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SG-W:/ Fwd: Zoning, etc.

This is an interesting account of the discussion at the luncheon. Any 
thoughts? Do you have more to add, Conan?


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Date:        05/08  1:23 PM
Received:    05/08  11:25 AM

>The best thing the state can do to direct land use is nothing, and it 
>should give local units the power to do less as well, an urban policy 
>analyst said Monday.
>Land use issues will be resolved more efficiently through the real estate 
>market than with government planning or zoning, Sam Staley, director of 
>the Urban Futures Program of the Reason Public Policy Institute, told 
>attendees at a luncheon sponsored by the Mackinac Center for Public 
>Policy.   Mr. Staley is expected to reiterate those thoughts to the House 
>Land Use and Environment and Local Government and Urban Policy committees 
>Mr. Staley said the prime response to the problem of urban sprawl has been 
>to try to regulate where development goes, but he said that ignores 
>people's rights to make choices of where and how they will live.
>Local government groups agreed on the need for flexibility, but said the 
>market often ignores other needs that residents and businesses may have.
>Mr. Staley argued that instead of trying to direct development, local 
>governments should be sure that new developments do not affect the 
>property rights of neighboring homeowners and businesses.
>"There can be market-oriented policy responses to the real problems caused 
>by growth," Mr. Staley said.   But he said defining "urban sprawl" was a 
>difficult task.
>And he said there were too many issues entering into selecting a housing 
>or business location for government policies to adequately address the 
>issue.   "Democracy works horribly on complicated issues," he said.
>There are also some limits to what a democracy should be allowed to 
>address, Mr. Staley said.   "We don't want our neighbors' voting on 
>everything we do," he said, adding that objections to developments are 
>often based on misinformation or on aesthetic issues rather than the 
>actual impact of the project.
>Rather than try to regulate where developments can go and how they should 
>look, Mr. Staley said local and state governments should instead work to 
>ensure that new developments do not infringe on the property rights of 
>those who are already there.
>"If' we're concerned about open space, let's think about remedies specific 
>to open space," he said.   "If we're concerned about congestion, let's 
>look at what the source of congestion is."
>Zoning does not solve those problems, it merely regulates where they will 
>be, Mr. Staley said.   "What zoning does is segregate uses," he 
>said.   "We don't know what those appropriate uses are."
>Local government groups agreed that plans and zoning needed to be flexible 
>enough to address changes in the community.   But they said eliminating 
>zoning means eliminating some of the security people desire when they 
>purchase a home or a business location.
>"Individuals when they move into a community want to know not only what's 
>in their community, but what's going to be in their community," said Bill 
>Anderson with the Michigan Townships Association.   "If they move into a 
>subdivision with a vacant lot they want to know whether that vacant lot's 
>going to be a home, a factory or a school."
>Mr. Anderson said although some people move in assuming that the vacant 
>lot will remain vacant, those issues can generally be addressed by showing 
>people the community plan for their area.
>Said Gerry Griffin with the Michigan Association of Counties: "There has 
>to be somebody making decisions on behalf of the benefit of the entire 
>community.   Somebody should be able to make those decisions that are made 
>not just for the benefit of those doing the development."
>And Scott Schrager of the Michigan Municipal League said there are other 
>factors besides the market, which cannot plan in advance.
>"The market needs to be respected, but not elevated to a position that 
>it's supreme," he said.   "Communities try to plan in a comprehensive way 
>land use decisions over a number of years, decades."
>Mr. Staley said there is a planning element to the real estate 
>market.   "There's an underlying current that the real estate market is 
>uncoordinated and unplanned," he said.   "There is a market order, and it 
>generally follows that order."
>But Mr. Staley said the civil law concept of nuisance would be a better 
>basis for addressing the "spillover" effects of a new development than 
>segregating placement of those developments.   He said local governments 
>could, in order to look out for the property rights of neighboring 
>property owners, require that the development plan address expected 
>effects like traffic and storm water.
>Local governments also can control the rate and direction of growth by 
>making new developments pay the costs of expanding infrastructure to serve 
>those developments.   "The easiest thing you can do is fully cost out your 
>infrastructure," he said.
>Conan Smith, land programs director for the Michigan Environmental 
>Council, agreed with the idea of impact fees for new developments to cover 
>roads, water and sewer improvements, but he said Mr. Staley's plan as 
>presented Monday may not cover the ongoing costs of maintaining that new 
>Mr. Smith disagreed with Mr. Staley that improving public transit would 
>not reduce the need for road improvements.   Although he acknowledged that 
>many people, even those who live close to a destination, are driving to 
>get there, he said they have said in various polls that they would like 
>the option of mass transit.
>"Sam's approach is to build more and wider roads," he said.   "We can't go 
>on this never ending binge of road building."
>Mr. Staley said there was no evidence that public transit consistently 
>reduced the number of private passenger vehicles on the road.   He said on 
>the East Coast, such as in Washington, rail systems had reduced commuter 
>vehicles.   But he said a similar rail system had no effect in San Francisco.
>Any efforts to use zoning or historic districts to maintain the character 
>of a neighborhood were doomed, Mr. Staley said.   "You cannot preserve the 
>character of a community because you cannot prevent people from moving," 
>he said.
>Mr. Staley said not all of the current programs to control development are 
>out of line.   He said the PA 116 program to give tax credits to farmers 
>agreeing not to develop their land "is great".
>The more recent practice of purchasing development rights also works, but 
>he said it is best only for large open spaces.   And he warned it should 
>not be used where market forces would be able to push a developer into 
>leaving sections of land open.   "That's the market trend anyway is more 
>open space," he said.
>Even purchase of development rights could be better handled through 
>private land trusts rather than the current public trusts because he said 
>the former are more flexible in being able to trade land for the best open 
>space value.

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