More Nuanced (Confused?) Thoughts on the Illegal Immigration Issue

Hmm… Seems that xenophobic racists on the right wing of the political spectrum aren’t the only ones who have a problem with the behavior of illegal immigrants. Even enlightened lovers of diversity and openness are drawing the line with Rosita Lim Ong Chang.

The 66-year-old woman was arrested Friday and sent to jail for contempt of court, according to Amy Gardner with the Washington Post. She had been cited for illegally boarding tenants in her single-family home near George Mason University, and had failed to comply with court orders to move an illegal kitchen in her basement and notify the county when she leased a room to a new tenant. County officials said she had carved up her four-bedroom home into as many as seven bedrooms, charging up to $800 per month each.

Gerald E. Connolly, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, announced the arrest at a board meeting. Observed Gardner in her story: “Connolly, who is seeking reelection next month, has come under fire for not taking a tougher stand against illegal immigrants.” Please note: Connolly is a Democrat. Please note also: His Fairfax County constituents are not poor, ignorant, xenophobic, snake-handlers and know-nothings — they have about the highest level of education anywhere in the country.

I’m of two minds on this issue. On the one hand, I’m sympathetic to the neighbors, who have complained about noise, upkeep and the number of cars parked out front. I would not like a noisy, unkempt house with cars parked all over located next door to me, not in my quiet, well-tended neighborhood. These are not frivolous nuisances — unlike the flap-doodle here in Henrico County, where Jimmy and Alicia Fox have been convicted of a misdemeanor for using an old metal bathtub as a back-yard flower planter. (See Bart Hinkle’s column skewering the county for trampling on property rights.)

On the other hand, why shouldn’t an elderly woman be allowed to take in boarders to supplement her income? What right does Fairfax County have to tell Ms. Chang, whose property taxes have probably escalated way beyond the point where she could pay for them otherwise, to confiscate her income-generating potential?

As the blogger Freedom Works, who brought this article to my attention, notes: “Every American should be outraged at this assault on private property rights and the dignity of the working poor. We have now officially criminalized providing housing for poor people.”

Yeah, I kind of agree with that. While I don’t think illegal immigrants ought to be here in the first place, that doesn’t mean we should abuse them while they’re here. Illegals need somewhere to live, and it’s not easy finding a place in Fairfax County when you’re working for $10 an hour.

To sum up the theme of previous posts: The issues surrounding illegal immigration are complex and cut many ways. People concerned about illegal immigration cross the political spectrum. Not everyone is a racist or xenophobe. Maybe we should update the old joke, “The definition of a conservative is a liberal who’s just been mugged” to “the definition of a conservative is a liberal whose next-door neighbor opened a boarding house for illegal immigrants.”

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60 responses to “More Nuanced (Confused?) Thoughts on the Illegal Immigration Issue”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    The county has a right to prevent a four bedroom from being carved up into eight, especially if real safety or health issues can be proven.

    But, the existence of this problem means that some demand exists and the county has an obligation to provide some kind of zoning which allows such people a legal place to live.

    Whether the people themselves are legal is another issue.

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim Bacon is billing this as an example of “illegal” immigration. But he fails to state any facts about illegal immigration.
    A few questions:

    (1) Was the lady arrested for violating zoning ordinances regarding housing an illegal immigrant herself? If so, how was she an illgeal immigrant? What made her an “illegal immigrant?”

    (2) Were the people she was housing the result of illegal immigrations? Neither the Post story nor Bacon mentions whether the boarders themselves did not have proper documentation to be in the boarding house the lady operated. If they were immigrants in the U.S. with proper documents who just happened to board in a house with a lot of rooms because the rent was cheaper, we’re not talking “ILLEGAL” immigration. We’re discussing something else.

    If Jim Bacon cannot answer these questions, then the case takes on a new angle. The boarding house may be “illegal” in that it violated local codes. But to say it involves illegal immigration because the suspect has an Asian-sounding last name, does seem, shall I say it? Racist.

    I am sure you can find lots of zoning violations in all Virginia localities. Do they all involve illgal immigration? Or just people with last names that don’t sound not White Anglo Saxon Protestant last names?

    Suppose someone named “Bacon” rented out his house in ways that violated local ordinances, would that be a case of illegal immigration, too?

  3. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Anonymous 11:20, I’m not the one who made the link to illegal immigrants. Amy Gardner did:

    “Connolly, who is seeking reelection next month, has come under fire for not taking a tougher stand against illegal immigrants. His response has been to tout the county’s efforts to police illegal behavior, such as the operation of overcrowded boardinghouses, rather than immigration status.”

    Why would Connolly be targeting illegal boarding houses if it weren’t an indirect way of dealing with illegal immigrants?

    As for this comment: “to say it involves illegal immigration because the suspect has an Asian-sounding last name, does seem, shall I say it? Racist.”

    That thought literally never entered my mind. But what does that matter to you? All you need to know is that I’m one of those horrible “White Anglo Saxon Protestants” and you stereotype me as a bigot and a racist.

    You don’t know the first thing about me, the people I associate with, or what I believe. I refuse to be tarred with the “racist” brush. In fact, I find people like you to be utterly contemptible, not only for the way you stereotype people you don’t know, but the way your casual misuse of the term “racist” cheapens the term.

    People like you throw around the term “racist” like the McCarthyites called people “communists” back in the 1950s. You see racists under every bed. Ironically, your stereotyping of “White Anglo Saxon Protestants” as racists makes you guilty of exactly the wrong you accuse others of committing. Go crawl back into your hole.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim Bacon,
    You still haven’t answered my question. Were the boarders in fact illegal immigrants? Don’t care what Connolly says. Did anyone ask him?

    Since you brought up Joe McCarthy, this is fair game. One of the most hateful parts of his anti-Commie crusade was that he made broad, grandiose and inaccurate statements and hardly anyone (save for the Army and Ed Murrow) called him on it. He was just quoted as if he were accurate.

    If you tout Connolly without knowing the truth — specificallty whether this had anything to do with illegal immigration (as opposed to zoning code violations) or not — then you are equally guilty. WASP or no WASP. I like the former distinction because it reminds some of those who are WASPs from privileged backgrounds that they, too can be typecast, just as they tend to typecast everyone else.

  5. Groveton Avatar

    This is from the theater of the absurd.

    Should Fairfax County be able to enforce its own zoning laws?

    Uhhh … yes. There are lots of good reasons why houses should not be overcrowded – fire safety being one. There are lots of reasons why restaurants have to be licensed – food safety being one.

    Saying that enforcing zoning law is a violation of property rights and anti-poor is particularly absurd. Unless the county re-zoned Ms. Chang’s property she knew what she could (and couldn’t) do with that property when she bought it. If she wants to tuen her house into an apartment building – she is free to petition for a zoning variance. If granted – she can re-build the house into an apratment building – including meeting all applicable fire code.

    Anti-poor? This woman is renting rooms in her chopped up house for up to $800 per month and you think she’s helping the poor? She’s a greedy woman breaking the law to line her own pockets.

    Immigrant (legal or illegal)? Who knows? Who cares? She’s breaking the law and has been doing so for 4 years. She belongs in jail is she’s here legally and she should be deported if she’s here illegally.

    Racism? Spare me. Let’s go back to the drawing board. Many of these “bunk house ordinances” were passed to prevent overcrowed “group homes” set up by recent college graduates. I was living in a group house in Arlington right after college. You could have no more than 4 unrelated persons living in one residence. We couldn’t rent the fifth bedroom. But that was the law so we didn’t rent the fifth bedroom.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    I have nothing against what you are saying. It’s common for people — especially in larger cities — to chop housing in violation of codes. Gee, I remember 10 guys living in a two story house on T Street north of Georgetown. They were all students and they were all loud, drunken slobs.
    My objection is putting the “illegal” immigrant label on this. It just fuels prejudice. There has not been one iota of suggestion that this is an immigration issue at all, not in the Bacon blog, not in the Post story.
    The problem around the state is that lots of people believe these unchallenged myths — that hordes of illegals are living cheek to jowl and threatening us all. Once you take a dispassionate look at the facts, the boogeymen start evaporating away.

  7. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Anonymous, I made the same assumption that many others have made — based on the facts of similar cases in which boarding houses are occupied by illegal immigrants — and that was implied in the article. Guilty as charged. If it turns out that the old woman’s boarding house was *not* home to illegal aliens, and housed GMU students instead, I will happily draw attention to that fact.

  8. Groveton Avatar

    Anon 2:05 –

    I understand your point. The level of information regarding the real impact of immigration and illegal immigration is sorely lacking.

    If you look at the following web site you’ll see an analysis of immigration (legal and illegal) on the state of Arkansas.

    The Commonwealth of Virginia needs an analysis like this.

    For example:

    What percent of all immigrants in Virginia are illegal / undocumented? (Arkansas estimates that 51% of all immigrants in Arkansas are undocumented).

    Do immigrants have a positive or negative economic effect? (Arkansas thinks they have a small positive impact).

    Until Virginia gets some “facts and figures” around immigration the discussion will be all emotion. The anti-illegal immigration crowd will be labeled racists and the pro-immigration crowd will be seen as ostriches who hide their heads in the sand.

  9. Freedom Works Avatar
    Freedom Works

    The zoning codes exist to screw the poor while catering to middle class aesthetic sensibilities.

    Health and safety have absolutely nothing to do with these codes.

    What is the difference between Mom and Dad, six young children, and two of their frail elderly grandparents living in a 5 bedroom house vs. 5 unrelated working single college educated women?

    The government says 10 related people (eight of whom can’t take care of themselves) can live legally in a house where 5 unrelated people (all of whom can take care of themselves) cannot live.

    I have been around long enough to remember when such ridiculous rules did not exist.

    They are arbitrary, unreasonable, and they constitute a regulatory taking of private property.

    Since when did freedom loving Americans surrender this much liberty over their homes?

    I am not impressed with the nuisance arguments.

    Public nuisances like publicly intoxicated disorderly college students, or loud noise crossing property lines are already covered by other laws that have nothing to do with the bloodlines of the occupants.

    Feminists like to use the phrase: Get your laws off my body. I say, get your laws off of my house.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    Groveton: What would happen if Congress authorized a regulated guest worker program that also imposed a $100 per day tax on the employer, with the proceeds going to state and local government to fund additional services and obligations related to such workers and their families? The tax would be privately enforced by permitting any taxpayer to file suit to collect treble unpaid taxes and recover her or his attorneys’ fees from an employer. The tax would apply whether the worker was an employee or an independent contractor. Licensed guest workers would receive all protections of US labor laws. A guest worker must apply for, and receive, a work permit/license while outside the US. Any person employing a non-US citizen, lawful alien resident or guest worker would be subject to a fine equal to one-half the person’s adjusted gross income (including a corporation or other business). Second offense means jail time.


  11. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim Bacon,
    It takes a big man to admit he’s wrong. And even though you might be a WASP, it’s clear you’re no xenophobic racist cretin.

    Let’s consider a compaign against college students..

    Anon 1:47

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    “The government says 10 related people (eight of whom can’t take care of themselves) can live legally in a house where 5 unrelated people (all of whom can take care of themselves) cannot live. “

    Is that really correct? I hadn’t thought of it exactly like that. If it is correct, is there some other underlying reason, like fewer automobiles? (Not that that makes any sense, but for this purpose I’d accept a reasonable rationalization. Nobody expects the law to be perfect. Good thing, too.)

    Is this a case where the intent of the law is different from the sated intent of the law?


  13. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Actually.. the whole issue methinks is hosting a brigade of folks on their own respective petards.

    I suppose most of folks have sat through a zoning hearing for apartments or townhouses and heard the back and forth about how many parking places should be built so that people who live in the apartment as well as their visitors do not park on lawns, medians, shoulders, etc and other legal places

    or whether sprinkler systems are “really” necessary..

    So – there IS a difference between mom and dad and 6 kids and 8 working-age adults smoking in their bedrooms and with 8 cars.. trying to park in a two-car driveway.

    And there is a reason why there are rules for these things.

    And yet we paint the picture of poor ole granda trying to hang on in her dying days.. to her home.

    Granda wants to run a commercial operations. Let’s be real.

    I feel bad about her situation but let’s not throw the beans in the fan…. here…

    May I suggest a compromise?

    Allow boarding houses if they upgrade the parking and the interior of the house to the same standards that other multi-unit housing requires.

    I can’t agree that zoning standards and codes are nefarious schemes to screw the poor unless people like Freedom Works thinks we should allow.. slums without parking and without sprinkler systems – as a way to save money and provide more “affordable” apartments that those apartments that have to be built to code.

    Zoning is not some grand conspiracy cooked up by the “creative class”.. to screw people out of their rights.

    Zoning.. is in many cases actually demanded from property owners to “protect” their property.

    So.. I find it a bit ironic that the property rights folks are arguing against…. property rights.

    and folks.. don’t go after the “aliens”.. go after the folks who employ them.. and the “aliens” will go away and then we’ll argue about them dang Hispanics and their disfunctional settlement patterns…

    I guess Freedom Works would have us do housing like they do in Mexico… as a solution to “affordable” housing…

    ah the sweet smell of open sewers … wafting across the verandas…

  14. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    oh.. and just to keep all of us a little more “honest” here.. WHO has lived in off-campus housing in their younger days?

    raise your hands.

    Ok.. now tell me about college students living in homes in residential areas.. (I’ll cut you some slack on the fraternities)

    Now, explain how WASP student habits and behaviors are different from those “aliens”.

    Who wants to live next door to college students?

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    The aliens are much nicer people than the WASPs.

  16. Tobias Jodter Avatar
    Tobias Jodter

    Another reason for occupancy laws/zoning ordinances to collect the almighty tax dollar.

    Part of the calculations by government planners is the impact of children per house. If you have multiple families living in a single family home — they are paying the taxes on a single home while sending multiple sets of kids to school. Multiply by the 1000’s and it has fiscal repercussions.

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    “Guilty as charged.”

    Jim, that was big of you.

    I thought that the bit of discourse leading up to this was a fine example of waht blogging should be all about.

    I thought that there was initial misunderstanding and (maybe)overstatement on both sides which could have led to an entirely different result.

    Instead, the (usual but not complete) Bacon’s Rebellion culture of seemly discourse prevailed in the end, to no one’s embarassemtn or loss, and a gain to everyone’s understanding. (At leat those who care to listen.)



  18. Anonymous Avatar

    That’s fine, Larry, but I know a guy who lives alone with his wife and has a dozen cars in a driveway no larger than the usual suburban home. Not to mention several hundred tons of other stuff he is recycling.

    I think he is eccentric, and it certainly isn’t what I would do, but I would never, ever, consider passing a law against it.

    Meanwhile, tell us, Larry, do we have aright to live in our own house, or is that by someone else’s leave?


  19. Anonymous Avatar

    “Zoning is not some grand conspiracy cooked up by the “creative class”.. to screw people out of their rights.”

    Actually, yes it is. Even worse than that it is a conspiracy of the creative class to actually steal the property at far below it’s intrinsic value.

    After you have your elected supervisor tell you, to your face, that his plans for YOUR property are for someone wealthy to buy it so that it can be placed under conservation easement, maybe you will feel differently.


  20. Anonymous Avatar

    “Zoning.. is in many cases actually demanded from property owners to “protect” their property.”

    This is total BS.

    Go read the hstory of zoning.

    It was originally intended as a way to reduce the incidence of nuisance lawsuits. But once it was esatablished, and with a few key court rulings, it soon became evident tht it was a free pass for controlling yur neighbors property, at no cost to yourself.

    At least under nuisance law, you had to put out some expense in your own interests: under zoning law, all you have to do is go to a hearing with more voices than the applicant. Which is pretty much a sure bet.

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    I don’t think that the general Idea behind TMT’s proposal is too far off, even if I disagree with the specifics.

    I think a $100 a day fine for someone who gets paid little more than that is kind of steep, but that’s just a guess.
    But, if we had nubers like those Groveton suggests, we migh be able to find some combinations of fines and rewards and incentives that get us some good out of the present situation.

    As it stands we have the usual dichotomy of interests, each claiming the one true truth, based on dogma and beliefs, and no one has the integrity, the facts, and the imartiality to suggest a Best-For-Everybody approach that we can all learn to live with and profit from.


  22. Anonymous Avatar


    The majority of people I know who live in group houses ar those that have no children, be they profesionals supporting a second home in NOVA on a temporary basis while assigned to the Pentagon or State Department, college students, young adults starting out, or aliens sending money home.

    The case you mention seems to me to be a relatively minor situation.

    As Groveton says, where are the numbers?

  23. Anonymous Avatar


    I lived in off campus housing, which I owned and paid for, working full time while in college.

    I did it because I did not want to live with a bunch of rowdy drunken college students.


  24. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    there is an old saying that goes like this: “Your rights end – where my nose begins”.

    So.. we think that it is those fascist planners that decide to outlaw porn stores next to schools, tractor trailer from parking on the road shoulder in front of YOUR house, etc, etc.

    I’ll be that RH and FW would be at the front of the complaint line if someone built a 20-dog kennels 10 feet from your backyard deck.

    I would invite those who think zoning is a nefarious scheme to attend a few BOS meetings where ohmygod.. “property owners” show up to complain about.. geeze .. other “property owners”.

    It’s interesting when “property rights” advocates.. advocate AGAINST “property rights” in their zeal to argue for them.. sometimes.

  25. Anonymous Avatar

    Ray, the $100 per day is not a fine. It is a tax designed to recover the real costs of dealing with the importation of poverty. The number is not exact. I pulled it out of the air. But it might even be too small. It must be high enough to recover all costs and push the externalities back to the employer. I suspect that the tax would also make lower-skilled citizens and legal residents more attractive to hire and push their earnings forward much more than “minimum wage” increases or “living wage” legislation.

    There are huge costs associated with the importation of poverty to serve businesses that love dirt-cheap labor. For example, Fairfax County Public Schools are spending an average of $81 million each year to comply with NCLB. It takes a lot of $100 bills to fund $81 million.

    In a candid moment, school officials will readily admit that most of these added costs relate to illegal immigrant children or those born here from illegal aliens. The Indian engineer’s children are not as expensive to educate as the children of the day laborer.

    I don’t think we should turn away any children from public schools, even though I support a very strong enforcement program against the employment of illegal aliens. But it strikes me that the costs for employing “cheap” labor should include the costs imposed on society. So if I run a construction company, I can employ guest workers, but I’ll also pay the costs that Fairfax County, for example, incurs because my guest workers and their families are heavily dependent on government services, which are more expensive to provide.

    Finally, if you let lawyer (we can be vultures) enforce the tax collection, there will be few problems with compliance. What business owner would risk paying $100 K in attorneys fees to avoid paying the guest worker tax? I suspect we quickly see a balance favoring US citizens and lawful residents. Probably a lot of innovation in technology to substitute for low-skill labor in many markets also.


  26. Freedom Works Avatar
    Freedom Works


    What do porn stores and tractor-trailers have to do with using zoning to deprive 5 unrelated single college educated professional women from living in a 5-bedroom house?

    Since you mentioned “porn stores next to schools” what are you going to do now that every home with a computer and internet access next to a school is a “porn store”?

    Should we use zoning laws now to prohibit unfiltered internet access in any home within 1,000 feet of a school?

    So you don’t want to look at a large truck parked in your neighborhood. That is understandable. You probably don’t drive a truck for a living. If you did, you would probably think otherwise.

    A lot of people also complain about having school buses, police cars, delivery vans, and older cars parked on streets in or near their neighborhood. They perceive these very necessary vehicles to constitute a form of aesthetic blight that hurts their “property values”.

    There is a free market solution for people like you who are offended by the sight of a large truck parked near your home. The solution is to live in a community with private covenants preventing such vehicles.

    I am fine with that voluntary free market approach.

    I am opposed to using the police power of the government to arbitrarily limit property rights for visual aesthetic reasons.

    In the process of trying to create a world where we don’t have to see service vehicles parked on someone else’s property, we are making life impossible for the working poor and the lower middle class.

    In fact most of the zoning arguments against the higher density housing these people can afford to live in comes down to spoiled suburbanites who don’t want to have to drive by a town house or apartment building on their way to their middle class enclave.

    It all about the “view” on their drive home.

  27. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Indeed the folks who are “truly” concerned about visuals and other things of that scope will buy in a gated community with covenants.

    And I do agree that it can be a fine line on some things that are primarily visual in nature.

    But that that “ugly” tractor-trailer also fires up a diesel engine at 4am.

    where is the line drawn and who determines where the line is?

    If you talk to some folks they say it’s their right to draw the line wherever they feel it is appropriate and some like RH go on to posit that once that decision is made – that it cannot be “undone” without compensating the original “decider”.

    And if a 20 dog kennel with equivalent dog poop and barking doesn’t win you over to my point I view.. I can name plenty more even nastier activities that one or more will tweak your particular “hot” button, I’ll bet.

    Are you okay with the guy across the street spreading Blue Plains sludge on his property…??

    How about cooking and selling crabs out of his backyard shed?

    oh, here’s on you’ll REALLY like – RECYCLING 3 day old cooked crabs…

    Are we REALLY advocating the abolition of zoning – period?

    Are are we dithering about where that “line” ought to be?

    and one finally apparent irony with respect to JAB and EMR.

    We advocate for loft apartments over retail… as a “good” thing but mixing retail with residential in subdivisions is not such good thing…

    I see a path here.. you go get the folks living in the residential who don’t want them aliens stacked up like cordwood in the house across the street go and demand that the BOS allow loft apartments over Walmart and Home Depot then everyone is happy.

    The same folks who do the roof and landscaping can live “on site”.


  28. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    actually.. let’s not “allow” lofts over retail…

    since we’re already planning fascists anyhow.. let’s REQUIRE it as an explicit permission for approval.

    Every restaurant would house all of it’s galley slaves and wait help in on-site loft apartments.

    Landscaping companies. Ditto – all Landscaping companies would have to provide on-site housing at the place were they keep their mulch and lawn mowers…

    I was showing JAB an article the other day… Do you know that businesses Are ALLOWED to restrict where their workers can live – apparently..???

    Well.. Let’s tell VW and any new companies coming to NoVa – that they can only employe those who live in NoVa.

    I especially like this concept.


  29. Anonymous Avatar

    “there is an old saying that goes like this: “Your rights end – where my nose begins”.

    Yes, Larry, and the implication of that saying is that it works in both directions.

    As far as I’m concerned, if you think you have the right to over-restrict my rights, just because your nose is longer, well, it is likely to get punched.


  30. Anonymous Avatar

    TMT: I was just figuring that the overhead for a guy hiring legal labor might be around the same amount.

    Might be too high, might be too low.

    My point was that the right answer isn’t necessarily the one that gets rid of all illegal labor, and we shouldn’t examine your idea with gaol in mind. If it is the case that the right fee to mitigate all the costs doesn’t eliminate all the illegal labor, then we should figure out how to make that much labor legal, and stop beating ourselves up.


  31. Anonymous Avatar

    “Every restaurant would house all of it’s galley slaves and wait help in on-site loft apartments.”

    On Martha’s Vineyard that is pretty much what happens, as a market based solution. Housing there is so expensive, that if yu don’t provide it, you won;t have help.

    Yeah, I’m Ok if my neighbor spreads sludge on his property, as long as I can too. I figure our rights end where our respective noses end.

    If he’s selling crabs, I’ll probably go buy some.

    One way to solve this whole zoning thing would be to simply put a price on all the zoning restrictions, for that price you can buy your way out.

    It is a free market approach in which all the money raised goes to the “public good”.


  32. Groveton Avatar

    Well … we certaily have some good news here. Al Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize. That leaves the Nobel Prize in Economics open for the inventors of the theory that poverty can be cured by changes to the zoning law.

    Freedom Works arguments ignore a few facts.

    First, the article describes how Ms. Chang carved up her four bedroom house into seven bedrooms. Presumably, whe carved up the electrical wiring as well. Anyone willing to bet whether Ms. Chang met electrical code and received the required inspection for this work?

    Second, unrelated people are … well, unrelated. When Ms. Chang sells bedroom masquerading as apartments to unrelated people those people actually think they are renting an apartment. So they do things like cook in their bedroom masquerading as apartments. It’s this use of bedrooms as kitchens that causes the problems most of the time.

    Third, the fire code requires a higher level of fireproofing between living units than within a living unit. IN a row of townhouses, for example, the walls between the units have to be more fireproof than the walls within a unit. The goal is to contain fires. Somebody starting a fire in one unit may not be able or willing to wake up the people sleeping in other units. They also won’t necessarily know who is in the other units. A family will generally cook in the kitchen and will know what family members are in the house and where they are.

    Ms. Chang is also charged with being unwilling to move an illegal kitchen out of her basement. Commercial kitchens (even in communcal living arrangements like fraternity houses) have mandatory fire suppression systems. Care to be whether Ms. Chang’s illegal kitchen had the mandatory fire suppression technology?

    Larry Gross got it right:

    “Allow boarding houses if they upgrade the parking and the interior of the house to the same standards that other multi-unit housing requires.”.

    Exactly. And exactly what the bunk house owners hate to hear.

    And then we have the magic of “property rights”.

    The only rights you have are those that have been granted to you by the government. The US Constitution was as much a product of “government” as the Fairfax County zoning laws. The Constitution might be a whole lot better thought out and a written by a whole lot smarter group of governemnt officials. But, the Constitution is a set of rules that govern what you can and can’t do and so do the zoning laws. Where people find a magic set of “propert rights” that transcend laws is beyond me. And why real estate is perceived as a super special class of property is also beyond me. Isn’t the monsy I have paid into my retirement account as much my property as the land on which my house is built?

    All any of us have is the right to elect government officials that will make laws we like. In the case of Fairfax County and the county zoning laws – the people have elected the supervisors and the supervisors have written the laws. In fact, I’d wager that 80 – 90% of the voters in Fairfax County support a system of zoning requirements. This even if …

    “The zoning codes exist to screw the poor while catering to middle class aesthetic sensibilities.”.

    Life is hell living in a democracy. All those middle class people electing officials who do what they (the majority) wants. I am sure that Iran has a much more coherent set of zoning laws.

  33. Groveton Avatar

    TMT –

    A guest worker system would legalize much of what is today illegal. In most ways, that would be a better system then we presently have. The $100 / day fee for employers would be a reasonable plan.

    Your plan would solve one very important problem with illegal immigration – namely, we don’t know who the illegal immigrants are and that provides a place for criminals and terrorists to hide.

    However, the mass importation of people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder keeps US citizens at the bottom of teh ladder poor. I see a simple supply and demand problem. The pay for low wage jobs would rise if there weren’t as many immigrants competing for those jobs – legal and illegal immigrants. So, a person growing up in the US under economic disadvantage tends to stay disadvantaged. If we cut back on all immigration the pay for low wage jobs would rise and US citizens who are poor would have a better chance to escape poverty.

    At least that’s my theory.

  34. Freedom Works Avatar
    Freedom Works


    You wrote, “The only rights you have are those that have been granted to you by the government.”

    That is not the way the Founding Fathers saw it. They believed in inalienable rights (including private property) endowed by the Creator.

    They believed government existed to secure and protect those rights.

    They wrote the Constitution specifically to protect those rights from the tyranny of a democratic majority.

  35. Anonymous Avatar

    “Isn’t the monsy I have paid into my retirement account as much my property as the land on which my house is built?”

    Precisely. But no one charges you protperty tax on the money in your retirement account, nor does someone tell you how to invest it, or change how it is invested, so as not to be an affront to themselves. The sooner we get those two classes of property to be more alike under the law, the better.

    I agree that Chang should have adhered to the building codes, but we should also have zoning codes that make that possible. Had she applied, there is every likeliehood that she would have been turned down.

    The fact that she was able to get such prices, and willing to be a criminal to get them, implies that there must be a shortage of such housing. Had the zoning board been doing their job correctly, this would never have been an issue, and legal properties would be available at lower prices.

    But to a large degree, zoning is designed to prevent such housing, therefore to claim that she should have complied is a cynical argument. Groveton and Larry are right; the only rights we have are the ones government allows us. Now, if the government tells me (in writing) one day that I have certain options, and the next day takes them away, does that make me a prospective criminal for exercising them or does it make the government a liar?

    Ordinarily, a contract is a contract, and it cannot be modified with out adjustments in the terms of payment. If I have a four bedroom house and want to make it six, the government will want an adjustment in payment (if my neighbors don’t raise such a ruckus as to prevent it outright, payment or no). But if I have a six bedroom house with tenants, and the government changes the contract, well, tough TaTA. This is dishonest behavior, and to say it is alright because its the law is missing the point.

    Someone said that if people want to buy property in a restricted neighborhood, that is OK, because it is a free choice. That’s fine, but what does it say about a neighborhood that becomes restricted after you buy? What it says to me is that someone’s nose is sticking over my property line.

    Property rights are in fact recognized as rights under the law, and they are represented as a bundle of sticks which are separable. The obvious corollary is tht if the government takes one of my sticks, then they have taken property and under the constitution I’m entitled to compensation. However, in practice no taking is recognized until the last stick is almost gone. And, you cannot get standing in court until all administrative actions are exhausted.

    Zoning administrative actions are notoriously glacial, and myriad, so from a practical standpoint most people won’t live long enough to exhast the administrative procedures. In practice, the takings requirement means that neighbors are free to chip away at you, little by little until almost nothing is left. With each chip, the transaction costs of going to court, and the near impossibility of getting to court, means there is no real legal recourse.

    With the system in place, and given how it works, saying, “Well, that’s the law” is just being smug over the fact that the cynical requirements imposed have worked to the advantage of those that don’t suffer the costs.

    The end result is zoning codes that exist to screw the poor while catering to middle class aesthetic sensibilities. But, the zoning codes were originally designed to prevent nuisance lawsuits, and if reducing lawsuits was the goal, zoning law is a failure. And, majoritarian rule does not mean that the government has no responsibilities to minorities, so even that is a lame argument, without a sound ethical footing. If the majority breaks a contract for example, it is still wrong, even if they have the authority to make it “legal”.

    So, lets not get confused over the difference between zoning codes and property rights: it is possible to have both, but only if those writing the zoning codes recognize stealing for what it is.


    Some people have suggested that Zoning codes should be fungible, but safety codes should not. uppose we set a (substantial) fee schedule that would allow escape from the zoning code, (subject tothe safety codes) and with a substantial protion of the fee paid to the nearest neighbors.

    Anyone buying a property would be able to estimate the risk/benfit of changing conditions, and they would know that the opportunity for change appied equally to themselves, if they are willing to pay the price.

    In this ase, Chang would have know what the rules were and what the cost of having them changed was, and what the result of a request for change would be. Changs neighbors would hae bought their property knowing that things might change, without a possibility of their interrference, and with some upside.

    Free market, anyone?


    Groveton is right about limiting illegals and raising the price paid for labor. But the other side of that coin is that some people would decide the work is no longer worth having done, and that might affect us just as negatively as having too many illegals. It is great for those whose skill levels are just above the threshold, but it doesn’t do a thing for anybody else, (including illeagals who are not here) and those that might have had something (marginally) valuable done rather than not.

    A lot of marginal stuff is maintenance type work, and we can defer that, sometimes for a long while, without apparent ill effects. But it might also mean much larger future expenditures resulting in higher environmental costs AND higher social costs.

    If low wage jobs rise and other low wage jobs disappear then the only way we can say we are better off is if the big rise for a few is more than enough to offset the smaller losses for many. That still isn’t much use to the losers, unless they get directly compensated for their loss, somehow.

    OK, you say, they didn’t really have a loss because they were here illegally. Sounds kind of like the zoning argument.

    But, in ether case, no matter what the law says, in the end the conomics will be what they are. So if the total job economy or property economy really is worse off, what people’s rights were is kind of a moot point: it was still a bad law, because the whol point of law is to make us all better off.

    Not just those with midlle class aesthetic sensibilites, and not just those with longer or nosier noses.


  36. Anonymous Avatar

    Freedom Works made my points far more succinctly.

    The reason freedom works is that it makes us free to bargain. A bargain will not be struck if both sides are not better off.

    If the law strikes a bargain in favor of one side, while making an unsubstantiated claim that all are better off, then freedom is lost.

    Who want’s to put a price on that?


  37. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    man… I looked and looked for what FW and RH were talking about…you know that bundle of sticks…

    ..”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights. . .”

    hmmm.. the Creator said that you could have 6 bedrooms or else..

    Now I know why FW and RH feel so strongly about this…

    gee.. what does it mean if the government tells someone that in a certain area only single family residences are allowed and then they change their mind and allow boarding houses… Wouldn’t the government THEN owe compensation to the folks who originally bought something that the government said it would protect?

    Proposal: Allow boarding houses in residential areas – but existing single family dwelling owners get compensation for their losses.

    Would this also be consistent with “protecting” property rights?

    What RH and FW are up to – is not property rights – because they are arbitrarily in favor of property rights for some folks at the expense of others…

    What they are in favor of is – “Development Rights”..

    In RH/FW world.. if Grandma wanted to run a restaurant in a structure that was not designed for that purpose – she could.

    And all those companies that built commercial grade structures with commercial grade facilities inside – THEY would be screwed out of their money.. cause then Granda would not have their costs…

    Advocating this is not advocating property rights.. it’s advocating going back to 3rd world standards for building and facilities…

    How can you have a system where McDonalds has to spend a million dollars to put up a restaurant and grandma can put a sign out in front of a single family residence?

    This is where you end up if you follow RH/FW’s logic… and they call it “property rights”.

  38. Freedom Works Avatar
    Freedom Works


    You are confusing a lot of different issues.

    What is it about having 5 unrelated adults in a house with 5 bedrooms that could otherwise house 10 related family members that you don’t understand?

    This has nothing to do with commercial kitchens, fire code issues, dogs barking, manure odors, loud music, or any other straw man you keep throwing up.

    The right to build shelter is a universal human right and should not be arbitrarily abridged to satisfy your middle class aesthetic sentiments.

    It sounds like your opposition to property rights is really an anti-development mindset.

    Glad you could clear the air.

    And why are you threatened by having 5 unrelated college educated professional women living next door in that McMansion with 5 bedrooms? How does that affect your property?

  39. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    hmmm… okay..

    what is the difference between a 10 unit apartment building and 10 unrelated people living in a 5 bedroom house?

    Why do we force the builder of the apartment building to adhere to one set of codes while allowing the 5 bedroom house to conform to a different set?

    And what set of codes do you support?

    Take something simple like sink disposals or toilets… or trash removal.

    What does an apartment building have to have specific facilities for on-site garbage while the single family residence can just add trash cans?

    Why does the apartment building have to pay for commercial rates for garbage disposal while the SFR pay for residential services?

    Why does the apartment building have to have sprinkler systems and the single family home does not?

    Tell me again.. why it is wrong to require the residential structure be upgraded to the code for multi-unit structures?

    or tell me .. that the code for multi-unit structures is wrong and discriminatory… and should be repealed.

    I agree there is confusion here.

    How about clearing up the distinction between single family and multi-unit being treated differently in code and zoning?

    you have said that it is .. in essence some kind of a fascist-like conspiracy …where an entire profession (planners) want things done a certain way .. and in the process violate people’s property rights.

    So are you opposed to building codes also?

    Do believe that anyone should be able to divide up a structure into multi-unit living spaces without regard to codes?

    Do you believe that it is WRONG to designate land as suitable ONLY for single-family dwellings and that any parcel can be used for any purpose without zoning?

    Do you believe that countries that do not have zoning and codes are more “free” than the countries that do require zoning and codes?

    batter up!

  40. E M Risse Avatar

    All this because someone who calls him- / her- self “Freedom Works” tricked Jim Bacon into jumping to conclusions about a student boarding house.

    Freedom Works might better call him- / her- self Anarchy Works but it does not.

    Freedom only works with both a free market and democaracy, not one or the other depending on which will let an individual do what they want to do regardless of coumulative consequences.

    Land Use Controls (Zoning, Subdivision Regs, Comprehensive Plans, Official Maps, Housing Codes, Building Codes, Historic District Regulations, Health Regs, etc.) exist because in democracy with well informed citizens the vast majority would rather give up the “right” to do “X” in exchange for the “right” to be insured that someone else cannot do “X.”

    Keep two things in mind:

    Cumulative impact of individual freedoms (Balance of Individual Rights and Community Responsibilities) and,

    Fair allocation of Total Cost.

    Free market and democracy.


  41. Anonymous Avatar

    “Wouldn’t the government THEN owe compensation to the folks who originally bought something that the government said it would protect?”

    Absolutely. It matters when you set the standard that allows for compensation. The correct time to do it was when zoning was first imposed.

    In Oregon, compensation was part of their original land use bills, but how to implement it was deferred. The reason being that once the rules wer in place, compensation worked against those that favored the rules, or more rules.

    But guess wht happened? When the rules were eventually overturned (because of lack of compensation, and because of the lack of honesty in pursuing what was promised) suddenly those in favor of the laws were making exactly the same argument you have made here. “You can’t undo the laws without compensating me”

    When both sides make the same argument, it is probably correct.

    Now it is only a question of when to start its proper application.

    Unfortunately, that isn’t so easy.


  42. Anonymous Avatar

    Fair allocation of Total Cost.

    Free market and democracy.

    That is a good start, Ed, but it isn’t the whole story.

    In democracy with well informed citizens the vast majority would rather give up the “right” to do “X” in exchange for the “right” to be insured that someone else cannot do “X.”

    True enough. But this also happens when the vast majority have no interest or intention of doing X, when they percieve no economic interest in having someone do X, and when it apparently costs them nothing to prevent X.

    So there needs to be some protection built in for the minority. Oherwise we can determine costs by majority and according to our own aesthetics.

    That Fair allocation of Total costs has to include the costs to those that were or become regulated, and this is usually not the case.

    Only if that happens will those imposing regulations be required to consider if it is really worth while, however much they might “want” the outcome.


  43. Anonymous Avatar

    “Proposal: Allow boarding houses in residential areas – but existing single family dwelling owners get compensation for their losses.

    Would this also be consistent with “protecting” property rights?”

    Yes, absolutely I would agree with that.


  44. Freedom Works Avatar
    Freedom Works


    Actually, the trend in a lot of new single family housing is to put in sprinkler systems. Building codes change and improve all the time.

    This is not a discussion about building codes. Even cities with no zoning codes like Houston, Texas have building codes.

    So to answer your question, “Do you believe that countries that do not have zoning… are more “free” than the countries that do require zoning…?”:

    Yes, cities like Houston, Texas that do not have zoning codes are more “free” than localities like Fairfax which do.

    In fact, studies have shown that housing costs are lower without zoning. Barriers to entry for small minority businesses are lower as well in localities without zoning.

    It’s cheaper to live and do business when you don’t have to pay the higher monopoly rents created by zoning.

    The Business as Usual crowd likes the monopoly rents. The little guys get screwed, and the middle class end up as mortgage slaves.

    In Fairfax County, lawyers, engineers, planners, and assorted consultants skim off enormous fees for influence peddling and working zoning requests through the system. Politicians have their hand out to all of these groups, and zoning decisions are based on money and power, not on any rational or equitable criteria.

  45. Anonymous Avatar

    “What RH and FW are up to – is not property rights – because they are arbitrarily in favor of property rights for some folks at the expense of others…

    What they are in favor of is – “Development Rights”..”

    Not true. This is a baldfaced lie, and a misrepresentation of my position.

    If my neighbors arbitrarily curtail development rights that I was previously promised – development rights that were implicit in the price I payed for the property, or in the costs that I incurred in holding the property, maybe for centuries, then it is they who are claiming external property rights that never previously existed, and claiming them at my expense.

    They have no more right to impose such externalities on me, than I have to impose externalities on them, through pollution for example.

    If I bought property knowing there were no development rights, well, that is different. Most people buying single family homes understand tht there are no mere development rights available, even through boarding homes. Because they are a large majority it is easy for them to impose an assymetric reality.

    But it is unfair, unethical, an illegal in most cases to change a contract, even a verbal one, without changing the compensation. It is called being a man of your word.

    And it matters not which direction the contract is changed, so don’t claim I favor one side over the other.

    That is a pretty basic concept. If you can’t understand that, then you have no sense of fairness or honor.


  46. Anonymous Avatar

    “In RH/FW world.. if Grandma wanted to run a restaurant in a structure that was not designed for that purpose – she could.”

    I never said any such thing or anything remotely like it. Please don’t put such word in my mouth.

    Safety standards are safety standards.

    I concede that I have a problem when rules are written as “safety” or “environmental” regulations when their real intent is something far different. To me, it goes right back to a question of honesty and ethics.

    Usually, the way this is handled is that you hire an engineer. If an engineer certifies that your house of cards is structurally safe, then it is deemed so, regardless of the underlying regulations and a waiver is granted.

    Even airlines operate under thousands of waivers.

    There are plenty of operations that go on in spaces that wer not designed for that operation. This is a necessary prerequisite for recycling buildings and doing what we can to make our built environment more functional: get over it.


  47. Freedom Works Avatar
    Freedom Works

    E M Risse said “Free market and democracy.”

    The problem with you, Ed, is you do not know what a free market is. Houston has a free market in land use. Virginia does not.

    You said, “…the vast majority would rather give up the “right” to do “X” in exchange for the “right” to be insured that someone else cannot do “X.”

    You confuse freedom and coercion.

    In Houston, if you want to live in a neighborhood where people aren’t allowed to even post a small “For Sale” sign in front of their house, you can buy a home in such a community.

    If you don’t want to live in a community where the houses might be painted pink, you can buy a home in a community with paint color codes and an architectural review board.

    These are private restrictions voluntarily agreed to by the entire ownership of the original community. They were not and are not imposed by government coercion.

    But that ability to buy whatever aesthetic standards you can afford to pay for does not extend to putting wholesale blanket region wide restrictions on other people’s property rights.

    If you think it does, you are a socialist.

  48. Anonymous Avatar

    “In Fairfax County, lawyers, engineers, planners, and assorted consultants skim off enormous fees for influence peddling and working zoning requests through the system. Politicians have their hand out to all of these groups, and zoning decisions are based on money and power, not on any rational or equitable criteria.”

    When I built my Fairfax home, iwas told that I had unsuitable soil type and could not build. I knew this was not the case, and I asked the county engineer to come out and view the site.

    He refused. So I sasked wht it would take to change his mind, and he said I could get a soils engineer. The soils engineer came out with heavy equipment and tried
    to drill some holes to test the soil. When he couldn’t get the drill in, he concluded the ground was stable, and issued a reprot to that effect.

    The county rejected his report, without any justification whatsoever. “I don’t believe it.” saind the county engineer. But he offered no evidence to cntradict what I had.

    So, I got another engineer, and had a special foundation designed to withstand shifting soils.

    I nearly had to blast to get it in the ground.

    All of this cost me $35,000 extra dollars and four months on my construction schedule, and my loan.

    25 years later, it is pretty evident that the county was entirely wrong in its assessment. So here was a “safety” regulation that I agree with in principle (we should not build on soggy or unstable ground) but which was applied in a manner that was completely wrong.

    I think I’m entitled, or should be entitled, to $35k, plus interest, based on what we now know. I think, that if the county engineer had been faced with that prospect, he would have been more selective and realistic about how he enforced the code.

    I also think that he should have ben more forthcoming. had I known that an option was to engineer a special foundation, and that an option was for the county to refuse the soils report, then I might have opted to skip that part and go ahead with (uneccessarily expensive) construction.

    Likewise, I think that if zoning authorities know that the community will be held accountable when their plans go wrong, then theywill be less likely to be quite so aggresive and intractable.

    For example, zoning sets certain growth restrictions based on their assessment that any home valued at less than X$ coss the county more thanit gains in revenue. Several jurisdictions do the same thing, and as a result the value of homes jumps far above the value calculated in the original plan.

    (When this actually happend in Fauquier, the value of X magically doubled.)

    Now, the economic realities have changed, but it is next to impossible to get the zoning changed. Those that already have their homes (and who bought thme with no prospect of subdivision in place) benefit, but those that were prevented from developing now face and even greater loss. With facts in hand (just as I had with my enginners report) they should be able to pettition for relief, either in zoning relief or economic relief.

    Zoning laws are inherently designed to prevent change, or rather to allow change only in one direction: against development. Since change happens anyway, the zoning laws are inherently out of touch and favor the ensconced majority with a self interst in the status quo.

    At the same time, they accuse developers of acting in their own self interest.

    There is now a COSTCO controversy in Fauquier. Local residents railed against “too much traffic” and told the public hearing they would rather see a grocery store. Lo and behold, the COSTCO traffic engineers had a report that showed ostco generates less traffic than grocery stores.

    Guess what the response was? Self serving, cooked the books, etc. But no evidence the report was wrong, just villification of the messenger.

    But the zoning ordinance requires the applicant to carry the costs and the burden of proof. The public can’t very well claim the applicants are self serving if the public is not willing to share the costs and find an impartial engineer.

    They equally cannot make a claim for public betterment based on unsubstantiated claims like “your soil isn’t good enough”.

    Likewise they cannot make subjective claims that they refuse to back up or put a price on, like “airplanes should pay their full environmental costs”.

    I could care less one way or another about COSTCO or airlines, but I care a good deal about false arguments.

    I care a good deal about the $35k that I don’t have and which bought absolutely zero as far as public betterment is concerned. The reason it bought so little was because the need for expenditure was based on false arguments.

    I’m pretty much convinced that one reason this happens is that there is no liability for making a false argument. Especially if you have the majority on your side.

    I’m not sure if this is tyranny or anarchy through selective interpretaton of the law, but it is a far cry form what Democracy is supposed to be.


  49. Anonymous Avatar

    Ray – Your problem in Fairfax County was you failed to work the political process. Hire a lawyer, a lobbyist, and make campaign contributions. That generally works, especially if done on a large scale.

    Indeed, if you would have found a way to increase government spending and taxes, the Washington Post would have written a series of editorials touting your request to build.

    I’m not kidding or even exaggerating. Fairfax County is as corrupt a local government as there is anywhere in the U.S. It just has a reputation that hides its warts.


  50. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    okay.. let’s back up here.

    Is the assertion that more people are crowding into houses that they were originally designed for – because of restrictive zoning laws?

    Before we go further – we sould agree on the problem statement.

    Is the assertion also that Houston is one of the better examples in the country where they don’t have problems with too many people crowding into a house because they don’t have zoning (or zoning-like regulations)?

    OR.. is the assertion that people DO crowd into houses because in Houston.. it’s allowed to start with?

    I’ve got more questions that have to do with bunkhouses next to apple orchards, but I’ll wait.

  51. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, while Houston does not have a zoning code and hence, many strange development patterns occur, it is my understanding that most property is controlled by detailed, private covenants, which are often much more restrictive than are many zoning codes.

    I suspect that other bloggers may have much more detailed information about Houston than I do. However, I think that it could be misleading to assume that Houston is totally wide open in land use issues.


  52. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    but TMT .. convenants on one parcel won’t prevent a refinery from being put on the adjacent parcel.

    Without zoning.. wouldn’t we see, a single family home next to a McDonals, next to a refinery, next to a 10 story office building next to a city park next to a saloon and then a school?

    This discussion… here is actually mixing related aspects

    … health/safety = codes
    zoning – incompatible adjacent uses
    and density … and affordable housing..

    and I want to point out that “density” can mean more than residential population..

    it can be commercial/retail/office space also..

    we allow hundreds of people to work in small office spaces…as long as code is met

    .. and then we say that.. trying to accomplish that same outcome in residential is.. an adverse impact..

  53. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, I believe that zoning codes are important to functioning of society. They must be reasonable and fairly administered.

    My only point was to note that Houston is not quite as wide-open as some might think, including yours truly until I became involved in a land use matter in Houston.


  54. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    TMT – We agree.

    The claim is that Houston does not have zoning.

    My question is… are we confusing semantics for what is the equivalent of zoning but not called zoning?

    Like I said , would we not have homes next to refineries next to schools next to saloons if we did not have some kind of a zoning function.

    What if…Fairfax set up a “zone-free” zone? Would doing so result in .. the market providing enough affordable housing such that we’d not see people crowding in single family homes?

    I’m betting that it won’t change anything..

    ..but if the claim is that zoning is what is responsible for a failure of the market to provide affordable housing… let’s set up some zone-free zones.. and see what happens.

  55. Anonymous Avatar

    What is the likeliehood that the covenants on your neighborhood in Houston would be changed without compensation?

    Aren’t covenants a matter of contract law?

    If I voluntarily bought a home in an area that allowed tradesmen to park their trucks, and that was later changed by a majority of the HOA, would I have a claim?


  56. Anonymous Avatar

    I’d bet the value of property in the zoneing free zones would be thirty percent higher due to the lack of bureaurcratic problems in developing there.


  57. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    If I voluntarily bought a home in an area that allowed tradesmen to park their trucks, and that was later changed by a majority of the HOA, would I have a claim?

    no.. there would be no HOA.

    No zoning.. and every parcel can be used however the owner wishes to use it

    so an oil company puts up a refinery next to your home… and really.. even if you had an HOA and/or convenants .. they would not apply to the land adjacent to yours…

    You’ve got a parcel of land.. and someone else owns the parcel next to you.

    There are no zoning restrictions as to what the person next to you can do with their land

    you could have a home.. they want to build a saloon…or a junkyard or grow cabbages.. slaughter cows..
    sell autos…

  58. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    …”I’d bet the value of property in the zoneing free zones would be thirty percent higher due to the lack of bureaurcratic problems in developing there.”

    not the value – but the intial cost – yes.. agree.

    the value?

    what’s a single family home worth if next door there are 50 dogs in a kennel?

    … what we are “hearing” is that it’s wrong to keep Grandma from taking in workers to live in her extra bedrooms as a way to stay in her home…

    … what if Grandma decides that her backyard .. housing 100 dogs could bring in enough money to stay in her house rather than putting up with smell laborers in her bedrooms?

    … the pro “no-zoning” folks methinks are very selective in what they think should be allowed but I’m betting that such folks are really not in favor of “no zoning” but “different” zoning than currently allowed.

    .. I’m willing to bet that ‘anti-zoning” would not live in places where zoning was done away with.

    .. How would one plan/expand infrastructure like roads, water/sewer.. even electricity, phone, cable.. etc… if you never knew the designated density?

    Do you build a 12″ sewer line or a 72″ sewer line?

    If you plan for a 12″ line and ultimately a 72″ line is needed – who pays for it? Oh.. I already know this answer.. the folks who already live there… have to pay for expanded water/sewer lines for grandma and her “new” rooming house – right?

  59. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, I mistated.

    If I voluntarily bought a home in an area that was codified through an HOA and that code allowed contarctor vehicles, would I be entitled compensation if the HOA changed the rules?

    Answer: probably yes, because HOA’s exist under contract law. If you r zoning previously allowed contractor vehicles, and it gets changed by majoritarian rule, well, tough luck.

    Your answer assumes that every parcel is unrestricted and that isn’t the case, or it wasn’t as I intended to pose the question. The existence of an HOA logically precludes your answer because you can’t have an an HOA for one parcel.

    But you are right, the guy on the perimeter of the HOA does not have as much protection as the guy in the middle. Just like a school of fish, or penguins in the antarctic. Fish and penguins at least share the risk and expense by shifting it around. With zoning, the guy on the outside is just stuck.

    So someone can put a pig farm next to you, but you know that when you buy the property, and figure it in the price. And, if their operation is really damaging, you still have recourse through nuisance law.

    If you have zoned areas and zoning free areas then the zoned areas have ths school of fish problem: those on the perimeter are less well protected.

    But in the zoning free areas, you know you can develop the property to max value, and you would be willing to pay for that. If your neighbor can also develop to max value, you take that into account at the time of sale.

    But, if you do that, and later the county reneges on zoneing-free zones. Well, then you ARE screwed.


  60. Anonymous Avatar

    Actually, I once did a study on a similar water line case. In that case the right answer was a small water line first, and another small water line later.

    This solution provided the lowest ultimate cost for the eventual need.

    However, it did not address who paid for which line.


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