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Land in Conflict

Managing and Resolving Land Use Disputes

Sean Nolon, Ona Ferguson, and Pat Field

June 2013, English

Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

This book is a great primer for any stakeholder involved in a land use dispute. It demonstrates that even in the most complex cases it is possible to achieve outcomes that benefit all parties. Whether you are a private citizen concerned about development in your community or a representative of a state, the approach in this volume will satisfy your needs.” 

Mark Tercek, President and CEO, The Nature Conservancy

Published in collaboration with the Consensus Building Institute, this book calls for a mutual gains approach to land disputes. The authors detail techniques that allow stakeholders with conflicting interests to collaborate, voice concerns constructively, and reach successful agreements that benefit all parties involved in zoning, planning, and development.

About the Authors

Sean Nolon is associate professor of law and the director of the Dispute Resolution Program at Vermont Law School. He has extensive experience in consensus building, mediation, and litigation in commercial, land use, and environmental law.

Ona Ferguson is senior associate at Consensus Building Institute (CBI), where she designs and facilitates meetings on environmental and public policy, and on organizational and strategic planning. Her areas of expertise include public land use and management, public policy conflicts, voluntary collaboration, natural resource management, climate change, Superfund sites, and coastal and estuary management.

Patrick Field is managing director at CBI, associate director of the MIT-Harvard Public Disputes Program, and senior fellow at the University of Montana Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Policy. He has helped thousands of stakeholders reach agreement on organizational mergers, realignments, regulations, permits, and other land use issues in the United States and Canada.


For all the talk about broad-based, national planning and environmental goals, most decisions about land use are made at the local levels, which means that local planning officials often have more impact on the physical form of this country than anyone else. Land in Conflict is an invaluable guide for planners, citizens, architects, anyone involved in the process of land use. It offers the best hope for brining reason to the painful battles that land use decisions have too often become.”

— Paul Goldberger, Architecture Critic and Contributing Editor, Vanity Fair

The authors provide a wealth of detailed insights into the mechanisms that allow multiple parties to successfully engage in the land use decision-making process. Through case studies, the authors present resolutions to complex land use debates that utilize various negotiation, mediation, and stakeholder processes. By applying the techniques in this book, decision makers can enhance the conventional and linear process by including a range of participants with credible community concerns, which will yield timely and economic land use decisions.”

Peter R. Stein, Managing Director, The Lyme Timber Company LP

Land in Conflict provides a concise, practical, and convincing framework that will help communities and developers arrive at better land use results. This volume is a must-have for any land use or municipal attorney who is interested in helping clients achieve effective and efficient results in the land development process.”

Patricia E. Salkin, Dean and Professor of Law, Touro College


Development, Dispute Resolution, Public Policy, Stakeholders