Wednesday, October 26, 2005

While the Cat's Away...

Cheeze, I go away for a few days to take a vacation over UEA break (my wife is a high school math teacher), and while I'm gone, the sky starts falling...

Two pieces in the DesNews, one from last Saturday, followed by an editorial comment on Tuesday, about a proposal by House Speaker Greg Curtis and Rep. Wayne Harper to change the way zoning works in Utah. How about that?

According to the story, they want to change the "presumption of validity" from the communities to the land owners, meaning that if a landowner wants to do something with the land, to stop it, the community has to show it is detrimental to the general health, safety and welfare of the community.

Haven't seen a zoning law like that in any state. In fact, the original zoning enabling act as proposed in the 1920's, assumed that under the police power to protect the general health, safety and welfare, zoning laws were permissible. What these two propose to do is turn the whole system on its head.

Why would that be? Most thoughtful communities prepare general plans for the orderly growth of their neighborhoods, towns and cities, then zone to make those things happen. It gives residents a sense of orderliness and certainty. This would do just the opposite.

I think Reps. Curtis and Harper want to do this because they feel that communities have become too arbitrary with their zoning decisions. There is some validity to this viewpoint, as some communities have not done a good job planning ahead, and sticking to their plans. So should we throw the whole system over, and let freedom reign, so to speak? Or do we help communities better understand their responsibility to plan and stick with their plans?

In a previous blog entry, I mentioned that Rep. Curtis made a comment at a recent conference that he would prefer to see zoning actions be handled as administrative acts rather than legislative. Again, this would raise the bar for advance planning, and it would make it harder for landowners to seek a change in designation.

Be careful what you wish for, Representatives, you may get it.

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