In addition, there are numerous legal journals devoted exclusively to land use law and relevant articles may also be found in non-legal journals, such as urban and regional planning journals. Below is a select list of legal journals focusing on land use law and related topics and full text databases and indexes that can used to search for articles on this topic.


  • Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law (available in print (K10 .O484, 1985-2008) andelectronically (1985 - ))
  • Public Land and Resources Law Review (available in print ( K16 .U2262, 1980-2008) andelectronically (1980 - ))
    Formerly titled Public Land Law Review.
  • Journal of Land, Resources & Environmental Law (available in print (K10 .O8597), 1980-2010) and electronically (1980 -))
    Formerly titled Journal of Energy Law & Policy (1980-1989) and Journal of Energy, Natural Resources & Environmental Law (1990-1996)
  • Sustainable Development Law & Policy (available in print (K23 .U52, 2002-2009), andelectronically (2000 - ))
    Formerly titled International and Comparative Environmental Law.
  • Journal of Transport and Land Use (available electronically (2008-))
  • The Urban Lawyer (available in print (K25 .R32) and electronically (1969 - ))
    Published quarterly by the ABA Section of State and Local Government. Regularly includes articles on land use law.
  • Washington University Journal of Law and Policy (available in print (K27 .A84, 1968-2010) andelectronically (1968 -))
    Formerly titled the Washington University Journal of Urban and Contemporary Law (1983-1998) andUrban Law Annual (1968-1982).


  • Westlaw and Lexis each include the full text for many law reviews and journals. Coverage varies by journal, but in general they include articles starting from the late 1980s/early 1990s:
    • Westlaw: JLR
    • Lexis: Filter by Category and select 'Secondary Materials' and then narrow the results to 'Law Reviews and Journals'
  • HeinOnline includes the full text of over 1,500 legal periodicals from the inception date of the publication to present (about a year behind)
  • LegalTrac (formerly known as the Legal Resource Index)
    Index of over 1,500 legal periodicals (with some full text); coverage begins in 1980. Also available through
    • Westlaw: LRI
  • Legal Periodicals and Books
    Index of over 1,000 journals; coverage begins in 1908


  • Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals
    This database contains articles on architecture as well as city planning and historic preservation.
  • Academic Search Premier
    A large database with journal articles from many disciplines. Dates of coverage vary by publication.
  • ProQuest Research Library
    A large database with journal articles from many disciplines. Dates of coverage vary by publication.
  • Google Scholar
    Find articles from scholarly literature--journals, conference papers, theses and dissertations, and more--on the web. To access the full text of articles found in Google Scholar through one of Georgetown's subscription databases, select Georgetown under Settings > Library Links.

If the full text of the article is not available in a particular index/database, click on the link "Full Text @ GU Law" to find an electronic version of the article, if available, or search the catalog for the library's print holdings. If the article is not available electronically or in print, you can submit an Interlibrary Loan request. For information on other journal databases and how to find journal articles generally, see our Using Articles for Legal & Non-Legal Research guide.

News & Current Awareness


  • Communications, Environmental & Land Use Law Report (CELULR)
    Available from BNA's Telecommunications Law Resource Center.
    Articles, news stories, and primary materials related to environmental and land use issues in communications industry.
  • E&E Publishing
    Environment and Energy Publishing produces a number of daily newsletters and reports, includingClimateWireGreenwire, and E&E Daily.
  • Land Lines (Available in print (HD108.6 .L36, July 2005-January 2012)
    A quarterly magazine published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Articles are also available on the Institute's website as early as January 1994.
  • McQuillin Municipal Law Report (MUNI-LR, 2001 -) (also available in print (KF5304.A15 M3(1992-2007))
    A monthly newsletter reporting on state and federal court decisions dealing with municipal law, including land use, zoning, and planning.
  • Planning & Environmental Law ((PEL) (May 2002 - )
    Published monthly by the American Planning Association and includes summaries of cases and legislation and commentary. Also available in print (KF5697.A15 L3, 1996-1998, 2003-2008)). Formerly the Land Use Law & Zoning Digest.
  • Zoning Law Bulletin/Quinlan Zoning Bulletin (QNLNZONING) (January 1996 - )
    Biweekly newsletter covering recent court cases and developments related to zoning ordinances and regulations.
  • Zoning and Planning Law Report (ZPLR)
    A monthly newsletter that "provides a succinct, practical treatment of important developments in zoning and planning law, through timely articles, decisions, and reviews of recent cases." Also available in print (KF5697.S15 B6, volumes 19-30).


  • Greater Greater Washington
    Reports on issues related to development, transportation, and other planning issues in the Washington, D.C. area.
  • Land Use Prof Blog
    Regularly updated and edited by law professors who specialize in land use law.
  • Law of the Land
    A blog by Professor Patricia E. Salkin, a law professor at Albany law School and expert on land use law and zoning.
  • Planetizen
    Posts news of interest to the urban planning and development community.
  • Land Use Law (Professor Daniel R. Mandelker) 
    This site links to articles, cases, statutes and ordinances, and other relevant information on land use law. Also has updates to the casebook Planning and Control of Land Development.
  • To find other blogs on land use law, see the ABA Blawg Directory or Justia Blawg Search (see "Real Estate & Property").


  • ALI Course of Study - Land Use Institute 
    Course of study materials from the ALI-ABA Land Use Institute are available on Lexis (Browse > Sources > By Category > Secondary Materials > CLE Course of Study Materials). 

Dictionaries & Encyclopedias

  • Encyclopedia of Urban Studies (2010) (E-book)
  • A Glossary of Zoning, Development, and Planning Terms (1999) (HT169.6 .G66 1999)
  • The Zoning Dictionary: Resource Materials for Planners (1999) (HT169.6 .Z65)