Two Posts With One Stone
Here’s my opportunity to talk about both the “Village Law” and Creve Coeur’s recent tax vote.
A new Walgreens development in Creve Coeur has attempted to exploit a loophole in Creve Coeur building restrictions that stipulate a 25-foot buffer between commercial and residential properties. Because the new Walgreens development lies adjacent to parts of unincorporated West County, the council argues that the rule is irrelevant because the affected properties are outside the Creve Coeur city limits (so they can basically build on their front lawn).
Despite what some staff members might say, there is a difference between responsible zoning regulations and statist rule. Some libertarians would argue that zoning laws are unnecessary, and that any damage done to an individual’s property value by a neighbor’s property use decisions could be recovered in court.
As much of a lawyer’s paradise as that might be, I find it hard to believe that the court system could support (objectively) competing claims about the damage to property from aesthetic changes. In other words, if I build a life-size AT-AT walker on my front lawn (which, believe me, would be awesome), my neighbors might object. But who are they to claim that I’ve “damaged their property value?” It might be worth a whole lot more now to someone like this guy.
And surely there are third-party “owners” who are adversely affected by a lack of zoning protection. What about the bank that services the affected Creve Coeur home mortgages? Don’t they have a real interest in the value of the property? If Walgreens builds right next to a house whose value suddenly plummets and the owners fall into foreclosure, the bank holding the (now worthless) title takes a hit. Can they sue Walgreens? Who’s to decide whether or not it was the Walgreens development that affected the property value?
In fact, I would argue that zoning laws actually help clear the market, enabling people to invest resources in a property with some faith that their home won’t suddenly plummet in value because a neighbor begins to run a strip club out of their basement. I don’t pretend to believe that zoning laws are a “good thing” or even the best way to organize society, but my feeling is that even if a libertarian paradise is ideal, we should take baby steps in order to achieve it. Plummeting into anarchy is not going to make anyone “freer.” And if you don’t like the zoning laws in your area, move to somewhere where they don’t really exist.
So, no, I can’t support the Village Law. I agree with David Stokes.