Zoning one issue that sets hair on fire
Monday, June 17, 2013 10:00 PM
Thanks to Tom Utley for that headline. The county councilman mentioned zoning during a debate in the last election. His comment was that whenever zoning came up it somehow managed to set peoples' hair on fire. He's right.
Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically on Tuesdays in The Paper. Timmons is the publisher of The Paper and can be contacted at email@example.com.
If you drive much around Crawfordsville and Montgomery County you've likely noticed signs springing up. They simply say "No zoning." Several political types in favor of zoning have said that these yard signs don't mean much. These are the same political types who put out their own signs when elections roll around. Hard to have it both ways, isn't it? Opponents of zoning have said that they don't care what anyone says, they will never agree to zoning. That's what a lot of opponents in Fountain County said until someone wanted to put a landfill in their back yard. Wham, bam, vote for this Sam and Fountain County adopted zoning.
Being a newspaper vagabond, I've lived lots of places. Most had zoning. As a guy who paid my property taxes and voted in each election I can assure you that zoning wasn't some awful, lurking evil ready to snatch away my rights as a landowner. Properly handled, zoning is no more than good neighbors. One of my favorite libertarian philosophers Tibor Machan said it well. My rights extend right up to the point where they meet your rights. Even simpler, I shouldn't be able to do anything with my property that hurts my neighbor's property. Good zoning helps that. No zoning means that anyone can do whatever they want, no matter what.
(I can hear the No Zoning crowd now as they get ready to plant a hundred No Zoning signs in my yard.)
Hold on there, good neighbors. This might surprise you. I truly believe that Montgomery County has no business passing laws, rules, regulations or even suggestions regarding zoning.
Because this isn't about zoning. This is about trust.
Pure, plain, straightforward trust.
What was it Ronald Reagan said? "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, I'm from the government and I'm here to help." The Gipper ain't wrong. Government tends to find ways to make things harder, not easier; more expensive, not cheaper; more bureaucratic, not straightforward. No offense to our local electeds. I'm not saying you folks are bad. You're not. Your hearts are in the right place. Some of you are fighting hard to make things better. But it's a tough row to hoe and you all know it.
So the reality is that our government isn't the most efficient, well-oiled machine out there - on any level, especially nationally. Just think about the IRS scandal and the unprecedented loss of human liberty under the guise of national security. Hell, if anyone did trust the government these days they ought to have their head examined.
Yet in this climate we have elected types who say, "trust us."
It's not all one-sided either. Some opponents would have everyone believe that zoning is an evil, one-size-screws-all catastrophe when in fact good zoning is not intrusive and it does not take away my property rights.
The problem is no one gets to find out because one side is doing all their talking behind semi-closed doors and the other side is putting their hands over their ears and singing la-la-la-la as loud as they can so they can't hear facts.
No one trusts anyone.
We need cooler heads to prevail. We need proponents and opponents to sit down with open ears, open hearts and truly listen. The great Stephen Covey said it best in his 7 Habits with No. 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
There needs to be a series of meetings in which zoning is explained. Not sold. Not campaigned against. Explained. There are currently some very informal meetings being held by both opponents and proponents. The Democrats had a meeting as late as last night. Good for them. But while those are not bad steps, they're not the answer. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It's not an issue where we should persuade others to see it our way. What we need is facts presented without bias or partiality. We need time to hear, digest and process. We need time to be able to come up with questions and the inevitable "what-if's" and have someone give us straight answers.
Transparency goes a long way toward developing trust, doesn't it? Besides, when all the facts are presented, some may actually change their position on the issue . . . if they are truly interested in listening to those facts and open-minded enough to consider them.