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Re: SG-W:/ Fwd: Zoning, etc.

I guess I wouldn't expect anything different from someone associated with Reason
which is a libertarian oriented group.  They consistently argue against zoning
laws and for a pure market based approach to development.  There are a couple of
obvious problems with the pure market approach:

1)  This approach can actually encourage more litigation because it relies on the
concept of nuisance to "regulate" development.  Does the development next door
dump excess runoff onto your property?  Take them to court and sue them for
"trespass" and damages.  Did it lead your property values to fall?  Sue them for
damages to your property.  It would be a windfall for lawyers but how many people
would want to live in a society where you the threat of litigation is the only way
to regulate development?

2)  Although they might be loathe to admit it, developers want zoning regulations
in place.  First, it helps ensure that their investment is protected.  What
developer wants to start construction on a subdivision with $500,000 homes and
watch the property owner next door put in junk yard or an industrial facility?
Also, zoning artificially depresses and elevates the value of property.  Many
developers snap up property when it is zoned for low-intensity uses like
agriculture and sit on it for years with a relatively low tax burden.  Then they
turn around and enjoy a windfall when the property is rezoned for higher-intensity
uses.  Plus, zoning and master plans often limit the inventory of available lands
for higher-intensity uses making those lands more valuable in communities that are
rapidly growing.  Absent these restrictions, developers might find that they would
have higher "carrying" costs to acquire property and they might not get as much
return when they sold.

Andrew Mutch

Steve Bean wrote:

> This is an interesting account of the discussion at the luncheon. Any
> thoughts? Do you have more to add, Conan?
> Steve
> ---------------- Begin Forwarded Message ----------------
> 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
> >Tuesday.
> >
> >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
> >infrastructure.
> >
> >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.
> Messages posted to this group are the property and responsibility of the
> people who post them and do not necessarily reflect the values, opinions
> or policies of the Green Party of Michigan.
> ----------------- End Forwarded Message -----------------
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