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Letters to the Editor

Letter: Zoning bad public policy

To the Editor:

Lisbon is revising the village zoning: B1 and B2 for processors and commerce (two or three of them) and R1 and R2 for residential rentals (two or three rentals). This for a village of 280 people and 100 buildings. This gives neighbors the opportunity to tell you what you may do with your property so their property benefits. This is not a zero sum game – everyone loses in the long run.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was experiencing hard times in the 1960s when I lived there. The rigid R1 zoning forbade renting rooms or floors. R1-zoned homeowners with limited incomes were letting homes deteriorate rather than selling at dropping prices – in 2017 dollars, a home sold for $50,000 might only support the seller for five years at a rental of $800/month but might shelter him for 20 years while falling down around him. With a mortgage, it was even less desirable to sell.

The result was a decrepit home or two in every block of some R1 areas. Were such homeowners allowed to rent to roomers or rent their first or second floors, the residential neighborhood would age gradually instead of declining rapidly. However, the majority, a safe distance from the eyesores, worried about undesirable tenants (integration fears at that time) and destroyed their future.

A failure to utilize property in its most productive employment obviously decreases prosperity. Rural plots ideal for homes may not be so employed because only contiguous parcels can be annexed to existing municipalities. This allows municipalities to extort millions of dollars in fees and permits, greatly increasing housing costs and limiting development. Municipal homeowners benefit at the expense of newcomers and rural landowners, but the wealth transfer slows growth. Many live in units costing 50 percent of their income. And jobs and workers flow away to Houston and the sunbelt.

In the absence of zoning, insurance, purchase of easements and litigation can protect one property owner from actions of another. Zoning is the use of government to benefit a minority.

A map of Kendall County in the Commissioners Board room similarly zoning every square inch prescribes “HU”s (Human Units) for allowed density: HU/acre for rural areas, etc. Industry is shoe-horned into “industrial parks.” God help the guy trying to repair his car in the driveway. Result: higher costs than in Houston’s unzoned environs.

The urge of government to extend its sway over all activities and property by zoning increases costs, wastes capital and impoverishes zoned areas in the long run.

Alphonse I. Johnson

Lisbon

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