Zoning in Jefferson County
I hadn’t heard much about the proposed Hindu education center in Franklin County since I blogged about it last year, but I was reminded of it today when I read this article in the Post-Dispatch. It’s disappointing that the zoning issues still haven’t been worked out.
This news story shows how zoning laws don’t live up to their promise of increasing land use efficiency. Instead of generally promoting the level of productivity or weighing the costs and benefits of new development, zoning stacks the cards in favor of a few property owners who got there first. Any development that doesn’t look exactly like the original properties gets tied up by regulation, even if the potential gains from the new development are much larger than the potential damage to its neighbors’ property values. Property owners shouldn’t have to give up their land for the “greater good” as in eminent domain cases, but they also shouldn’t be able to veto any neighboring development that might have a mild effect on real estate values.
Furthermore, while it would be nice if zoning decisions were based on purely objective calculations, in real life they can be motivated by ignorance and bigotry. Here’s an example from the article:
Opposition may have been stirred up by rumors, the most damaging of which is that the development would somehow include a training camp for Muslim terrorists.
If it were going to include a terrorist camp, then I’d be all for zoning it out. What’s actually proposed, however, is a lot less exciting — a spiritual retreat and education center. I hope the zoning dispute is resolved soon so that this peaceful, terrorist-free development can proceed.