Saffron Restaurants reservation Zoning rules give more power to control freaks and fanatics

Zoning rules give more power to control freaks and fanatics


Hinga Mbogo is seen in his car repair shop

Hinga Mbogo was forced to move his car repair shop in Dallas when city officials rezoned the area around his land because they favored nicer businesses. | Institute for Justice

Imagine you’re a member of a religious minority that’s on the receiving end of a lot of hate, and the local zoning board is giving you a hard time about plans to expand your place of worship. Is it the regulators being their nitpicky selves? Are the neighbors weaponizing regulations to eliminate the cars and pedestrian traffic that come with any successful business? Or could it be hostility directed against your faith? Zoning has been used and abused in all these ways, underscoring the need for reform.

Intolerance due to red tape

“A proposal to dramatically expand Harvard Chabad’s Banks Street headquarters failed to win approval from the Cambridge Board of Zoning Appeals during a contentious public hearing Thursday,” The Harvard Crimson reported last week. “The rejection allows the Jewish student organization to review and clarify the proposal before a follow-up hearing in June.”

Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi of Harvard Chabad told me that opposition to the group’s expansion has generated many “inappropriate comments,” including suggestions that the group is “too visibly Jewish.” Other criticism, he says, is more “classic NIMBY,” though it sometimes touches on the nature of Chabad in the first place of objections to the presence of security that Jewish organizations often demand after October 7.

Zarchi and his company are not alone. Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice warned officials in Hawaii about their efforts to block the operation of a Chabad house. The plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Hawaii County have “established a likelihood of success based on the merits” of their claims of bias, according to Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

Part of the problem in Cambridge may be the general opposition to places of worship, which draw crowds but don’t make much money for revenue-hungry governments.

“Many land use disputes are not about explicit bigotry,” Emma Green wrote in 2017 The Atlantic Ocean. “They stem from concerns about noise, lost property taxes and Sunday morning traffic jams. The effect is much the same and can be as devastating as outright hatred: a religious community is drawn into a long and costly dispute with a city or town.”

The use of zoning laws to block churches, synagogues and mosques has been such a problem that it inspired the passage of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act in 2000. theaters, meeting rooms and other places where large groups of people gather for secular purposes,” the Ministry of Justice notes in a commentary on the law. That this effort was not entirely successful is evidenced by the fact that the Justice Department continues to warn jurisdictions about land use regulations that, as in Hawaii, explicitly discriminate against religious groups.

Control freakery through red tape

Perhaps an additional problem in Cambridge is that the zoning board is staffed by control freaks willing to let local NIMBY types exert their power against something that could cause noise, pedestrians or prosperity. Land use regulation is too often seen by pathologically bossy people as a way to freeze neighborhoods as if they were snapshots in time, or to mold them into desired new shapes.

“Young families are being excluded from an increasingly expensive housing market. A single crisis could leave low-income Americans homeless. Entrepreneurs and people involved in charitable works struggle to find affordable space to turn their ideas into reality,” the Institute said. for Justice (IJ) Andrew Wimer wrote this week. “A common thread underlying these crises is the arbitrary rules of zoning; hardened rules that too often stand between people and their plans to use their property productively.”

Ripe time for regulatory reform

To address the abuse of zoning laws to freeze housing, commerce, charity work and places of worship, IJ launched the Zoning Justice Project “to protect and promote the freedom to use property.”

IJ highlights the likes of Hinga Mbogo, who was forced to move his Dallas auto repair shop when city officials rezoned the area around his land because they favored nicer businesses, and Cindy Tucker, whose nonprofit advocated for smaller, affordable homes for smaller, affordable homes. in violation of land use regulations in Calhoun, Georgia.

According to the latest survey from the New York Federal Reserve, Tucker’s case could particularly resonate with Americans at a time of high housing costs and further price increases. That could help pave the way for the already quite receptive public to relaxing land use regulations.

“Americans are modestly in favor (51%) of zoning reforms that would allow more construction of homes, condos and apartments in their communities,” Emily Ekins and Jordan Gygi of the Cato Institute said of the December 2022 polls. “Support, however, is rising with more than 20 points to 72% in favor if construction makes housing more affordable for young people and young families.”

Chances are that Americans will become increasingly open to zoning reforms, amid persistent concerns about housing prices and repeated headlines about construction efforts mired in red tape.

“17 years of false starts and delays are an extreme example of how difficult it has long been to build affordable housing in California – for both the homeless and lower- and middle-income workers – and in other states with complex regulations and high costs. ” according to a December 2023 article in The Wall Street Journal about the challenges faced by a single planned 49-unit apartment complex.

But for those still unconvinced, there’s Harvard Chabad’s battle with zoning officials, the similar situation in Hawaii, and the continued abuse of land use regulations to suppress places of worship more than two decades after the passage of the federal law that was specifically intended to prevent such armament. That law is still widely ignored, and there’s nothing to stop officials from abusing the regulations against other people, companies, and organizations they dislike — especially since it’s hard to know what motivates bureaucrats who already tend to be control freaks. All kinds of animus can hide behind lackluster compliance with red tape.

Litigation and reforms of the kind that IJ’s Zoning Justice Project seeks can sidestep the challenge inherent in delving into the motivations behind the enforcement of intrusive regulations by invalidating the rules themselves. Everyone wins when people can exercise their freedom without asking permission.

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