Comment 41553

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 03, 2010 at 22:40:56

All rules apply to areas, whether it be the boundaries of the institution which creates them (the property line, national boarder or municipal boundary), specific areas they regulate (the Highway Traffic Act, or various workplace protocols), or simply because the rule feels a need to meet the unique needs of a specific area (ie: making drug dealing or indecent exposure carry extra penalties if done near schoolyards).

There are a lot more fundamentals to zoning laws. And while they don't always regulate land use, they usually do, along with a lot of other blanket conditions such as building height or setbacks. My opposition to them is based on the fact that the redeeming value of such laws is slim when weight against the harm they do.

a) Zoning laws are inherently biased toward elites (such as development corporations). Municipal politics notorious for biases toward the development industry, as York U's Robert MacDermid demonstrated with his work on campaign finances. And as this topic's shown quite well so far, these laws are virtually impenetrable for individuals to navigate - they require large budgets for project approvals and many high-priced professionals such as lawyers or architects, pricing all but the richest individuals out of the market. And while large interests who donated many times the allowable limit to winning candidates (read the list of DiIanni's contributors...) can easily obtain variances to convert historic neighbourhoods into tenement towers (ala Effort Trust) or prime farmland into suburban sprawl (ala DeSantis), smaller organizations, businesses and individuals are rarely so lucky.

b) They add a significant and unneccessary amount of work and expense to almost any size, if not making it flat out impossible.

c) They're based on a lot of very bad ideas about centralization of industries which in fact produce much more toxic processes (as my leather tanning examples above demonstrate) than would home-scale decentralized production. As both open-source and corporate household manufacturing technologies explode, this kind of thing is going to become a lot less workable in any form.

d) Municipal entities operate on timescales which cannot hope to keep up with real-world changes in neighbourhood dynamics.

e) Zoning bylaws are based on fundamentally authoritarian notions about city-hall bureacrats knowing more about "what is best" for communities than those who actually live there.

And most importantly, for this and a million other reasons:

f) All of these purposes would be much better served by directly democratic institutions at the neighbourhood level, which could respond faster, much better represent community needs and wishes, resolve disputes more fairly and do a much better job at encouraging innovation.

Scrap 'em. They're just not worth the trouble.

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