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Thread: Voting on whether to adopt zoning?

  1. #1
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    Voting on whether to adopt zoning?

    A rural community near our land conservancy has for years been resistant to adopting any form of zoning. Lately, though, some residents have called for zoning as a means to address potentially incompatible land uses. One of the commissioners (an ardent opponent of land use regulation) suggested putting the issue to the electorate for a vote. Has anyone had any experience with the public deciding an issue like this via the ballot box? One of many concerns I have is that it is hard to imagine the public marching out to the polls to support the adoption of a regulatory approach that could limit, to an extent, their property rights.

    I think a more balanced approach is to appoint a citizen's advisory committee to study the issue and recommend a course of action to the county.

    Any thoughts or recommendations?

  2. #2
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Happens all the time in New England. Many, if not most, communities that aren't cities still have Town Meeting form of government, where those that show up vote on everything, including zoning.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  3. #3
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    It happens in Texas, too. In fact, I think I recall the City of Houston having a city-wide election on whether to adopt zoning controls back in the 1990's. It failed.

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    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    In Wisconsin it is called "Direct Legislation" and is usually forced upon elected officials when the public is not satisfied with the actions of those in office. Its not very common, but has become increasingly common in recent years.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ttrsplanner View post
    A rural community near our land conservancy has for years been resistant to adopting any form of zoning. Lately, though, some residents have called for zoning as a means to address potentially incompatible land uses. One of the commissioners (an ardent opponent of land use regulation) suggested putting the issue to the electorate for a vote. Has anyone had any experience with the public deciding an issue like this via the ballot box? One of many concerns I have is that it is hard to imagine the public marching out to the polls to support the adoption of a regulatory approach that could limit, to an extent, their property rights.

    I think a more balanced approach is to appoint a citizen's advisory committee to study the issue and recommend a course of action to the county.

    Any thoughts or recommendations?
    Turning this around to (hopefully) inform the discussion, a few years ago the Private Property Rights movement tried to gain traction by acting at the state level, getting ballot measures to the public to repeal zoning in the guise of advancing 'private property rights'. Every single question that stood alone got smacked down hard.

    Nonetheless, direct legislation is one way of gaming an issue, as the monied can inject much disinformation into the campaign to sway the vote. An advisory commission has the advantage of conducting research and distributing facts.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    The town of St. Pete Beach in Pinellas County, Florida has had referendums on their comp plan (two, I think). Because future land use trumps zoning in Florida, and FLU is set in the comp plan, these votes had essentially the same effect as voting on zoning.

    In fact, the whole "Hometown Democracy" movement in Florida would require all comp plan amendments to be submitted for referendum voting.

    According to a recent article on the St. Pete Beach vote, the town's voters first rejected a new comp plan in 2006 that was opposed by Citizens for Responsible Growth (CRG), a group of locals affiliated with the statewide Hometown Democracy movement. CRG was also responsible for spearheading the change in local law that allowed citizens to vote on accepting or rejecting the comp plan.

    Then, another group of locals called Save Our Little City (SOLC), who desired more growth in the town, got another referendum vote that passed the comp plan that was rejected in 2006. Now, someone affiliated with CRG (Pyle) is suing to have that vote overturned. The result:

    "The litigation is costing the city thousands in extra legal fees. It spent $276,792 fighting CRG’s efforts to get Hometown Democracy language on the 2006 ballot, $91,343 to stop SOLV and $53,511 defending against Pyle."

    St. Pete Beach stumbles along with home rule, Hometown Democracy presence

    Anyone who thinks that direct democracy somehow removes special interests from the equation should think again.

  7. #7
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    Thank you for the info. Very helpful.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Would this be a referendum, like "Do you want zoning?"

    Or would it be direct legislation, like "Do you want this particular zone at this particular spot, and that zone for that spot, and this is what it all means?"

    Could make a big difference.

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