David W. Owens

Gladys Hall Coates Professor of Public Law and Government

Areas of Expertise

Zoning, subdivision regulation, and other land-use controls; city and county planning; environmental protection


David Owens joined the Institute of Government in 1989. Prior to that, he was an attorney and senior planner for the Wisconsin State Planning Office and spent 10 years with the NC Division of Coastal Management. His publications include numerous books and articles on zoning law, including the basic legal reference, Land Use Law in North Carolina, and the widely used guide for citizen boards, Introduction to Zoning. He has also written on the a variety of land use law topics (variances, special use permits, extraterritorial jurisdiction), the scope of local government authority, urban growth management, regulation of religious land uses and adult businesses, conflicts of interest, planning legislation, and various aspects of coastal management law and policy. Owens received a graduate planning degree and law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Selected publications

Land Use Law in North Carolina (2nd ed., 2011) [500 pp, in press]

Development Moratoria:  The Law and Practice in North Carolina (Chapel Hill:  School of Government Special Series No. 26, 2009) [17 pp]

The Use of Development Agreements to Manage Large-Scale Development:  The Law and Practice in North Carolina (Chapel Hill:  School of Government Special Series No. 25, 2009) [28 pp]

Introduction to Zoning (3rd ed., 2007) [198 pp]

“The Zoning Variance: Reappraisal and Recommendations for Reform of a Much-Maligned Tool,” 29 Colum. J. Envtl. L. 279 (2004) [44 pp]

"Local Government Authority to Implement Smart Growth Programs:  Dillon's Rule, Legislative Reform, and the Current State of Affairs in North Carolina," 35 Wake Forest L. Rev. 671 (2000) [35 pp]

Click here for a complete list of Professor Owens' publications.


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