Monday, July 24, 2006

On Property Rights and Zoning...

Libertarians are generally opposed zoning, and I'm generally opposed to it myself. One of the basic tenets of property rights is that people can decide what to do on and with their property. For various reasons, a lot of people have a hard time accepting the concept of no zoning. Reasonable arguments have certainly been made concerning the consequences of certain uses of property on neighboring property, but many current zoning laws go far beyond offering reasonable protection.

I can see no reason to prevent my neighbor from opening a barbershop, or building a garage that is taller than his house, or selling sweet corn from his front yard. People that require such control over their neighbors can certainly achieve it by living in developments with deed restrictions and protective covenants.

In order to maintain a little decorum in the neighborhood, I would propose some simple zoning requirements, that would maintain reasonable distances between seemingly incompatible entities. Communities might set different standards, and I won't try to list all possible combinations here, but I would like to address one issue that is getting a lot of attention in my area right now.

Confined Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFO's, are being built all over Indiana, and Wayne, Henry and Randolph counties are all trying to deal with them as best they can. Under current zoning laws, a person can build a new home in an area that is zoned residential, and a company can then apply to build a CAFO next door. The people making the decision, the local Board of Zoning Appeals, most likely don't own property in the area, and will not be affected by their decision.

Under a simplified set of zoning ordinances, a CAFO couldn't be built within a pre-determined distance, (perhaps 2000 feet) of an existing home. If a company wanted to build a CAFO within that setback, it would have to seek a variance from the affected homeowners. The homeowners and the company could strike whatever deal they wish, and BZA members, such as myself, who might live miles away, would have no input in the matter.

It's by no means a perfect plan, and no doubt could use some tweaking, but it's far better than asking someone you don't even know if your grandchildren can open a lemonade stand.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Slippery slope, Mr. Bell. I applaud your campaign and its success, and I believe you will make a good representative. This issue, however, includes too much equivocation. People disturbed by neighbors' activities that victimize them (through disease spreading, or whatever bothers neighbors of CAFOs) can ask for redress in court or through a specific law based on the general non-aggression principle. Zoning is never necessary, even for a libertarian reaching out to Demopublican and independent voters.

8:58 PM  

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