Editorial: Planning preserves value
"More things in politics happen by accident or exhaustion than happen by conspiracy." —TV journalist and author Jeff Greenfield
There seems to be a growing concern, that has gained traction of late, that comprehensive plans, zoning ordinances and other instruments of community planning are all part of some vast global conspiracy to deprive property owners of their rights, a socialist (or fascist, depending on who’s talking) master plan for world domination.
Lawmakers, who are rarely, if ever, in perfect unanimity on any given issue, are believed to be the unquestioning foot soldiers of some diabolical plot to block progress, denying owners the right to make improvements on their own land, which, in turn, would mean losing a chance of raking in additional tax dollars. It seems counterintuitive, to say the least.
While some legislators, planning commissioners and other decision makers may have a personal agenda that trumps their civic duty, most seem to be acting in what they believe is in the best interest of the public. And it’s unlikely that they are all taking their marching orders from the United Nations and that organization’s sinister-sounding "Agenda 21."
The phrase from that document that seems to raise the hackles of conspiracy theorists the most is "Sustainable Development." But, simply put, sustainable development merely means balancing present and future human needs while preserving the environment for generations to come. Hardly an evil plot. And, considering the fact that Agenda 21 has been around for the better part of two decades and the world has become, if anything, less sustainable during that time, it’s not an effective plot either.
Regardless, linking a 1993 U.N. document to today’s most recent comprehensive plan updates is quite a stretch. The zoning laws that are based on the comp plan’s vision aren’t designed to take away property rights; they are there to protect them. Would you like to have a slaughterhouse set up shop down the block? How about your neighbor building his house right up to your property line?
At every step of the way, residents have had the opportunity for input. But at some point, the informational sessions and public hearings must come to an end, and the duly-elected supervisors must decide whether the vision contained in the comprehensive plan is the same they have for the county.
Conspiracy theories are tempting to believe, because they play into our fears that the world is stacked against us, no matter what we do. It’s easier to assign blame than to come up with solutions.