No Sure Things Except Death and Zoning
There is some good stuff in the Columbia Daily Tribune today. First, there is a very interesting article about the struggles of a couple of funeral homes in Columbia to locate in certain areas where the zoning does not allow them. Now, common sense appears to be prevailing and it looks like the city will amend the zoning regulations to allow these two funeral homes to locate in abandoned churches (which is typical in the industry).
Zoning is one of the main areas of disagreement among the staff here at the Show-Me Institute. I, as well as Justin before he left for the big city, favor the rights of local government to enact zoning. Dave Roland does not. (I expect he’ll comment on this later.) I admit that zoning can easily lead to silliness and regulatory hoops, like with the issues outlined in the abovementioned story, but I still feel citizens have a right, through their elected officials, to lay a basic groundwork for which types of activities can take place within certain areas. Dave, if I may put words in his mouth, would say that those restrictions are improper and neighbors should recover in civil court any damages they might incur from a certain type of activity taking place near them. (I think that is way too optimistic a faith in our civil court system; pretty common among lawyers.)
The good news is that it appears the two new funeral homes will be allowed to open. While you might bemoan the hoops they jumped through to get going, if the fact that there was a zoning fight now means that there won’t be a lawsuit by the neighborhood later, then they are no worse for the wear. That is more hard realism than good logic or policy, but it’s probably accurate.
The best part of the article are the comments from the litigious neighborhood activist who appears to take his role very seriously. This guy really believes in his neighborhood, but apparently not in the free market. If I had discussions about zoning with this guy, I’d probably switch over to Dave Roland’s opinion. His comments are revealing (emphasis added):
Peter Anger, secretary of the Parkade Neighborhood Association, spoke at the September meeting of the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission, where the Carr-Yeager request was discussed.
“My only concern is the zoning,” Anger said at the time. “I have no problem with a funeral home without a crematorium in there. I think ‘office’ zoning is appropriate.”
Anger yesterday said zoning would outlast any business that establishes itself on the site. “Whatever happens to be on that tract of land is governed by the zoning,” he said. “Businesses come and go at the whim of the economy, and I don’t want to see a McDonald’s on that corner.”
Anger is no stranger to modifying zoning ordinances and once appealed a city zoning decision to allow a concrete and asphalt plant all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court. He said office zoning would be appropriate for mortuaries without crematories.
“My recommendation, as an experienced neighborhood executive and spokesperson, would be to rewrite zoning to allow a mortuary without crematorium. It would be a great buffer” between residential neighborhoods and commercial districts, Anger said. “We have these buffers for very specific reasons