In 2007, I served as a consultant to a group of citizens opposed to an attempt to bring zoning to Hobbs, New Mexico. During that time, I wrote a series of articles that were published in the local newspaper. This is one of those articles. In a referendum, zoning was defeated by a 2 to 1 margin.
Those in favor of zoning argue that restrictions on land use are necessary to protect neighborhoods. In other words, the welfare of the group is more important than the welfare of any individual. This is called collectivism.
This means that an individual may use his land only with the permission of the group. And since “group” really means a collection of individuals, this really means that some individuals must abide by the demands of other individuals.
Many may say that this is simply democracy. However, it should be noted that America is not a democracy, but a constitutional republic. The American Constitution restricts the powers of government, including the powers of any majority that controls the government.
A democracy means unlimited majority rule– the majority may do as it pleases because it is the majority. In a democracy, individual rights are as non-existent as in a dictatorship. Remember that Socrates was put to death at the hands of the majority in ancient Athens, and Adolf Hitler came to power in a democratic Germany.
Morally, collectivism holds that the individual must place the welfare of others above his own. Each must do his “fair share” for the “common good”. Those who refuse are regarded as “selfish”, “rugged individualists”, etc. and may be forced to sacrifice their values.
These two principles– collectivism and sacrifice– serve as the justification for every attack on property rights, past, present, and future. The same holds true of the most aggressive attack on property rights– zoning.
The sole purpose for zoning is to give government control over all land use within the community– individuals may use their property only for the purpose dictated by law.
If you think this claim is an exaggeration, consult the presentation made to the Zoning Steering Committee on October 25, 2005. That presentation advocated controls on signs, landscaping, building design, lighting, utilities, drainage, and more.
If a zoning ordinance is enacted, a violator of these laws is subject to fines and/ or imprisonment. Under zoning, you may use your property, not by right, but by permission. Do you want to be thrown in jail for planting the wrong tree or installing the wrong lights?
A tyranny is defined as “the office, authority, or jurisdiction of an absolute ruler.” This is the position of zoning officials.
Zoning officials may zone a parcel of land for any purpose they choose– industrial, retail, residential, etc., using criteria they establish and may change at any time. Or they may prohibit the use of a parcel of land.
Zoning officials may attach conditions on land use. A land owner might be required to install “public art”, “donate” land to the government, or “contribute” money to an official’s favorite social cause.
Zoning officials not only have the power to zone an area for a particular use, such as single-family homes, they also have the power to define what constitutes that use, such as defining the term “family” to exclude students, gays, or minorities.
Zoning officials thus have complete reign over every aspect of land use. They may impose their values upon the individuals in a community, whether or not those individuals share those values.
By imposing “community standards” upon individuals, zoning forces individuals to sacrifice their values to the group. Zoning is thus an assault on the freedom of every productive citizen.