• That is the way a zoning code generally works…that way, when I buy my single family home, I know that my neighbor cannot legally use his home as a “hotsheet” flophouse, a bordello, an asbestos handling facility, a commercial truck depot, or a vehicle parking/mechanic’s shop for a commercial landscaping facility…I saw all of these uses in residentially zoned areas while working for a municipality on zoning enforcement.
    We did lose the one where a fellow converted the front of his home into the rear end of a sailing ship, complete with a railing, mast and painted, life-size pirate statues. The judge thought it was free speech.

    • I don’t think that’s the way it generally works at all, Mike.

      Generally speaking, codes restrict what people may do – not grant permission for activities that harm no one outside of the property.

      It all depends on how you approach people’s rights.

      You either believe that rights belong to the person and are granted by God or nature or you believe that a government grants rights to you. The first means the rights can never be taken away without due process. The second means that you are not a free person, and your activities are done at the permission of the government.

      • I think we may be talking at cross purposes here, maybe not really disagreeing.

        Zoning codes in my neck of the woods (NY state) are very definitely written in the form where certain activities are permitted, and all others are forbidden. The definition of what constitutes an”activity” or more accurately, a “use,” is where the action is.

        For example, zoning code category “A residential” might allow single-family homes and agriculture.
        Zoning code category “B residential” might allow all activities permitted in A, plus apartments.
        “C” would then expand on the activities permitted based on what’s permitted in A and B. Some people call this a “vertical” zoning code.

        The advantage to this very restrictive kind of law is, as I said above, you pretty much know what the deal is before you invest $300,000 in a single-family home.

        • Mike,

          There is a difference between “activity” and “use.” “Use” may be covered by LDR’s. “Activities” are covered by codes.

          While I accept that a “use” may restrict a plot of land to a single family residence and the “building area” may be defined by a legislated “box” of setbacks and even height restrictions, once that is defined and the home is built within that “box,” unless the activity of the owner harms another, the government should have no say.

          For example, in the town the article references, should people have the right to plant a garden without interference or approval from the government? What harm is a tomato plant causing someone else?

          (Remember “victory gardens” from WWII? Gardens were encouraged to save people money and food for the war effort. Now people have to get permission to grow fresh produce to save money? To teach kids? To eat healthy?)

          In another article on this town, one of the Councilmen claimed that the regulation that did not allow for gardens in the front of the home was to protect wildlife as the homes were on a street and the wildlife would have to cross the street. (Apparently the Councilman thinks a city block bounded on all sides by streets means a rabbit won’t cross the road to get to lettuce in the back of a house.)

          Still, should the government say a dad and his son or daughter can’t play catch in their yard without permission? Should a government say what color a home must be or what type of window blinds and curtains must be on the windows? Should a government say you can plant lilies but not roses?

          If “all things not permitted are prohibited,” then the government – not the citizen – controls the activities of people on their property where no harm is caused to another.

          • okay, sounds like we are in different states and are using different terminology.
            “Uses”, in common New York State zoning codes, are based on the old New York City zoning code from the first world war era, and are explicitly restricted. I think what you are taking issue with is whether the municipality should be allowed to zone for aesthetics, that is, for example, a vegetable garden in the front yard of the house. Don’t know what an “LDR” is.

            For example, the house converted to a pirate ship I mentioned previously is an example of an attempt at zoning for aesthetics, as would be an ordinance preventing homeowner from spray painting angry messages about people he doesn’t like (Christians etc.) on the front door of his garage.
            The vegetable garden thing might be a step too far though.

  • Maybe they have a detailed list of approved plant species that excludes broccoli and such. Otherwise, a plant is a plant.How can they allow roses(edible) and not cauliflower from a legal standpoint?

  • Mike,

    “LDR” is “land development regulations” or what some people call “zoning laws.” Such regulations are what you are talking about when a parcel or area is zoned for single family, multi-use, commercial, industry, etc.

    But as I said, once a property owner’s structure meets the requirement of what can be built on a property inside the “box,” the state has no right or interest in anything other than that which harms another person.

    In short, I think that if a person wants to paint nasty messages on their property and those messages don’t harm someone, let ’em. The danger being that someone has to decide what is a “nasty message.” Since you used the example of anti-Christian messages, what happens if a city council gets elected and says “no messages of Merry Christmas may be displayed because that is nasty and offensive.” What happens then? The same is true for the pirate ship. I may not like the ship design, but what right do I or the state have in saying what is “good taste?”

    People and the country are better off with “diversity” of taste and ideas. (Lord knows I hate the term “diversity” as it seems today to imply a goal rather than an ideal.) When we start to have the government say what we can do on our own property -such as painting a message or colors or playing catch or planting a garden – we are saying that the government and not us owns the property and in fact, owns our actions.

    The country was founded with a government that intrudes the least into people’s lives, rights and freedoms. We are drifting away from that ideal.