Rightside Zoning Out
The Concept Of Open Space Is A Direct Question Of Zoning—A Question Which Should Not Be Answered By Made Up Committees Or Greedy Businesses
I spend quite a bit of time proselytizing about the beneﬁts of the free market, including how individual choice is a better divining rod than edicts from the Central Committee’s Clubhouse. But, just like certain recent Carnival Cruise trips have disproven the maxim, “Vacations Are Always Better Than Work,” sometimes government does do a better job than the private sector. Protecting the environment is usually one such example.
Let’s establish a premise: businesses are inherently greedy. Their purpose is to make money ﬁrst, serve the community second. There’s nothing wrong with that, since without the overarching drive to make money, businesses wouldn’t have the inclination to innovate, expand and provide unique products. And don’t start throwing out the names of companies that donate all kinds of stuff to kids in Africa. They wouldn’t be able to do that without making a buck ﬁrst. Because of that, the intersection of proﬁt and environmental stewardship can be a thorny path.
Unfettered development and unrestricted industrialization cannot exist in a world in which we value clean air and water, or whatever you think “open space” is. Government must create boundaries that deﬁne what impact businesses can have on the community. I’m not talking about taxes, OSHA codes or whether Cardiac Burger can set up shop next to your house.
We’re talking about the valuation of things we all share: air, water and the environment as a whole.
This brings us to the question of open space, which is really a question of zoning and what value we put on looking at trees instead of strip malls. We obviously put great value on God’s greenery, since we have city parks, walking trails, riparian zones, wildlife refuges or, in the case of Detroit, miles and miles of newly uninhabited neighborhoods. These places are amenities that all can enjoy thanks to tax dollars. Take Virginia Beach’s green zone as a case in point. Some view it as city overreach that is keeping housing developers and entrepreneurs from realizing their ﬁnancial potential. Those naysayers negate the fact of why some people live in Pungo. The trade off for driving 20 minutes to the grocery store is that you get to enjoy the 20-minute drive to the grocery store.
As a shout-out to tree huggers, I freely admit that I don’t want to live in a world where humans crowd out everything. Like it or not, we share this planet with a whole bunch of other creatures, and as stewards I think we owe it to them, and to ourselves, to share this earth—not be a cancer upon it. We don’t have a very good track record. The lack of swim classes in the Elizabeth River comes to mind. The devil’s in the details, of course, but if we can agree that it’s better for wildlife to have wild places, we’re headed in the right direction.
Yet, despite efforts to have a reasonable approach to humans vs. nature, there are those who will take their human-guilt a bit too far down the bunny hole of environmental authoritarianism. We now have in place in communities around the country the power of preservation boards and city councils to deny landowners the right to use their own land because it might affect a frog that currently doesn’t reside there, but one day might live there. A friend of mine in Chesapeake was once told by a well-meaning group of unelected preservationists that if he followed all their draconian, non-science-based, punitive, made-up rules, he would be “allowed to use his property.” You mean the property he purchased and has paid taxes on? It’s one thing to set aside tracts of land for the betterment of the environment and society as a whole—it’s quite another to take away the right of people to use the property they already own.
Dave Parker hosts The Dave Parker Show on AM 790 WNIS weekdays from 10 a.m.–noon. He can also be heard each afternoon on US1061 and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and two daughters.