Our Opinion: Zoning not necessary, but desirable

“Why do we need this?”

That has been a recurring question about Cole County’s plan to establish zoning.

The short answer is county residents don’t need zoning.

Cole County was established in 1820, which means it has endured — indeed, prospered — for nearly two centuries. If the zoning proposal on the August ballot fails, Cole County will continue to grow and prosper.

That growth and prosperity, however, are among the more compelling reasons why zoning is — if not necessary — certainly desirable.

Zoning is designed to guide orderly growth and protect property values.

Preventing strip clubs is among the more emotional arguments cited by proponents, but more common, realistic examples abound.

We all have read about or experienced cases where the NIMBY (not in my backyard) argument has been advanced — often by residents of single-family neighborhoods in response to the proposed development of multi-family structures, commercial buildings, group homes, halfway houses or other non-conforming facilities or operations.

The traditional NIMBY argument is the non-conforming structure — and associated consequences including more traffic, safety issues — will lower neighborhood property values.

Zoning protects individual property while permitting orderly growth. It does so by grouping like things together into one of the nine designated zoning districts.

Residents must remember that zoning regulations are not irreversible, which means protections are not absolute. Zoning changes or amendments may help some parties and harm others, but all rezoning requests involve a public process.

As we wrote in this forum on April 22: “The proposed zoning plan is neither hasty nor slap-dash. Instead, it is a result of four years of work developed from a 2010 Cole County Master Plan.”

Ultimately, county voters will decide Aug. 5 whether to endorse or reject the plan.

As Cole County Public Works Director Larry Benz said at a Monday public forum: “I tell people that if they want to vote no on this, then do so. If it doesn’t pass, we’ll still live.”

Precisely.

But, we encourage county residents to ask not only whether they need zoning, but whether zoning offers a reasonable and desirable method to protect their investment.

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