Urban Containment in the United States: Regional and Metropolitan Growth Management

PAS Report 520

By Arthur Nelson, FAICP, Casey Dawkins

Product Image

APA member & PAS subscriber
List Price
Sign In & Download

Not a member but want to buy a copy? You'll need to create a free My APA account to purchase. Create account

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 infrastructure phasing.

This report explores urban containment as a framework that regions and communities can use for managing growth. Growth management techniques can be time-related (such as phasing development through infrastructure management), place-related (such as defining the qualities of specific areas), and function-related (such as relating uses and ensuring housing affordability.) When urban containment is the framework underlying growth management, it provides growth management with a rationale for phased development, steers the direction and form of development, and identifies central places within the urban fabric.

This report reviews the history and central characteristics of urban containment, discusses the authors' evaluation of more than 100 urban containment plans, and presents their four-framework typology. It also offers case studies of each of the four frameworks and summarizes the implications for planners. Includes appendices, as well as a compilation of principal techniques for growth management and the elements of urban containment frameworks.

Product Details

Page Count
Date Published
May 1, 2004
Adobe PDF

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