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Who got what, when and how: A case study evaluation of consensus -based land use decision -making

Jamee K Wolfe, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Mediation, a consensus building technique, is a relatively new method of public participation in local land use decision-making. While mediation theory and the experience of practitioners suggest that the structure of mediation improves public participation, little research exists to inform mediation practitioners, government leaders, or environmental activists of its real impact. Consequently, the purpose of this dissertation is to conduct a theoretically informed, empirical case study of mediation as a method of public participation in land use decision-making. My objective has been to see if mediation does, in fact, improve public participation. ^ Drawing from sociology and political science, I relied on several theoretical perspectives to inform my research questions and to provide a useful theoretical context in which to interpret my research findings. In particular, the perspective offered by the political economy of land use development shows how the structure of local land use decision-making generally favors a development elite and so limits opportunities for public participation. I suggest that for mediation to improve public participation, it must overcome these limits to participation and create a new decision-making structure. ^ To assess whether mediation achieved structural change, I used multiple research methods to examine five aspects of a mediation process: timing, representation, format, information, and decision-making authority. Timing refers to “when” land use decisions were made with respect to when input was generated from the mediation process. Representation refers to “who” participated in the process, format refers to process design (i.e., interaction). Information refers to how complex and technical information was gathered, analyzed and communicated. Decision-making authority refers to the level of shared power. ^ My findings indicate that mediation achieved only limited structural change. Because it did not account for political context in its design, mediation only superficially affected the timing, format, information, and decision-making authority of land use decision-making. It was most successful in changing the structure of representation. ^

Subject Area

Political Science, General|Sociology, General|Urban and Regional Planning

Recommended Citation

Wolfe, Jamee K, "Who got what, when and how: A case study evaluation of consensus -based land use decision -making" (2001). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3034398.