Perhaps more so than most public policies, land use policy tends to be driven by parochial and political interests. Much of the debate and concern over "urban sprawl" is the reaction of some people to the action of other people migrating from big cities to outlying suburban and rural areas. The irony is that most everyone, including the loudest denouncers of "sprawl," are migrants as well: They moved to their communities for the same reasons others are currently moving to their communities.
Land use policy becomes focused on "preserving" the character of the community when, in fact, public policy should focus on allowing the community and its residents to freely and voluntarily adapt and change to the new demands and practical requirements of the city. While suburbanites might move to an outlying community for its rural "charm," the mere fact that non-rural people have moved to the community changes its character.
More importantly, a community focused on preservation is unsustainable. As incomes rise, people expect their quality of life to improve as well. Better housing and communities are some of those things they expect, and most people move their families to take advantage of them. At the state level, attempts to preserve the existing character of a community run the risk of destroying the economic and social fabric of the state.
Communities can freely evolve only if state and local land policies
Focus on the actual impacts of development, not land use per se;
Restrict detailed planning to public infrastructure investments;
Abandon comprehensive zoning, which creates a political environment that impedes change and subordinates property rights in favor of political control over citizens and their property.
Markets are a decentralized and voluntary way to match consumer preferences with goods and services. Prices for land tell consumers how much it will cost to obtain a certain standard of living and environment. They tell producers whether revenues are sufficient to cover the costs. Since the market is consumer-driven and involves the participation of millions of consumers and producers on a daily basis, it is an extraordinarily efficient way to make choices about how resources should be used to meet citizen preferences.
Some urban policy analysts have argued that land is too valuable a resource to be left to the private market. On the contrary, land and private property are too important and valuable to be entrusted to bureaucratic and political planners who do not, and cannot, possess the knowledge necessary to meet the wants and needs of millions of people. The complexity of the urban development process and respect for Michigan citizens’ freedom, rights, and preferences require the development of market-based alternatives to the top-down, central planning of land use.