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Zoning merely a way to restrict nearly everything

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 5:00 a.m. CDT


The wealth redistribution technique known as zoning is well illustrated by the recent decision of the Minooka trustees to reduce the fee paid by developers to the village from $75,000 to $45,000 per acre (Morris Herald, 9/1/2012, p. 4A).

Zoning was first employed in New York City by high-end department stores to exclude discount-type store competition.  By limiting buildable land, zoning drives up the price of developable acreage and lowers the value of all other land.

In our area, development is mostly limited to annexed land; before the 2008 recession, annexable land near Yorkville brought $100,000/acre or more; land near County Line Road and Illinois 52 could not be sold for $12,000/acre.  This had the effect of driving up the prices of existing homes and land contiguous to municipalities and depriving land owners in rural areas of the opportunity to sell land to developers.

The policy of zoning also largely deprives families of the opportunity to live other than in cookie-cutter, crowded subdivisions, and greatly increases the cost to new residents of both their housing or rents.  It is a pernicious form of central planning, with attendant resource misallocation and opportunities for corrupt officials.  Although the beneficiaries of zoning might be thought to be existing homeowners, this is only partially true. The major beneficiaries are public emloyees.

In my case, my house appraisal has increased from $80,000 in 1990 to $200,000 today, but real estate taxes increased from $1,500 to $4,500/year, the result of burgeoning county and school expense, much in excess of inflation. The house is only “worth” more because of the high cost to build new homes.

The Minooka “per-acre cost for developers to support providers of services” of $75,000 decreed in 2006 is double-talk to obscure the fact that the village extorted $75,000 per acre to supposedly defray the village/schools costs imposed by another home.

I can remember these “impact” fees in Lisbon in that period being considered extortionate at $2,000, and considering that new homes in Minooka pay water/sewage fees of up to $150/month, the marginal cost to the village of a new home may be less than zero. Hence the $75,000 Minooka extorted mostly was pocketed by the schools and village and spent on lavish gyms and auditoriums, unused parks, “downtown renewal” and higher wages for ever-more numerous school and village employees.

There is little evidence that original residents benefit unless they sell and move to Houston, Texas which does not zone.  In Lisbon the higher cost of new homes increased assessments for older homes and thereby resulted in higher real estate taxes.

I suspect the new $45,000 fee may lower the price of new homes when economic conditions improve, and drop assessments, resulting in rate increases; public employee wages and numbers are rarely reduced. Zoning is a win-win policy for public employees Now:  how about eliminating zoning?

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