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Zoning laws stand in the way, and that's good

Editorial

 


Among the most frustrating regulations that citizens run up against when trying to fight city hall are zoning laws. But some of the most obvious problems this community faces result from a lack of them, or of their past enforcement.

Zones in a city define how portions of geography are to be used: homes here, businesses there, mixed use over here. Their purpose is rooted in a great American concept — that we can do what we want with our own property, as long as it doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s. Zoning is supposed to help make that more possible over long stretches of time that we mortals can’t see beyond.

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln said, “I believe each individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with himself and the fruit of his labor, so far as it in no wise interferes with any other man’s rights …”

Zoning recognizes that what you do on your property affects mine right next door. If you build a 20-foot tall shop that blocks my view and so devalues my property, is that your right? If you operate a business and set a precedent for it in your home that can eventually lead to the degradation of the neighborhood long after you’re gone, is that your right?

A drive around this community will let any observer easily find many areas where such principles have not been applied in the past. As a result, what often seemed like a reasonable idea at the time now renders property far less usable than it should be. Prime view lots that would make a nice place for a home can be found next to a junk yard.

Over time, this affects the whole community. At this moment in time, a growing workforce at the Bureau of Reclamation looks for homes out of town. Builders wanting to supply housing lament that they can’t build a house on speculation when the mess of a lot down the street guarantees its low value.

Planning commissions in our towns need to stand their ground when it comes time to defend the prosperity of the future against expediency of the present.

Scott Hunter

editor and publisher

 

Reader Comments

(1)

Mark Graves writes:

As a Representative Republic, our country is founded on the Rule of Law. Some regulations are necessary. But when the citizenry is subjected to too much regulation, (over 40,000 enacted last year in the U.S.) they become burdened under the weight. Mr. Hunter states that we need more regulation. There are, however, a plethora of laws that prohibit ‘Harmful/Hazardous’ activities on one’s property. Regarding Mr. Hunter’s question , “If you build a 20-foot tall shop that blocks my view and so devalues my property, is that your right?” I contend that it is my right. If it was such a concern, you should’ve bought my parcel too. When my wife and I looked at property containing a great view, we see if we could also purchase the adjoining parcel. If not, and the view is a deal breaker, we move on. For those who are so concerned about your neighbors lowering your home’s value, there is always the option of moving into one of the various communities in the Grand Coulee Dam Area that have six inch thick books laden with all the rules one’s heart could desire, with everything from choosing your house color to how many vehicles and children you are allowed, and all for the ‘Better Good’ of the neighborhood. For the rest of us, we just ask to be left alone to live our life.