Friday, October 5, 2007

Protect the zoning

Part 1 2 3 4 5 6

The first layer of government a person deals with in their daily life is the police. They are seen driving their patrol cars around any municipality and represent the government.

The second layer of government a person deals with is normally at the town/city level. Be it a mayor, a council, or a codes official. There is a variety of reasons that a person could be dealing with the city, but the first and foremost seems to be zoning issues.

Zoning is a form of regulating the land for the 'good of the city'. Many feel that zoning is required, and a necessary evil for the most part. I would agree on the evil, but not the necessary. A fine example is Houston Texas. This small blurb from wikipedia may sound like a footnote, but it echoes to a larger problem.
Houston, the largest city in the United States without zoning regulations, has expanded without land use planning. Voters rejected efforts to have separate residential and commercial land-use districts in 1948, 1962, and 1993.
Now I channel Bill Murray.
"Without zoning it will be chaos. Dogs and cats living together".
But it isn't like that. While things do not always run smoothly is that metropolis, the way things are controlled are done individually. This is from an article by the Foundation of Economic Education.
Even without zoning, home buyers wanting control over the development of land in their neighborhood have a choice called “deed restrictions.” Usually, these deed restrictions are initiated by an original developer to cover all property purchased in a subdivision for 25 or 30 years. Restrictions are often renewable after that period, and most homes in Houston built since World War II have such renewable restrictions. Enforceable by civic associations with help from the city, the document can prevent businesses or apartments from entering the neighborhood. It can even require residents to keep their lawns manicured or their homes painted only certain colors. However detailed, deed restrictions contain rules voluntarily accepted by home buyers, unlike the edicts issued to property owners by a zoning commission.
Houston shows that a city can work and be successful as a place people would want to live in. It also says a lot when something that so many people claim is required and vital to the success of a cities future, has been voted down three times by the citizens of Houston.

I write this because last night in Clarksville Tennessee a horrible incident occurred that had a lot to do with zoning.
A business owner shot and killed himself during a City Council meeting Thursday night after members voted against his request to rezone his property, witnesses said.

Ronald "Bo" Ward, owner of Bo's Barber Shop, had told the council his business would go under if he couldn't get his home rezoned as commercial. After the 5-7 vote Thursday night, Ward stood and walked toward the council.

"Ya'll have put me under ... I'm out of here," he said before shooting himself in the head with a small handgun.
Ward had said the rezoning would increase his property value, allowing him to secure a loan to offset debt he incurred when he expanded his shop.
I would sound extremely biased if I said the zoning issue was what drove him to this futile act. There surely is much more to this story, more depression and stress in his life that built up inside of him.

What it does show is what seemed to the council as a simple vote of zoning, can mean so much to one person. That last plank he was holding onto to keep his head above the water. When it was removed it was over for him, and he took his life.

I have seen in the past several people come to our own town government asking for changes to allow them to do things. A young women who wanted to have a few more children at her house as she runs a small day care center there. Sadly her yard was to small and as rules must be followed, she was turned down. I viewed her several times during the summer online and the final time in front of the council as she was voted against time after time. I saw a representative of a business who wanted to split their property as it would make it more easy to sell. The board voted against it because of entrances and distances between building, even after the representative said that without the property split the possibility of selling it is low.

I've also seen the council vote against several rezonings as they viewed it as "spot zoning" where one section wants to be commercial, while the rest are residential. What they view as "spot zoning", is a persons land.

Last night the Clarksville town council voted 4-7 against this man, and his last hope was gone.
Many in the room immediately screamed — audience and council members alike — but few moved as Ward's wife Mildred threw herself on her husband.
And people wonder why I'm a small government advocate.

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