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Should We Protest the Protest Petitions?


With an 84-28 vote, the general assembly approved a bill that would do away with protest petitions as part of the city zoning process.

Under normal circumstances, a rezoning requires a simple majority vote by the city council.  However, if contested by either 20% of those inside the area to be rezoned or 5% of those within a 100 foot buffer around the area, the requirement becomes a super-majority of city council and the mayor, or 9 votes total.

We had an intriguing discussion on this possibility at the last CAUTION meeting and I wanted to open up discussion to folks here at PunditHouse.  Some thoughts…

A “purest”, being opposed to zoning at all, would likely support the move.  After all, why should the use of anyone’s private property be subject to the will of government at all? In this case, by eliminating neighboring property owners’ ability to “complain” about the use of property that someone else owns, we are moving one step closer to Libertarian Nirvana.

Another view suggested that while the move was OK, property owners who are affected by a zoning change (or the use of another’s property in general) should be allowed to take civil action against the owner for damages…if they are real and provable.

For example, say the property I own has a market value of $250,000.  My neighbor decides to open up a porta-potty company and store the extra “sheds” on his front lawn.

As a result, the marketability of my home is diminished and if I go to sell, I would get less than it was worth previously.  Essentially, the neighbors use of their property has negatively affected my property.

Zoning didn’t stop the occurrence in the first place (because there wasn’t any), but would the threat of being liable for damages of value mitigate the lack of zoning and instill a sort of self-regulating community standard?

A third view opposed the elimination of protest petitions citing that we should all have the right to protect the value of our property from someone that would do harm.  After all, protection of property is a valid use of government.

Without citizens having the ability to fashion a legal “defense” of their neighborhood, it would only invite cronyism as those connected to government could ram through any zoning changes they desired.  There would be no reason to even work with neighbors on compromises as there would be no need to convince a council super-majority that the change is a good idea.

Big business/Big Government wins, the little guy loses.

As this bill is now before the Senate, there is still time to voice an opinion.

Any thoughts on the previous three positions?  Any different take all together?

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