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