Zoning restrictions


James Howard Kunstler, in his weekly podcast called “KunstlerCast” has featured zoning restrictions as one of his early topics.  It is called “The Tragic Tale of Zoning Codes” and is very instructive on the history of them.  He also deals a little bit on the psychology of them.  He thinks that they will go the way of the dinosaur in a few years.

I disagree.  I don’t disagree that to a certain extent they need to go away, at least some of them.  But I think he’s a little too optimistic (Haha, Kunstler being optimistic) with his predictions in this regard.  I live in a county in mostly rural Arizona; my county has been hit very hard by the housing fiasco (which is a good thing as we don’t have enough water to support the people we have now, long term, let alone all the new people they were so anxious to take tax dollars from) and our county planning and zoning office is looking at laying off more than a dozen people.  So.  How do they maintain their revenue when there is no new building going on?  Easy.  They increase enforcement.

According to my friend, who used to work for the City of Prescott until she got laid off, the county has an enforcement officer who goes up in a private plane, funded by the county, and takes pictures over populated areas so he can compare the new photos with old photos and find people who have built anything that requires a permit (which is now everything — even a gravel spot for a car is considered a driveway and therefore needs a permit) so they can fine them for violations.  Now, this works well in an economy where people have money to spend — but not so well in an economy where people can’t afford the fees.  Much of the work I see being done is needed stuff — fixing a leaky roof, mending broken steps, etc.  All of this now needs a permit thanks to the greediness of the people in charge…when you start looking at fees as revenue instead of costs of making sure citizens get work done in a safe manner, you are greedy.

I see this state of affairs continuing, and even escalating, as more and more government bodies look at enforcement of whatever they are in charge of as a means to extract monies from the populace.  What worries me is that this may ultimately place much of the private property and incomes of the citizens in the hands of corporations as government agencies sell off their seized assets to cover unpaid bills.

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