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Question about Zoning Regulations in a neighborhood

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First off, I'm new to the forum and excited to be here! I hope this is the correct area to post my question. Mods, please move the topic if not.

Now for my question:

On a lakefront property often zoning regulations limit the height and width of the house a person can build. Sometimes appeals are accepted and the owner is given a variance on the property to build as they wish. A property value of the house across the street would now be reduced because the view of the lake is severely limited by the variance allowed.

Zoning laws are set up to stop things just like this from happening, and I've heard of a neighborhood contract system being set up, but in places where they already exist it would be nearly impossible to convince a town to do away with them. So does the person across the street have the right to say "no, you can't build that house the way you want it because I was here first and you're wrecking my view of the lake," or should they respect the fact that the new neighbor has the capital to build a house in any way he wishes?

I'm wondering what the capitalistic way to handle this situation would be.

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On a lakefront property often zoning regulations limit the height and width of the house a person can build. Sometimes appeals are accepted and the owner is given a variance on the property to build as they wish. A property value of the house across the street would now be reduced because the view of the lake is severely limited by the variance allowed.

Zoning laws are set up to stop things just like this from happening, and I've heard of a neighborhood contract system being set up, but in places where they already exist it would be nearly impossible to convince a town to do away with them. So does the person across the street have the right to say "no, you can't build that house the way you want it because I was here first and you're wrecking my view of the lake," or should they respect the fact that the new neighbor has the capital to build a house in any way he wishes?

I'm wondering what the capitalistic way to handle this situation would be.

I know you are very new to Objectivism, so I'll mention a few principles of Ayn Rand's that are relevant but refer you to her book, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal for a fuller presentation.

Objectivism holds that all human relationships should be voluntary and that no man may initiate the use of force against any other man or violate someone else's rights to life, liberty, or property. That would rule out zoning laws because they restrict a property owner's rights to use his real estate as he chooses.

The only proper restrictions on a neighbor's use of his property involve (1) contractual agreements voluntarily entered into and (2) protecting the property rights of prior users.

(1) Contractual agreements. Often, buyers of property enter into contracts with the seller and with other property owners in the vicinity to restrict their use of their property in exchange for a similar commitment from the other property owners to do likewise. These are called covenants, codes, and restrictions (CC&Rs) and are part of the title deed. CC&Rs can restrict property additions (no second stories), paint colors (must be approved by the homeowner's association), activities (no raising livestock), etc.

(2) Property rights of prior users. People acquire a property right by using land in particular ways and, all other things being equal, others cannot interfere with that use once it is established. Thus, if you have a two-story house, a new neighbor can't stop you from obstructing his view.

When there are disputes over what a contract means or who has a property right to what, the disputing parties must go to court and settle the matter according to clearly defined laws and procedures.

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I know you are very new to Objectivism, so I'll mention a few principles of Ayn Rand's that are relevant but refer you to her book, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal for a fuller presentation.

Objectivism holds that all human relationships should be voluntary and that no man may initiate the use of force against any other man or violate someone else's rights to life, liberty, or property. That would rule out zoning laws because they restrict a property owner's rights to use his real estate as he chooses.

The only proper restrictions on a neighbor's use of his property involve (1) contractual agreements voluntarily entered into and (2) protecting the property rights of prior users.

(1) Contractual agreements. Often, buyers of property enter into contracts with the seller and with other property owners in the vicinity to restrict their use of their property in exchange for a similar commitment from the other property owners to do likewise. These are called covenants, codes, and restrictions (CC&Rs) and are part of the title deed. CC&Rs can restrict property additions (no second stories), paint colors (must be approved by the homeowner's association), activities (no raising livestock), etc.

(2) Property rights of prior users. People acquire a property right by using land in particular ways and, all other things being equal, others cannot interfere with that use once it is established. Thus, if you have a two-story house, a new neighbor can't stop you from obstructing his view.

When there are disputes over what a contract means or who has a property right to what, the disputing parties must go to court and settle the matter according to clearly defined laws and procedures.

Thanks Betsy.

I'll have to read the material you suggested; This is somewhat of an odd and specific first post don't you agree?

I recognize the infringement of zoning regutions on a property owner's right to do as they wish, and I don't feel they are a solution to any issue they supposedly solve. Referencing your quote in bold: If I were the neighbor across the street how would a contractual obligation to do similarly benefit the neighbors on the lake? By increasing the size of my property I would not obstruct anyone's view and therefore would have limited leverage in the contract. Although I recognize that I may have something to offer the new lakefront property owner, they still have the option to flat out refuse the contract and build as they please.

Are you suggesting that it would have been a solution to have the previous owner of the property on the lake (the seller) to come into a contractual agreement and then be obligated by contract to not sell to anyone who will disregard the contract? Again though, what would I have to offer the lakefront owner in the first place? I DO feel like I'm starting to see a solution. Creative contracting may be all it takes.

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I know you are very new to Objectivism, so I'll mention a few principles of Ayn Rand's that are relevant but refer you to her book, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal for a fuller presentation.

Objectivism holds that all human relationships should be voluntary and that no man may initiate the use of force against any other man or violate someone else's rights to life, liberty, or property. That would rule out zoning laws because they restrict a property owner's rights to use his real estate as he chooses.

The only proper restrictions on a neighbor's use of his property involve (1) contractual agreements voluntarily entered into and (2) protecting the property rights of prior users.

(1) Contractual agreements. Often, buyers of property enter into contracts with the seller and with other property owners in the vicinity to restrict their use of their property in exchange for a similar commitment from the other property owners to do likewise. These are called covenants, codes, and restrictions (CC&Rs) and are part of the title deed. CC&Rs can restrict property additions (no second stories), paint colors (must be approved by the homeowner's association), activities (no raising livestock), etc.

(2) Property rights of prior users. People acquire a property right by using land in particular ways and, all other things being equal, others cannot interfere with that use once it is established. Thus, if you have a two-story house, a new neighbor can't stop you from obstructing his view.

When there are disputes over what a contract means or who has a property right to what, the disputing parties must go to court and settle the matter according to clearly defined laws and procedures.

Thanks Betsy.

I'll have to read the material you suggested; This is somewhat of an odd and specific first post don't you agree?

I recognize the infringement of zoning regutions on a property owner's right to do as they wish, and I don't feel they are a solution to any issue they supposedly solve. Referencing your quote in bold: If I were the neighbor across the street how would a contractual obligation to do similarly benefit the neighbors on the lake? By increasing the size of my property I would not obstruct anyone's view and therefore would have limited leverage in the contract. Although I recognize that I may have something to offer the new lakefront property owner, they still have the option to flat out refuse the contract and build as they please.

Are you suggesting that it would have been a solution to have the previous owner of the property on the lake (the seller) to come into a contractual agreement and then be obligated by contract to not sell to anyone who will disregard the contract? Again though, what would I have to offer the lakefront owner in the first place? I DO feel like I'm starting to see a solution. Creative contracting may be all it takes.

The previous owner is not obligated to only sell to someone who will honor the terms of use he has agreed to for his property. He is only obligated to disclose to the buyer that those terms of use exist. Where Capitalism enters the picture is that you do not have to buy that property if you do not want to, and you are free to violate the terms of the contract and face the consequences (which would either be lined out in the contract or arbitrated in a civil court). No one can force you to buy it, and if conditions like the ones you mention are a turnoff, you most certainly wouldn't buy it. Under Capitalism you do not have the right to buy the property, knowing those conditions exist, and then force anyone to change how they do or see things.

Regarding the more specific question bolded above, recognize first that it is not a function of zoning regulations. If a group of property owners voluntarily come to an agreement among themselves that the neighborhood subsumed by and composed of their personal property would be bettered by contractual agreements to delimit the scope of what could be done with the property, then that is that. Zoning regulations (and building codes) are specifically government conditions of use set on your property, which may or may not seem to make sense, but which are a direct infringement of property rights, without exception. Ayn Rand lays the case out for this as clearly as it could be in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, suggested by Betsy above.

The CC&Rs that Betsy mentions have been a decent solution to the problem of neighborhoods self-regulating (and the problem of burdening a court system with these types of disputes), and can establish in advance objective terms of use that property owners have a chance of following, but a lot of the law they rest on to be executed is polluted, so irrational CC&Rs have and can be wielded against property owners, and there have been examples of property owners forced to "opt-in" after the fact. But their principles, as long as they are rooted in voluntary agreement between property owners, are sound.

Zoning regulations are another problem entirely. In the book suggested above Ayn Rand has two excellent articles: Man's Rights, and The Nature of Government which make absolutely clear how and why these types of regulations are not only outside the proper scope of government, but also not in keeping with the conditions needed for man's survival.

I actually moved to Alaska in large part because of zoning regulations. Alaska is subject to them, of course, but in a very limited manner, and there are fewer of them. This has trended towards being like the worst parts of the country as time goes on, but I can guarantee that they will be making slow progress in my neck of the woods...

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On a lakefront property often zoning regulations limit the height and width of the house a person can build. Sometimes appeals are accepted and the owner is given a variance on the property to build as they wish. A property value of the house across the street would now be reduced because the view of the lake is severely limited by the variance allowed.

Zoning laws are set up to stop things just like this from happening, and I've heard of a neighborhood contract system being set up, but in places where they already exist it would be nearly impossible to convince a town to do away with them.

Zoning laws cause property value decreases; they do not "stop things just like this from happening". There are no real limits on civic officials' discretion when it comes to determining what is objectionable, an invasion of privacy, what merits an exemption and what is not. The only result in reality is for those subject to zoning laws to be subject to reduced development with reduced desire of property owners to undertake improvements (both aesthetic and technological) and upkeep of the property.

One can convince a town to reduce and improve zoning laws where the government and "consultant urban planners" are steadfastly commited to improving the financial state of the town as quickly as possible. Those in government with integrity will work towards amendments of existing zoning ordinances and the appeal procedure if shown the laws are ineffectual for their purported purpose. Moral and constitutional arguments will only work if a government elected today recognizes zoning regs are legal statements that all property is public.

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The previous owner is not obligated to only sell to someone who will honor the terms of use he has agreed to for his property. He is only obligated to disclose to the buyer that those terms of use exist. Where Capitalism enters the picture is that you do not have to buy that property if you do not want to, and you are free to violate the terms of the contract and face the consequences (which would either be lined out in the contract or arbitrated in a civil court). No one can force you to buy it, and if conditions like the ones you mention are a turnoff, you most certainly wouldn't buy it. Under Capitalism you do not have the right to buy the property, knowing those conditions exist, and then force anyone to change how they do or see things.

Regarding the more specific question bolded above, recognize first that it is not a function of zoning regulations. If a group of property owners voluntarily come to an agreement among themselves that the neighborhood subsumed by and composed of their personal property would be bettered by contractual agreements to delimit the scope of what could be done with the property, then that is that. Zoning regulations (and building codes) are specifically government conditions of use set on your property, which may or may not seem to make sense, but which are a direct infringement of property rights, without exception. Ayn Rand lays the case out for this as clearly as it could be in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, suggested by Betsy above.

The CC&Rs that Betsy mentions have been a decent solution to the problem of neighborhoods self-regulating (and the problem of burdening a court system with these types of disputes), and can establish in advance objective terms of use that property owners have a chance of following, but a lot of the law they rest on to be executed is polluted, so irrational CC&Rs have and can be wielded against property owners, and there have been examples of property owners forced to "opt-in" after the fact. But their principles, as long as they are rooted in voluntary agreement between property owners, are sound.

Zoning regulations are another problem entirely. In the book suggested above Ayn Rand has two excellent articles: Man's Rights, and The Nature of Government which make absolutely clear how and why these types of regulations are not only outside the proper scope of government, but also not in keeping with the conditions needed for man's survival.

I actually moved to Alaska in large part because of zoning regulations. Alaska is subject to them, of course, but in a very limited manner, and there are fewer of them. This has trended towards being like the worst parts of the country as time goes on, but I can guarantee that they will be making slow progress in my neck of the woods...

Thanks styg50. Your reply helped me see the difference in the situation I described and Capitalism. I wasn't sure of the difference in the two at first, quite frankly. I recognize now that the owner can sell or do whatever they wish with the property, because in essence they are selling the contract with it. The buyer (or anyone who owns the property) can decide to oblige or totally disobey but any infringement on the contract would be handled in court based on law.

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Also, the existence of the power to dictate the legal status of entire regions of people's property can only lead to abuse in the long run.

In my old town of Lubbock, Texas, a local super-company called "McDougal Property Management" was notorious for exerting it's political power to have entire neighborhoods legally condemned. The residents would be forced by the city to sell their homes, which would then be bulldozed and replaced with fancy strip-malls and McDougal apartment complexes!

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Are you suggesting that it would have been a solution to have the previous owner of the property on the lake (the seller) to come into a contractual agreement and then be obligated by contract to not sell to anyone who will disregard the contract? Again though, what would I have to offer the lakefront owner in the first place? I DO feel like I'm starting to see a solution. Creative contracting may be all it takes.

The way it usually works is that the original subdivider / developer of a tract sets up the CC&Rs as restrictions on the deeds to all the properties and that defines what property rights he is or is not selling. For instance, the deed can say the property includes the right to build and live in a house but not to drill for oil because the mineral rights may be owned by someone else. As a result, the deed restricts the buyer and all future owners.

Fifty years ago a local developer purchased a large ranch and subdivided it into 2-acre lots as an equestrian community. The CC&Rs allowed the keeping of up to four horses but no pigs or goats, all the houses had have a western / rustic ranch style, all building plans had to be approved by the community's architectural review committee, there were height restrictions on all structures, the lots could never be less than 2 acres, etc. There were eight pages of CC&Rs and these restrictions were a selling point because a buyer who wanted a ranchette knew, in advance, what the community standards were and that they would be binding all his present and future neighbors.

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I've heard a criticism of CC&Rs that I've become more sympathetic to: that while they are an improvement over zoning/code regulations, they can still become quasi-governmental, in that the CC&Rs inhere with the property, rather than with the owner. For example, in my town we have a house on the main road which has in its front yard a large green neon sign that says "God is Love". The sign is decades old, and by this time, nobody (including its current owner) wants the sign, except local chrchy rabble rousers, who appear at city council meetings with a copy of the former owner's deed verbiage that says the sign shall stand in perpetuity.

I may be misunderstanding some legalities of this, but that's the situation as I understand it. So it seems that, rather than deed restrictions, a community, such as the questrian ranchettes that Betsy mentions above, could be set up with the deed restrictions inhering with a living 50% owner, such as a perpetual homeowner association or original developer, instead of with the property itself. That way the arrangement always remains voluntary.

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Covenants in deeds are usually "owned" by the current owners of all the properties included. As such they must be enforced by the owners at any point in time, not directly by a government entity. If necessary, the terms of the deed must be enforced by court action, not by simplying reporting it to the government for police enforcement. The owners may or may not belong to and be represented by a private association making decisions and interpretations. If at some point in time no one cares or has the means to opposed some action contrary to the restrictions, then nothing is done.

This is in contrast to conservation easements typically held by an external self-perpetuating "non-profit" 501c3 land trust or government agency. In this case "rights" to the restrictions are held by an organization external to the property owners. Conservation easements are becoming more intrusive; they typically no longer hold just the "negative" restriction (against building, for example), but grant intrusive land management rights ostensively to control the "ecosystem", etc., This gives the external organization or agency legal standing to interfere in the owner's use of his property in ways they would not otherwise have.

Owners are often lured into such arrangements, without realizing their intrusiveness, under the threat of higher taxes if they don't go along. That includes property taxes and income or estate taxes, for which deductions and exemptions are granted by "donating" rights to a non-profit tax exempt organization or government agency. This can be very serious especially in the case of estate taxes in which neither the heirs nor the estate have the money to pay off exhorbitant taxes on inherited property that may have become very valuable over the years.

Large, financially sophisticated ideological organizations like The Nature Conservancy are notorious for using these schemes to legally extort control of other people's property and turning it over to the government. Bush's Secretary of the Treasury Paulson is an expert at such manipulations and was head of The Nature Conservancy as well running Goldman Sachs. He knows and uses all the angles blending finance and government. Frightening George Bush and the Congress into going along with the bailout of his cronies was only one of his "accomplishments".

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... The sign is decades old, and by this time, nobody (including its current owner) wants the sign, except local chrchy rabble rousers, who appear at city council meetings with a copy of the former owner's deed verbiage that says the sign shall stand in perpetuity.

I may be misunderstanding some legalities of this, but that's the situation as I understand it...

If the pressure group is not on the deed with the legal right to enforce keeping the sign, and if the city has not passed some ordinance enforcing it, then the current owner has no legal obligation to keep the sign. There is no such thing as a deceased owner imposing his wishes in the name of his former property. Property rights does not mean that the property has rights; only people have rights (exept in Ecuador where "nature" has recently been given legal status :D ). The property in your city is owned by some person and neither the dead nor his self-appointed representatives can control that owner. A provision in the deed is only meaningful if property rights to enforce it were left to some person as the former owner's heir. The former owner cannot continue to control the property from his grave. The world belongs to the living legally and morally.

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First off, I'm new to the forum and excited to be here! I hope this is the correct area to post my question. Mods, please move the topic if not.

Now for my question:

On a lakefront property often zoning regulations limit the height and width of the house a person can build. Sometimes appeals are accepted and the owner is given a variance on the property to build as they wish. A property value of the house across the street would now be reduced because the view of the lake is severely limited by the variance allowed.

Zoning laws are set up to stop things just like this from happening, and I've heard of a neighborhood contract system being set up, but in places where they already exist it would be nearly impossible to convince a town to do away with them. So does the person across the street have the right to say "no, you can't build that house the way you want it because I was here first and you're wrecking my view of the lake," or should they respect the fact that the new neighbor has the capital to build a house in any way he wishes?

I'm wondering what the capitalistic way to handle this situation would be.

About 6 hours of video. Addresses property rights, environmental misinformation, globalization, insidious socialism, and other issues. Some arguments are unnecessarily linked to religion. Even so, I found much of it interesting.

Part 1 http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8137185398743302029

Part 2 http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8903112019958738510

Part 3 http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3160326442882912356

JDF

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I'm wondering what the capitalistic way to handle this situation would be.

About 6 hours of video. Addresses property rights, environmental misinformation, globalization, insidious socialism, and other issues. Some arguments are unnecessarily linked to religion.

That should be a red flag that you are dealing with someone who does not really understand capitalism.

One can be personally religious but make factual and secular arguments for capitalism as many of the better conservatives do, but to argue for capitalism based on faith is to cede reason to the enemies of capitalism.

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I'm wondering what the capitalistic way to handle this situation would be.

About 6 hours of video. Addresses property rights, environmental misinformation, globalization, insidious socialism, and other issues. Some arguments are unnecessarily linked to religion.

That should be a red flag that you are dealing with someone who does not really understand capitalism.

One can be personally religious but make factual and secular arguments for capitalism as many of the better conservatives do, but to argue for capitalism based on faith is to cede reason to the enemies of capitalism.

The videos are of a 'summit' organized by Tom DeWeese, who has subsequently written many articles that Capitalism Magazine has carried. So presumably they believe that any association of religion with his thoughts have not sufficiently impugned his understanding of capitalism.

The specific religious aspect that I noticed was the assertion that the American Founding Fathers assumed 'rights' to be 'unalienable' because they are bestowed by 'God'. I don't see that as information necessary to the arguments made in the videos.

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The conference in these videos had nothing to do with a philosophical defense of capitalism using religion. It was a confrence on the threats to property rights and what some groups are trying to do about it politically.

The person whose home in Falmouth, Maine this one was held in was under a vicious attack by organized viros who were using the power of town zoning and regulations to seize her land through a series of schemes lasting years. But the video is almost three years old now so it is out of date: She was subsequently ruined and driven out of the state. On Dec. 23, 2007 this is what she wrote to me:

Thank you for the information. It is a real problem in Maine. I was there last week and to see my home all dark and unloved was heart-breaking to me. My husband and I had such good times there before he became ill. When a town government attacks an individual as I was attacked there should be a name for it not just, :land grab", but something much more evil to describe what is done. I don't know what that term is or should be but I barely lived through it and it was a very destructive thing. I was treated like an outsider and I now know how black people must feel when you are hated just because you are there.

I have encountered more of these cases all over the country than I ever wanted to know. Some of them have called me as complete strangers from other states because they had heard my name from someone and were desperate for help, sometimes in tears. The various victims try to organize with one small group after another and may succeed in blocking some assaults, but typically eventually become burned out and give up in bitterness because they found themselves up against organizations with enormous wealth and political power.

I have cartons of videos on tape of conferences and interviews on property rights going back twenty years in which horror stories are described and explanations given for how various government agencies and pressure groups operate, the declining state of property rights law, etc. Sometimes they bring in nationally known activists like Tom DeWeese, mentioned by Jim. These are ordinary people and conservative organizations, who are the only ones involved in these issues in any practical sense politically, and no one should conclude that he has nothing to learn from them just because they are not espousing Ayn Rand's philosopohy as an ultimate solution sometime in the indefinite future. As people grasp for some coherent explanation of what is happening to them and what is right they sometimes mention traditional principles referring vaguely to religion. That is not a reason to dismiss them or their plight.

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