Skip to comments.In Towns That Slowed Growth, Backlash Stirs
Posted on 02/08/2003 7:16:03 PM PST by GeneD
ERIE, Colo., Feb. 5 As a bruising recall campaign ended here this week, Mayor Barbara Connors was still in office and her policies to slow the growth of this old mining town northwest of Denver were intact.
Yet the battle to save her political life and beat back overdevelopment was only the latest of a small but growing number of conflicts around the country over so-called slow-growth policies. Such policies were all the rage in recent decades, when rampant growth was viewed as a bad thing, but their supporters are not having an easy time of it in the current economic downturn.
In December, departing members of the Habersham County Commission in Clarksville, Ga., upset that their successors favored slow-growth policies, passed a motion to eliminate the county planning commission, land-use plans and the building inspection program. A judge later reinstated them.
This week in Loudoun County, Va., a burgeoning Washington suburb, more than 150 lawsuits were filed against the county by people who oppose its growth-control policies.
In Colorado, where the economy has sagged for two years, several small towns eager to spur development and increase the local tax base are turning away from growth restrictions. It is a fundamental shift from the booming 1990's, when job growth, housing prices and incomes soared and towns began putting limits on growth to preserve the quality of life that was attracting so many new residents.
In the last few years, voters in at least three towns have rejected proposals to limit growth. The next big fight is coming in Berthoud, an agricultural town of 4,800 about 45 miles north of Denver, where local officials are reviewing a petition to remove a 5 percent growth cap that voters have approved three times in the last three years. The town board may adopt the proposed change or let voters decide in a special election.
Stuart Meck, senior research fellow for the American Planning Association, a group of city planners and officials, said the pro-growth forces had not yet sparked a national trend. But challenging slow-growth plans, he said, is not always a bad idea.
"As economies change, systems need to be evaluated," he said. "You can't assume metropolitan economies are static. The reason to enact something when the economy is at Point A may not hold up over the long term."
Environmentalists say that lowering the obstacles to scattershot development could easily produce ugly sprawl, cookie-cutter subdivisions and environmental degradation.
"This is very shortsighted," said Elise Jones, executive director of the Colorado Environmental Council, a nonprofit coalition of 85 conservation groups. "In Colorado, the job market follows workers, and long-term economic vitality is tied to the protection of our quality of life. When you lose things that draw people to Colorado, you lose your economy."
In some places, that notion has been a difficult sell. Sam Mamet, associate director of the Colorado Municipal League, said the sluggish economy, combined with a persistent drought, was creating difficult choices for many towns. While some are acting, he said, others are waiting it out. "It's a mixed bag," he said, "but an increasing number of communities are looking at how they can expand their local economics and relax previously adopted policies."
The effort in Berthoud, where the population has doubled since 1980, illustrates the problem's complexities. Jeff Hindman, a homebuilder from Boulder who is leading the campaign for change, said Berthoud's fiscal problems almost demand a new approach to development.
In 2000, the town issued a record 104 building permits. Late that year, voters approved the annual cap on new permits to 5 percent of the number of existing homes. Mr. Hindman said that the cap created uncertainty for builders, making it harder to secure financing for new projects.
As a result, the town issued just 21 housing permits in 2001 and 8 in 2002. Not surprisingly, tax revenues from the permits fell, forcing town officials to cut the budget each of the last two years and impose a $38 surcharge on water bills to help pay for a new treatment plant.
Karen Stockley, a Sierra Club member who led the campaign for the cap, said removing it would destroy Berthoud's rural ambience and put added strains on local services. Already, she said, the new water treatment plant will be operating at capacity within two years.
"Berthoud is very much a small town; that's the attraction, that's why a lot of people have moved here," she said, adding that builders were "twisting the truth" when they talk about uncertain financing, pointing out that builders did not even apply for the permits that were available. "Not a single developer was denied a permit," she said.
Similar issues were debated in the effort to recall Ms. Connors in Erie, a rural town of 8,500 about 20 miles south of Berthoud. A campaign financed by developers sought to remove her and another town official, charging that they "abandoned Erie's efforts to secure economic development," as the recall ballots read. In the voting on Tuesday, Ms. Connors survived by a 1,065-to-874 vote and her colleague, Paul Carter, by 1,057 to 866.
Ms. Connors, a former teacher and school administrator from Manhattan, said her policies made sense for a town of Erie's size, which is straining town services. She echoed complaints in Berthoud that developers were more interested in outlying residential projects than commercial projects in town that would add more to the town tax base.
"We've been growing too much, too fast," she said. "I'm particularly concerned about pressures on our infrastructure. Citizens here want to run the town for their own benefit, not developers'."
Isn't this the crux of the matter? People want a small twon to grow so that they can live there? Where is the logic in this? If you move there and thousands other move there, it's not going to be a small town very long. ???? Can anyone explain this to me?
Why do people want to live in a "small town" and then allow it to become a big town? Why not just move to a big town or a city? Why shouldn't small town people want to keep their town small if the reason they like living there is the smallness? Makes sense to me.
I think the real question is: Why should folks be able to move someplace of their choice, and then slam the door to anyone else who cares to join them? The latest person to arrive has just as much right to move there as does the previous person, as long as someone wants to sell them a piece of land to build on.
I agree. It's mystifying. What bugs me even more, though, is the people who move out to the deep country and then get upset because it's a long way to the nearest Blockbuster, supermarket, high-volume pharmacy, mall, Jiffy-Lube, KFC, Burger King, etc. They think they want to live in the country and then get hysterical when the cattle moo at four in the morning or country dogs bark at the coyotes. So they try to bring all that suburban crap out into the sticks and then get hysterical when they're once again surrounded by suburban sprawl. Again, yuppie scum are not self-sufficient small-town or rural dwellers who want to lead their own independent lives, but liberals who want all the comforts of urban life supplied to them by government policy.
Snob zoning means "any land use that's more expensive than you can afford."
I've always wondered about the tax issue - you would think that the economy of scale would allow a more populated area to supply services at a cheaper per-capita rate, but it doesn't seem to work that way. I can't explain it.
How can they do that with restrictions on multi-family dwellings that are sure to be the law in Santa Crud...er..Cruz?
Any town stupid enough to have no growth policies will in the long run find itself declining badly. It's just a slower, but still deadly, form of communism.
Winter... 30 to 40 below zero.
Winter... Frost heaves.
Early spring... Spring rains
Spring... Mud season.
Late spring... Black Fly season.
Early summer... Mosquito season.
mid summer... Deer fly season.
Late summer... Horse fly season.
Mosquito hatches after rains throughout these seasons.
Mid fall... Fall rains.
Late fall to early winter and mud season: Tourist season.
As President Reagan said in, A Time for Choosing,
They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.
(Snob development) Zoning that favors large lots, and minimizes development.
It chews up resource land like crazy. I have proof.
It is great for property values if the masses live reasonably nearby to service the needs of those in the snob zones, and afford employment to the snobs.
The masses pay property taxes to buy the "open space" that enriches the property owners with adjacent parcels. So they buy the elections (and I do mean that; you should see some of the shenanigans of the Peninsula Open Space District, who calls a special election and counts the ballots themselves, violating the principle of secret ballot too, BTW). Yeah higher property value with people paying ever more for the interest on the loans, with "affordable housing" subsidized by the middle class taxpayer I might add. Don't you wealthy snots want to pay the wages that will allow the little people to afford the market price?
I refer you to Marin County. In passing I might note that I am a big fan of land use control. But getting it right is a Herculean task, and will not be achieved because parochial interests and political muscle will prevail rather than something in the public interest.
Spoken like a true elite fascist. "Getting it right" for whom? There is a simple answer. You just don't like it because control freaks like you can't steal the goodies from the landowners unsing the power to control their property value; i.e., zoning. Snob zoning lets those who can afford the benefits get theose big parcels at below what would otherwise be their true market price.
Townhouses and other forms of so-called moderate income housing are the most expensive for local government to provide services to. They suck up far more in resources than they can pay in taxes. In particular they bring in kajillions of kids in to the school system. More classrooms have to be built, more teachers hired, more schoolbuses bought. All the moms and dads of the kids who live in the townhouses have to get to their jobs as well, so more roads have to be built or improved. Then we need a new library, a new firehouse, more cops, more garbage removal services, more water, sewage treatment...the list goes on forever.
Not landowners ma'am, typically homeowners. Look, I wrote a whole book on this topic. You will note among the reviews is, Marty Moore, a Ph.D. land use planner. The book has a cutting edge analysis of thirty years of real estate transactions documenting the consequences of a County zoning policy EXACTLY as described by Torie. It also has the antidote.
Ditto.. But what REALLY bugs me is the reason urban Liberal yuppies give for moving to the country is that they want to escape the High taxes, Crime, Dangerous schools, etc. that are prevalent in their home city. Which of course as we all know those problems are caused by Ultra Liberal Politicians and their policies that rule in large cities. So essentially they are fleeing Liberalism. However when they get to these small towns (which are usually conservative) they STILL vote for Liberals and liberal policies, which is the very thing they were fleeing.
You get enough of these jerk offs moving into an area they can turn a once nice area into a tax and spend liberal hellhole like the one they left.
It's happening in New York, The ultra Liberals from the city moved onto Long Island have destroyed most of it. (Nassau County now might as well be the 6th borough of NYC and there are only a few pockets of resistance in Eastern Suffolk County left) and they are slowly destroying the once beautiful Catskills/Hudson Valley area.
Well, lets look at the road issue first. What's cheaper to build and maintain, 1 mile of road per home or 1 mile of road per 100 homes? Actually, they should cost the same to build and maintian except that the 100 homes will provide considerably more property tax income with which to maintain the road - even without an increase in tax rate - as compared to the 1 home. Now, that little 2 lane road will serve a good deal more traffic than just farm vehicles, but it will eventually be widened. But that widening will be paid for by a rather large number of taxpayers.
As far as needing more resourses, if every acre of "small town" farmland and city dweller paid about $1000 per piece of land in property taxes, there would be considerably more income with 4 homes per acre than there would be with one home per 4 acres. So, more dense construction automatically provides more tax money even without raising taxes.
As for police coverage, if a community provides 1 officer per, say, 200 residents, and the number of taxpaying residents doubles, then both the amount of tax money will have doubled (again, without changing the rate of the tax) and the need for officers will have doubled. This is also true of school needs - if one school serves 500 students and the population doubles, you need 2 schools or a bigger school. Of course, the doubling of households supplying tax money to the schools also doubles so the net effect is zero.
I'll offer a better explanation as to why taxes are so much higher in larger cities - pull out that old election map and look for the "blue" zone - the areas where the liberals live. Its the democrats, the party of freeloaders that drive taxes up to supply their silly programs.
Liberals are the reason it costs $9000 per student to educate a kid in the inner city vs. about $3000 per student in the country.
Liberals are why we need one police officer per, say, 150 residents in the city as opposed to 1 per 500 in the smaller towns anc the country.
Liberals are the reason that the welfare office is located in the big city and not small town, USA.
Liberals are the reason that inner city people want the government to make their down payment for them.
In short, it is socialism that causes the higher-than-inflation tax increases that governments seek, not the increased requirements of an increased population, since the increased population already provides a nearly exactly proportionate increase in tax monies anyway.
TO STAY ZONING FREE
Property Rights Organization of Jefferson County, Fairfield, Iowa
1. Zoning is Not the Inevitable Result of Progress
It is an experiment in centralized control that has failed, often with devastating consequences.
2. Zoning Raises Taxes
Zoning increases the complexity and cost of government with a whole new layer of bureaucracy. Local governments can easily spend 65% of their time on zoning issues.
3. Zoning is Bad for Communities
The purpose of zoning is to forcibly separate activities into different areas. It makes residential areas deserted during the clay and work areas deserted at night. This decreases inter action among neighbors. When people work, shop and go to restaurants all in the same area it creates a sense of community that is missing in a bedroom development.
4. Zoning Increases the Risk of Crime
When residential areas arc deserted during the day and work areas arc deserted at night, and neighbors are strangers to each other, it is easier for criminals to remain undetected while committing crimes Zoning also increases the risk of corruption of administrators.
5. Zoning Lowers Property values
Reducing the usefulness of property by limiting its uses and raising the property taxes decreases its value. Growth of prosperity in the whole area will be limited by zoning. Zoning eliminates all buyers but for the one approved use.
6. Zoning Is Bad for the American Dream
The American values of independence, self‑reliance and resourcefulness have their roots in the rural lifestyle. Zoning supporters think that by preventing people from building on farmland they arc preserving the rural lifestyle. The exact opposite is true Through higher taxes and building restrictions, they arc driving more farmers out of business and more people out of the country and into the development. The goal of zoning is to gather houses together in controlled centralized developments.
7. Zoning Is Bad for Farmers
If a farmer works off the farm as well as on the farm, that may disqualify him from having a fanning exemption to zoning requirements. Zoning increases the cost of farming by raising property taxes on farmland and by increasing compliance costs with zoning regulations. Even if agricultural uses arc not zoned, farmer's residences will be. Zoning interferes with a fanner's children building a house on farmland and continuing the family farm.
8. Zoning Ordinances Can Be Easily Changed to Be More Restrictive
Once zoning is passed, it is easy for officials to change the rules. In communities where zoning has passed, it has gotten more restrictive as time goes on. Your home should he an expression of how you want to live. Some zoning rules actually say what color the outside and inside of your house has to be.
9. Zoning Serves the Interests of the Rich And Well Connected
Wealthy individuals and some developers can afford to locate where they want to or purchase enough land that they are not limited by the zoning regulations. Wealthy interests can afford to petition and sue for the variances they want. Zoning has historically been opposed most strongly by the
less wealthy who are more severely affected by limitations caused by zoning and are less likely to be able to afford the cost of regulations and increased travel made necessary by zoning restrictions.
10. Zoning Is Bad for Churches
Zoning ordinances prevent churches from locating near neighborhoods and from expanding.
11. Zoning Wastes Time
Zoning creates regulatory red tape. 'Ibis consumes, lots of time and energy of property owners getting permits, applying for zoning variances, or making costly changes to meet obscure and meaningless zoning rules.
12. Zoning Creates Conflict
Neighbors will call the police to complain about minor violations of obscure zoning requirements instead of speak ing to their neighbors directly.
13. Zoning Stifles Positive Growth and Promotes Urbanized Growth
Instead of building where it makes sense, people will be forced to go where the zoning says, or seek area that arc less regulated. Zoning creates lumps of closely packed, identical houses sharply bordered by other areas of densely packed, one‑use land.
14. Zoning Is Bad for Business
By not allowing businesses in residential areas, zoning discourages small businesses and innovation. Zoning Just makes things worse with another layer of regulation.
15. Zoning Does Not Protect Neighborhoods
Ordinances can be changed and zoning maps redrawn at any time at the whim of county officials. Neighborhood residents must spend time and money petitioning the zoning board, usually against wealthy interests.
16. Zoning Is Inferior to Deed Restrictions
Deed restrictions give better protection than zoning because the county officials are not able to change restrictions at will as they arc with zoning. Deed restrictions [known as casements or covenants] give people the choice of living in controlled neighborhoods, while zoning gives them no choice. [Covenants can be enforced directly by the property owner.‑ Ed.
17. Zoning Is Not Needed for Organization
Individuals making informed choices can do a better job of organizing than central planners possibly can.
Any needed regulation would be better if applied univer‑ sally to the entire county through a specific ordinance instead of zoning. This process allows people to consider regulations one at a time and only implement the ones that arc needed.
Many communities all over the country, including the City of Houston, are organized very well without any zoning at all.
18. Zoning Shifts Land Ownership to Government Officials
Instead of citizens being free to use their property as they think best, zoning makes it so any use is assumed to be prohibited unless proven otherwise. A permit is needed for most land uses. If a building is constructed that is not allowed by zoning, the government can have it demolished. Instead of actually owning the land, all you have is the right to pay rent on it in the form of property taxes. The United States Supreme Court has started to recognize this abuse of power.
19. Zoning Is Bad For the Environment
By hunting or removing usefulness of property, zoning removes incentives and motivation to improve, beautify and maintain that property. By increasing the use of cars, zoning increases air pollution.
20. Zoning Is a Bad Idea Whose Time Has Passed
The first zoning ordinance in the United States was passed by New York City in 1916 as the idea of central control of the economy was gaining worldwide popularity. Until that time efforts to pass zoning ordinances had been blocked by the courts. They recognized that zoning is prohibited by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which state that a person shall not be deprived of property without just compensation and due process of law. You still own the property legally, but for practical purposes, if you cannot use something it is not yours. Central control of the economy is a failed experiment of the twentieth century. Central planning boards cannot anticipate the needs of the people. As the world moves toward freedom and prosperity, we should not take a step backwards by imposing centrally planned land use in the form of zoning.
Now, there was no way the town fathers could have predicted Tysons decision in the early 1990s to throw out all the local workers and replace them with illegal aliens, so their assumption that the Tysons plant would mean jobs was valid at the time. But they didn't consider the strain the poultry production and rendering would be on the water tables. The plant's usage of water was woefully (deliberately?) underestimated by the plant spokescreatures. Plus the pollution from the plant (a manmade pond with 3 FEET of poultry fat and other 'gunk' floating on it, soaking into the ground) means that not only does the town have an absolutely vile odor (best described as rotting water-soaked cheap hard dog food) that lingers in a 5 mile radius in any direction around the town, but the residents are on constant boil alerts, as the water tables are contaminated. And the decision to throw local workers out of business and replace them with illegals means the following:
A housing shortage.
A lack of money in the local economy , as the illegals send their money home rather than buying local more than they absoultely have to to survive.
Many business failures. What were once thriving communities now have only fast food joints, pay day loan places, gas stations and used car lots.
A 30% rise in crime in one 12 month period, per the county sheriff.
The recurrence of once eradicated Third World diseases like TB (both my husband and I tested positive for exposure).
Little communities which in the 1980s were clean looking, decent places to live are now filled with rundown, filthy looking rat holes. No up keep on the houses, and the yards are filled with junked cars.
As there are no longer any jobs in the area, the poverty is palpable, as I descibed above. In the town from which I moved, it was estimated by local law enforcement that about 1/10th of the houses contained meth labs or someone in some way connected with the trade, based on arrest records and P & P records.
The devastation in one 10 year period (1992-2002)is beyond belief.
They can stay wherever they are. They (and that means you and me, too) don't have to keep moving further and further out and then demanding that city development accompany them.
This is one of my points: many conservatives, liberals, and libertarians join together to say that development should increase in rural areas because people have the right to live wherever they want to. I disagree with this premise. People have the right to live wherever they can afford to live. As an example, I'd like to live in the horse country of Upperville, Virginia. This would please me. But I can't afford Upperville, so I live in a suburb fifty miles away, a place I can afford. I don't demand that the government supply affordable housing in charming little Upperville so that I can live where my fancy strikes, and I don't demand that the town of Upperville be turned upside down so that I have a Blockbuster, a Starbucks, and other strip-mall delights close at hand. Instead I use Upperville as a motivator. If I discipline myself, work hard, and plan carefully, someday I can move out there and buy one of the pieces of farmland that I can't presently afford. This is the American conservative perspective: we don't expect that all the people who are fortunate enough to already live in semi-rural areas be brought down to our level; we work to raise ourselves to the place we want to be.
The unpleasant truth is, few people be trying to move out into crappy new housing developments and spend three or four hours a day commuting to urban jobs if we didn't have our inner city and close-in suburbs jammed with immigrants, illegal and otherwise, with all the problems a poor immigrant population represents.
You get the Yogi Bera ""Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded" Award.
Is growth a must? I keep thinking about Las Vegas, the fastest growing city in America. drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip.
Honey, why isn't there any water coming out of the tap?
Because we're all tapped out, Darling.
Well, you're talking to the wrong crowd of keyboard warriors. President Bush supports illegal aliens and this group isn't going to change until they also see what you've seen.
Looking at the large homes on tiny lots, it begins to look like multi-family dwellings. There is a group in this world that believes that no single-family homes should be allowed. If growth limitations result in better quality of life for the occupants, then good. I know it flies in the face of the "It's my property and I can do what I want with it!", but the reverse is uncontrolled greed on the part of the developers and icky-tacky developments for the suckers.