06 October 2006

The Trouble With Zoning

A recent conference has concluded, rightly, that current zoning laws work poorly, and correctly identified, more or less, what a world with laws that worked would look like:

Cities in the Northern Rockies have "regulations drafted in the 1920s and 30s," said Tim Davis, director of the Montana Smart Growth Coalition, "with codes that are too restrictive, and don't allow flexibility." Counties, meanwhile, "have very few standards, whether to protect open space or deal with impact."

The result: "Cities have been pushing development out in many ways. The counties are gobbling it up, but most haven’t been prepared for it.["]. . .

All five panelists agreed that the goal is to promote denser "cluster" developments that allow for the preservation of open space while minimizing the need for long drives, sprawling retail outlets, and extensive infrastructure construction. Equally important, said realtor of Collin Bangs of Coldwell Banker, is finding a way to create and retain affordable housing. . . .

Two models are happening by default in the pricey, desirable towns of the Northern Rockies: the resort model, in which "you don't build anywhere, except for a few people who have lot of money."

The second is the sprawl model, where workers are pushed farther and farther away from their places of employment.

The West was built in isolated rural homesteads and diffuse suburbs, but what we really want are villages.

Solutions were considerably more scarce at the conference than either the shared identification of the problem, or the shared description of the desired outcome. I have a lot of ideas on the subject, but no time to post them now.

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