Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Florida Keys Exclusionary Zoning System Needs to be Declared Unconstitutional

Professor Edward Ziegler, editor of Rathkopf's The Law of Zoning and Planning, has an article in the latest edition of The Urban Lawyer, where he makes the following observations.

Zoning almost by definition is exclusionary in nature, and this is, and has been, true even in many of America's major cities. .... Our regional problem today is that the strong arm of NIMBYism has turned the gentility of old "snob zoning" schemes into zoning schemes that perhaps can best be described as "hyper exclusion on steroids." ....

Typically, concerns about growth within a local community follow a certain political dynamic. .... NIMBYism at some point begins to dominate both the public's perception of future growth and the politics of the local planning and zoning process.

Eventually, anti-growth sentiment develops to the point where nearly everyone but the realtors' lobby has been turned into a BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody). Land use "activists" and civic-minded neighborhood organizations now emerge with the goal of promoting growth management and the "public interest" (often under the banners of "environmental protection" and "fighting urban sprawl") and pressure the city to enact increasingly intensive and burdensome zoning and growth management programs.
Sound familiar? Well, it should. Looking back over the past 25 years, we can see Professor Ziegler's "growth management nightmare" develop in the Florida Keys just as he described it. Since the early 1980's, Monroe County's elected officials have bent over backwards to play the BANANAs and NIMBYites games. First came massive downzonings in 1986, when thousands of platted subdivision lots were stripped of any right to build anything, and a 1-year moratorium was imposed on development on North Key Largo -- that is still in effect today, 22 years after that year ended!

Then, in 1992 the County, led by its since-disgraced top BANANA, Commissioner Jack London, rammed through a "Rate of Development" ordinance -- allegedly based on a hurricane evacuation infrastructure deficiency (US-1 needed to be widened) -- that was supposed to last no more than 10 years, or to 2002. Well, guess who proceeded to oppose all efforts to widen US-1 and build a new bridge over Jewfish Creek. You guessed it, the Monroe County Commission and its bosom buddies, the neighborhood NIMBY associations (who continue to steadfastly oppose anything that would improve hurricane evacuation times).

Professor Ziegler's article doesn't mention how one can remove the obstructive and value-reducing "growth management" plans put into place by the NIMBYs, BANANAs, and their elected lap-dogs. But we can suggest one. Convince a state or federal judge to follow the lead of the Massachusetts Supreme Court in Zuckerman v. Town of Hadley, 813 N.E. 2d 843 (MA 2004), and declare the Rate of Development system unconstitutional.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We agree, Jim, and we are waiting for you to file the suit. If you are looking for a Plaintiff, count me in.
John Polivick
Proud Owner of unbuildable Lot 9,
Block 5, Harbor Shores, Key Largo.

P.S. The county reclassified my lot from Tier I to Tier III after a hearing before a special master, a process which the county set up but has now ignored. I still can't build, and the money the county paid the special master, which was substantial, was totally wasted. The Tier process is ambiguous, undefined and to this day is a mystery whether it is actually the law in Monroe County.
Just keep suing the bastards and sooner or later they will cave in when they start taxing the "I got miners" to pay for the unbuildable lots.