Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Zoning must be fair or leadership must change

(submitted to Hays Daily News Nov. 17 by John Schmeidler)

Until recently, local government in Ellis County has consisted of a group of "insiders" who ran things the way they want. This good ol' boys club has run roughshod over the entire county for years and gotten away with it because people do not get involved in the political process.

Zoning is based on the premise that people who own property have a constitutionally guaranteed right to control of their property. Whenever courts have considered the constitutionality of zoning, which unquestionably constitutes a governmental control of private property (a power of government which did not exist until 1921, or thereabouts) the courts have always concluded that zoning is constitutional because, in assuming control over private property, the government is giving back something of equal value. That something is the government's protection from having their property diminished in any way and is also a right guaranteed by the government.

What this means is that people have a right to their property as it exists at the time of zoning. Agricultural, i.e. farmers and ranchers have a right to always use their property for crops and livestock. But that also means they have no right to use their property for an industrial complex because the same protection extends to the adjoining landowners. They also have a legally defensible expectation that their adjoining neighbors cannot use their property for anything non-agricultural. Although some courts have not honored this concept, it is nevertheless, the only way that zoning can be interpreted as constitutional and not a violation of individuals' rights.

No one in the wind farm project area who purchased their property when it was zoned agricultural should have to accept industrial activity on that land because they are being denied their right to enjoy their property as it existed before zoning took effect. That is the guarantee that zoning must provide to be constitutionally legal.

Unfortunately, zoning as it now exists in Ellis County has been corrupted. It is being used as a tool of interested parties to force people to accept something adverse to their property. A right that, as above, should be protected by our local government and a right that is clearly being abused in the current application process for the cell phone tower next to Victoria.

No matter what political affiliation we subscribe to, we should always remember that all political power rests with the people. It is up to the people of Ellis County to hold local government accountable for the responsible administration of zoning laws or effect changes in leadership as needed.

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