Is a city better off without zoning?

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Doing some research and came across this article, which appeared in The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty, in August 1994: "Houston Says No to Zoning." It was written about a year after Houston voters had, for the third time in 50 years, defeated a zoning ordinance. The author, James D. Saltzman, makes the case that Houston is a healthier city for not having a zoning ordinance. He points out that Houston is not entirely without land-use regulation -- there are 17 separate land-use ordinances covering the city, and in many areas, private deed restrictions are in effect. He also argues that in cities with zoning, those with enough money to work the system can find ways around the regulations anyway.

The link above doesn't constitute an endorsement of the article, but it's food for thought.


Mel said:

I went to Houston for a week of class once (I still have little though). I found it so strange to be looking out from the fifth floor of a ten story building ... and looking at the one story residential house next door.

House, house, business, house, multi-story office building, house ...

An interesting mix.

Concerned Native Tulsans said:

Talking about growth, zoning issues and citizen input, our newly formed Neighborhood Association (within the county), felt it was important to communicate with our County Commissioners, INCOG and others in decision making positions, regarding our position. We are the area that lies within the City of Tulsa's "fenceline", in North Tulsa County, that has faced the annexation issue. As all of us in the entire Tulsa County area (including the City of Tulsa) look forward to growth, there are many common concerns. Please see below our position letter.

May 24, 2005

RE: *North Tulsa County Neighborhood Association
(established May 21, 2005)
*Zoning Issues/ Good Growth
*North Tulsa County Comprehensive Plan

Knowing that growth is inevitable, our North Tulsa County community stands ready to work together with experts and local government to create healthy community development within our area. We are an established rural community, with unique resources and livability. We do not want to sacrifice our integrity, for the profit of large developers or individuals with questionable motives. We take pride in our area and wish to protect it and preserve our homes and rural lifestyles. We want to strive for a community in which there are appropriate businesses that cater to the residences surrounding or adjoining us, as well as serving Tulsa County. We look for solutions that will respect our property owners’ needs and desires with consideration given to developers, with compatibility being a top priority. We take pride in our newly established “North Tulsa County Neighborhood Association” and our part of North Tulsa County. We wish to be informed and involved with issues within our area and invite you to contact us, anytime we can be of service. Registration with your office will be completed in the near future.

From our experiences, when addressing zoning issues, the average citizen is not versed in the terms, or the processes that are involved. Many times, citizens are advised that they must obtain an attorney or consulting firm, to assure them of success. In the event of a re-zoning application, having a PUD (Planned Unit Development) designed is often the recommendation given. This involves a sizeable investment of time and finances. Both large and small municipalities can be wowed by slick presentations and they can badly misjudge the quality of plans because the proposals from the “expert consultants” are poorly visualized and the impacts are poorly foreseen. The involvement of or the impact on an existing neighborhood is oftentimes not seen as a necessary part of this process. The PUD process which involves planning staff, legal experts, written and graphic presentations, favors the mightiest developers who have the money to influence the process, assuring them of approval. Local governments eager to build up the tax base can usually be talked into “something” eventually, with the right sales pitch. Confusing the permitting body with persuasive words and at times, altering facts, has evolved into an art form. The PUD is a neutral legal technique. It does not guarantee results. Good results require a good design, which means local government officials must know good design when they see it and rely a lot on staff recommendations as to the quality and appropriateness of the PUD design. Enforcing the need to have neighborhood involvement is a sign of great integrity both for the developer and elected officials. Thank you, for doing your part in encouraging neighborhood input.

It is not surprising that neighborhood groups, once routinely duped by clever public relations teams, now routinely oppose most development. Disenchantment with results from both conventional zoning and PUDs has further weakened the shaky public faith in planning and may have helped transform some “good growth” movements into “no growth” outrage. We wish to avoid this situation within our area of Tulsa County.
To accomplish good growth with wisdom, we all need to be a part of the process.

Our TMAPC (Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission) staff and Commission members are obviously busy people and refer to the long time established zoning codes within our area. Reform of these zoning codes, making them more appropriate for our current times, seems reasonable. A question comes to us, “Are our planning staffs and zoning boards having to adhere to zoning codes and land use plans that are long outdated?”. Please, do your part in supporting updates of our current zoning codes. For our area, TMAPC staffers also utilize as a major reference “The North Tulsa County Comprehensive Plan” (1980-2000), which is way overdue for updating. When our area citizens have asked the staff about why that has not been updated, they indicate that the “County Commissioners have not provided the funding to update it” and we should “petition the commissioners to do so”. With so many vital issues before us, regarding future growth and development within our North Tulsa County area, our North Tulsa County Neighborhood Association is requesting that funding be provided to accomplish this task. We would appreciate the opportunity to work with you and others, as the updating is addressed. Our association members and supporters have years of experience and wonderful resources that could be an asset to the effort.

Respectfully submitted,

North Tulsa County Neighborhood Association


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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 22, 2005 9:05 PM.

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