Update on Franklin County’s Village Law
Brad Ferguson’s attempts to develop a subdivision in Franklin County have been dealt another setback (note clever use of planning and zoning term) by the court. According to the Washington Missourian, the Judge denied a writ of mandamus (I’m not a lawyer, so no idea what that means …) and the case was continued until August 22. Because the repeal of the Village Law is effective August 28, the 22nd will likely be the last attempt under the current law allowing greater ease of incorporation. It clearly appears that these attempts to incorporate are going to fail.
My colleague Dave Roland argued a short time ago that Mr. Ferguson should be allowed to develop his property however he sees fit, and the issues that might arise out of that could be dealt with later. I believe that the people of Franklin County have chosen, in a democratic fashion, to enact a planning and zoning system, and there is nothing wrong with requiring developers to go through that process, even if the process might go to far (if it does, that is a legitimate thing for the courts to decide).
There are clearly reasons why the commission has decided that this development is not right for Franklin County. These reasons likely come down to the effects and costs it will have on people outside of the immediate development area. If the people in Franklin County want to change this, they can elect people who want to get rid of planning and zoning entirely. (Charges that this is some kind of Potemkin Court, and that the good ol’ boys network is out to get someone, are going to be ignored here.)
At a previous eminent domain forum — the arguments from which apply just as well here — a supporter of eminent domain made an absurd statement and left himself open to withering counterattack when he said we need things like eminent domain for private purposes because he “believed in order.” (A very close paraphrase.) Well, his opponent retorted that he believed in freedom, including the freedom not to sell your property if you don’t want to. Well, I have no such concern with order when it comes to issues of property development — and I believe in freedom, too. But I also have a respect for democracy. If the people of Franklin County have chosen a system of planning, residents should either work within the system or work to change the system. The obvious counterargument to this would ask: What if democracy violates a fundamental right, like Jim Crow laws that prevented African-Americans from voting? Of course, there are issues like this that you should never leave to majority rule — but, without going any further, I don’t think zoning rises to that level at all.