Studies on policy adoption have hypothesized that growth management policies are adopted in response to growth and community socioeconomic status and under state intervention. However, mixed results from empirical studies suggest that varying political processes behind policy adoption may translate similar local status into different policies.
This study focuses on the issue of the influence of direct democracy on local residential growth management. Unlike representative democracy, direct democracy allows local residents to participate directly in the decision-making process to adopt or defeat growth management measures. Three forms of direct democracy--town meeting, initiative, and referendum--are particularly examined along with direct democracy in general. This study hypothesizes that direct democracy contributes to a more restrictive, exclusionary, and less management-oriented growth management framework.
To test these hypotheses, this study uses a mixed-method approach combining quantitative multivariate analyses with two case studies. The quantitative analyses utilize two nationwide surveys--a survey of local land-use regulations conducted in 2003 and a survey of local access to direct democracy conducted in 2006. Census data from 1990 and 2000 are also included to characterize community status and growth characteristics. The case studies further examine the interaction between direct democracy and growth management through two cases in Massachusetts--the Town of Westford and the Town of Chelmsford. Findings from quantitative analyses have served as criteria for case selection.
This study demonstrates that direct democracy has a limited effect on growth management policies and this effect is related to specific forms of direct democracy and geographic areas. While town meeting in New England region is associated with stringent growth policies, initiative and referendum do not show connections to policy restrictiveness. Direct democracy also works in a limited manner with socioeconomic status to further influence growth policies. In addition, the study reveals that direct democracy has a connection to growth policies that have exclusionary potential, and that direct democracy is related to less management-oriented growth management efforts. The town meeting case studies further indicate that growth management emergence is a dynamic result of interaction between growth and resident groups under the filtration of town meeting.