Zoning advocates talk about the need for planning. Houston, they claim, has developed in an arbitrary and unplanned manner. At the same time, they point to master planned communities such as New Territory as evidence that Houstonians want planning.
The contradiction in such claims seems to escape the pro-zoners. More significantly, they seek to substitute public planning for private planning. They seek to substitute coercive planning for voluntary planning.
Planned communities restrict land uses through private, voluntary contracts—i.e., deed restrictions. If the buyer finds the restrictions undesirable, he can simply refuse to purchase the property. His acceptance of the restrictions is his own choice.
Zoning however, is imposed by force. The property owner has no voice in the restrictions placed upon his property. Indeed, zoning actually grants non-owners of the property a greater voice in its use.
In the process, the plans of the property owner are rendered moot. He must sit by helplessly while others determine the use of his property and impose their values and their plans upon him.
Freedom allows us to pursue our values without intervention from others. Individuals have a moral right to plan and to implement that plan. Freedom allows individuals to adjust their plans as their values and/ or conditions change. Freedom is the primary reason that Houston has not suffered the same economic problems as more restrictive cities.
Despite the well documented problems associated with zoning and highly regulated communities, zoning advocates would have us believe that their plan is somehow superior. And they seek to impose that plan upon the entire community by force.
© J. Brian Phillips 2008