Tag Archives: zoning

Property Rights, Provo Grocers, and Zoning Laws

We each have equal God-given (or natural) rights that end where the rights of others begin. All of our rights can arguably be derived from a few basic ones, which may be categorized as rights (1) over our bodies, (2) over the fruits of our labors, (3) over our children within reason as they mature, (4) to interact contractually via mutual voluntary informed consent, and (5) to defend ourselves against others’ aggression. Those last two rights justify us in chartering political systems, to which we contractually delegate limited authority to assist us in defending our rights from others’ aggression so that we may remain free.

It’s sad when our public officers reject their proper role as rights-defending servants to become rights-violating masters, instead, even to the point of behaving like Earthly monarchs to rule over us, dictating how we citizens will exercise our rights as if we exist merely to serve their interests. This is not only immoral but also impractical, as the grandiose central plans that a few mere mortals arrogantly devise to coerce upon the rest of us are generally inferior to the plans that many mere mortals (especially with divine guidance) freely work out amongst themselves through persuasion coupled with voluntary cooperation.

This is also true of zoning, which originated among European socialists. This municipal variety of central economic planning curtails development, reduces competition, promotes false “order” and/or aesthetics over genuine needs, reduces housing supply while raising housing costs, excludes “undesirables,” wastes people’s valuable time with needless paperwork, retards economic progress, and lowers standards-of-living. Every one of its alleged benefits is provided better within genuinely-free markets, which allow the most economical allocation of resources. Houston developed well with hardly any zoning laws and, as a result, enjoys exceptionally affordable housing, while California’s zoning laws (combined with other regulations) have rendered housing so unaffordable that prices are driving residents away.

People often migrate in the direction of greater freedom, which is one reason why many Californians are currently migrating to Utah County, although they are mostly bypassing Provo for now. Their reasons for avoiding Provo remain unclear to us at present in the absence of any professional survey results. However, it’s possible that Provo is repelling new move-ins with its own proliferating regulations, as Provo’s city code more-than-doubled from 2001 to 2021.

Provo’s regulation explosion is partly guided by Provo’s Vision 2030 (or Vision 2050), which is a grandiose central economic plan that mayor John Curtis instigated in 2011, and that Provo’s city councilors have since attempted to translate (as they’ve openly admitted) from abstract vision statement into concrete city code. These efforts have included city council discussions about enhancing Provo’s existing mostly-1970s-era zoning laws that regulate buildings’ function with additional laws that regulate their form. At one Vision 2030 discussion in 2016, Provo’s city councilors even discussed the possibility of requiring all Provo homeowners to landscape their yards in a manner dictated by municipal law. During this surreal discussion, one attendee remarked something about how, if Provo residents didn’t like their local aesthetics, then they could fire their mayor for a successor with better taste.

Such form-based code, like traditional zoning, originated among socialists and has been touted as a means to implement “Smart Growth” policies. These are an attempt to forcibly redirect municipal development away from a city’s outskirts toward its center in the guise of “saving the natural environment.” Such overt environmentalism arguably conceals socialism, as socialists have long understood that rural landowners tend to be more patriotic and conservative than urban dwellers—so, by forcibly confining a town’s growth so that its city center develops in an urbanesque manner, socialists can perhaps help their ideas to flourish more easily within it. Such “Smart Growth” policies are also blatantly part of Provo’s Vision 2030, along with its successor Vision 2050.

Even without such form-based enhancements, Provo’s existing zoning laws still violate our equal God-given (or natural) rights to both property and contract, which form the basis of genuine free markets. For example, Smith’s bought some land long ago in west Provo with the intent to construct a shopping center on that land someday, and Smith’s management has since been waiting for it to make financial sense to do so. But Provo’s city councilors recently decided to forcibly hasten this process by rezoning this land so that Smith’s could no longer use its property to construct what it intended, while hoping that this impediment to competition will encourage other grocers to build stores in that same area. And those city councilors have also been examining alternative locations in west Provo on which competitors might build. Their primary motivation is reportedly to prevent west Provo residents from leaving town to buy their groceries, as this reduces city tax revenue.

Whenever the state forcibly overrides the market, the results are invariably detrimental. Frederic Bastiat wrote expertly about the persistent difference between the overt intent of public policy and what those same policies unintentionally achieve through indirect effects upon a complex system. For those same reasons that he stated so eloquently, forcing a grocery store into existence where it does not (yet) make economic sense for it to exist causes economic inefficiencies that hurt every consumer generally. Rather than centrally control or manipulate markets, it’s better to allow free people to freely work out such things amongst themselves. And, more importantly, it’s also the right thing to respect everyone’s property rights.

The “bottom line” is that zoning must end, including in Provo. Zoning violates rights and it does more harm than good. But zoning won’t end without significant changes in the sort of municipal politicians that Provoans have been electing. And those politicians won’t change unless/until more liberty-lovin’ Provoans involve themselves in municipal politics. And involvement won’t increase unless residents like YOU choose to engage in precinct-level activism by engaging your neighbors, motivating them, educating them, informing them, organizing them, mobilizing them, et cetera. Please choose to do so. And you’re welcome to use this website if it help any.


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Valley Visioning Workshops

You are urgently invited to attend one of many Valley Visioning workshops being held in early 2019.  Although these workshops concern Utah County generally, they could have tremendous impact upon Provo specifically.  One was already held earlier this week in Provo but, for those who may have missed it, you may attend another one on February 21st at 6PM at Orem High School.

As detailed in a previous blog entry…  Valley Visioning is sponsored by Envision Utah, which is a group of prominent Utahns who seemingly dislike market-driven growth for being too “chaotic” and “accidental,” but prefer for our political system to control such growth by centrally-planning it.  They’ve already fostered central plans for other parts of Utah and, now, it’s apparently our county’s turn.  But they don’t want to finalize their central plans for our county without first getting our input about what we want—so, these meetings will allow us to provide our input to them.  They intend to consider this input as they develop a communal vision statement for our county’s future that they intend to guide county-level central planning in the coming years.  Which apparently includes dictating where our newcomers will live.

This sounds much like what Provo has been doing on a city level since 2010-2011.  At that time, “liberal” Mayor John Curtis (who was formerly a Democrat) solicited residents’ advice as he created a comprehensive municipal vision statement called Vision 2030, which has since served as a guide to Provo’s City Council in (increasingly) centrally planning Provo’s municipal economy.  Vision 2030’s many goals include “sustainable development,” “Smart Growth” that redirects new development from Provo’s outskirts to its downtown, business subsidies, population redistribution, mandatory city-regulated landscaping (according to one city council meeting), promotion of mass-transit, a city-level Obamacare, and even oversight of each resident’s diet-and-exercise.  It looks like Orem is now following Provo’s example, along with Utah County—and, it would seem, other places throughout our nation.

So, if you don’t want central planners running the economy of our city or county or state or nation, but would prefer to leave markets free, then please choose to get motivated, educated, informed, and involved to help thwart these plans.  This requires us (in part) to both nominate and elect better politicians—and, since we can’t accomplish this feat with our one vote alone, we need to both engage and mobilized our neighbors, as well.  We Utahns who still value our rightful liberty need to build our ranks to become more numerous and/or effective than those of our statist adversaries, so that we can start to gain ground more than lose it.  If you find our website’s resources helpful in that goal, then please use them.


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Centrally Planning Utah County

Some people want our county government to centrally plan our county’s economy, and they are already making progress toward that goal.  More details are provided below—but, first, let’s overview some of the principles involved…

Anytime people remain sufficiently both free and virtuous, they tend to enjoy various blessings, including progress both as individuals and as a society.  Such advancing free societies develop without any obvious central guidance—and yet, despite that absence, somehow people still build homes and grow crops and mine ore and teach school and cure disease and supply countless other products and/or services that people demand, and do so more efficiently and effectively with each passing year.  Such orderly activity not only occurs spontaneously without any centralized direction, but central economic planning would actually harm it; one reason for this is that it’s impossible for any tiny oligarchy (even in the Information Age) to effectively oversee a vast complex system in which each person plays such a highly-specialized role.  In any case, the more advanced a given civilization becomes, the harder it becomes to centrally plan it, and the worse it fares whenever some would-be oligarchs attempt to harness it to serve their will.

Some people crave such power, though, and delude themselves into believing that the world (or their nation or their state or their city) would become so much better (or even “perfect”) if only they could subjugate their neighbors to their will and then reign over society with kinglike powers, directing everyone where to go and what to do.  Such power-hungry people are naturally drawn to politics, and even to public office, in which they strive to corrupt our political systems away from their proper role of defending rights toward a perverted role of controlling society.  Such centralized command-and-control essentially involves enslaving society, which practice is innately evil—and such evil means always lack the power to produce good ends, regardless of their intentions.  And this is why, although many statists may genuinely intend to create heaven-on-Earth, they almost invariably create hell-on-Earth instead to the extent that they’re allowed to implement their respective visions.

Statism isn’t only found in past horrors like Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany, but it has found favor among some Americans, as well.  It’s what reduced Detroit from a rich thriving metropolis to bankrupt crumbling ruins.  It’s why the middle class is currently fleeing California in droves.  And it’s even taking root here among us in Utah County.  Some Utahns might find that last statement surprising, considering Utah’s well-earned reputation as a highly conservative state—but it might make more sense to those who understand that very few Utahns actually bother to vote in local elections, while the few who DO bother to vote don’t necessarily represent majority views.

A small percent of Provoans supported John Curtis to win election in 2009 as Provo’s mayor, after which John quickly began working on Vision 2030/2050, which arguably became his most enduring legacy.  This document is more than a mere vision statement for what our political elites (after considering public input) decided that they want Provo to become, but it was intended from its inception to serve as a central-planning guide for our city council, and to become slowly transformed into city code.  Although this vision includes many relatively-benign provisions, it does include some rather alarming ones, such as dictating development, subsidizing politically-favored businesses, expelling renters, running monopolies, censoring communication, and even implementing a mini-Obamacare at the city level.  All of this from a former Democrat who seemingly never changed his views as much as his label.  And his successor, Mayor Kaufusi, seems well poised to perpetuate his legacy.

Mayor Kaufusi is now rallying Provoans to participate in developing a central economic plan for our entire county, as well, so that we can help “figure out where growth should go” as we “ensure Utah Valley grows the way the people who live here want it to.” This visioning process is being overseen by a group of wealthy and/or powerful Utahns called Envision Utah.  Envision Utah has criticized Utah County’s past relatively-free-market growth as being “chaotic” and “accidental”—and, as such, they are seeking to subjugate our local economy to our local politicians, who will override the free market by imposing their own political plans for our economy.  Rather than develop this central plan entirely on their own, Envision Utah has deigned to allow public participation—and, so, we local residents can visit their Valley Visioning website to complete a survey about what sort of future we want for Utah County.  One of this survey’s many interesting questions (which Mayor Kaufusi was seemingly referencing above) is about what percent of Utah Valley growth should be allocated to which cities—and, so, if we want 100% of new move-ins to come live in Provo, and 0% of them to live anywhere else, then we can tell Envision Utah so, and perhaps they’ll decide to decree it accordingly.  But why are we choosing where other people will live?  State-controlled-and-assigned housing may be perfect normal in communist nations, but it’s not a practice that we should accept here (or anywhere).

Please actively oppose this effort to develop a central economic plan for Utah County (and to continue the plan for Provo).  Please urge both your neighbors and your public officers to do likewise.  And, if your public officers choose to support central economic planning, anyway, then please rally your neighbors to uphold better candidates in next year’s local elections—candidates who will help preserve free markets by defending our equal God-given rights to both property and contract.


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Centrally Planning West Provo

As populations freely grow and shift, they change the way in which land is used.  Such changes may occur either through voluntary contractual interactions among free people or through coercive decrees from oligarchs—or something in between.

But it’s not the place of politicians to dictate how everyone else’s land is to be used—such decisions are rightfully made by individual landowners.  Besides, if landowners can’t truly decide how their own land is to be used, then are they truly its owners, or are they merely caretakers of public land?  It’s sad when politicians treat their constituents’ land as if it were their own land by issuing edicts about how it will be used.  It’s not the proper role of public officers to reign over society like oligarchs, but only to help keep us free by expertly helping us to defend our equal God-given rights from others’ aggression.  And those rights include property rights—the right to determine the use of our own property, provided that our actions don’t interfere with the equal God-given rights of others.  It’s a basic principle that, whenever we violate others’ property rights through trespassing or theft or damage or other such means, we engage in criminal wrongdoing, which we may justly prosecute but not perpetrate.

Centralized economic planning is not only wrong in principle but it’s also impractical, as history abundantly proves.  Highly centrally-planned economies like that of the former U. S. S. R. were parasitical economic basketcases that would have likely collapsed many times without regular infusions of economic aid from the West.  Meanwhile, the West thrived economically due (in part) to relatively-free markets, in which both property and contractual rights are generally respected (as they should be), while decision-making remained dispersed among relatively-free people rather than concentrated in the hands of very-powerful oligarchs.

Unfortunately, Provo’s city council appears to have embraced the principles of central planning, as evidenced by documents like Vision 2030/2050, and its councilors remain eager to dictate development in west Provo.  They met earlier this week on Tuesday evening to consider approving a new land-use map that will help determine what will get built where in west Provo.  If you missed the meeting, then please contact your city councilor to let him/her know that you favor economic development planned by free people rather than by city officers.  And let’s please strive to elect better city officers in 2019 who will respect your rightful liberty on their own without needing us to lobby them regularly.


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Opposing a Statist Vision for Provo

We Provoans who value our rightful liberty would do well (for reasons detailed below) to lobby our city councilors from March 6th to March 27th (as they’ve voted to allow) about a revised General Plan for our city that they’ve been drafting since last year.

This revised central plan will merge our present General Plan’s Chapter One together with two city documents full of central-planning guidelines, namely Vision 2030 and Vision 2050.  Vision 2030 was instigated in 2010 by newly-elected mayor John Curtis, in cooperation with his like-minded city councilors, who together appointed a system of committees that gradually developed it through 18 months of careful deliberation, while both inviting and considering (but not necessarily heeding) public input, before finalizing it all on paper in 2011.  After using Vision 2030 to guide their central planning for five years, and then noting (in John Curtis’ words) that “so much of 2030 has already been accomplished,” our city officers sought additional public input about their plans in 2016, which they considered as they composed a similar plan called Vision 2050.  Along the way, Provo’s city councilors made it perfectly clear that their intent has been to gradually transform these abstract vision statements over decades into concrete city code.  So, if we want to know what these city officers envision for our future city ordinances (which have been proliferating greatly in recent years), then we should scrutinize this pair of vision statements.

Although these documents together present many fine aspirations for Provo’s future, most such goals/objectives are best accomplished through both loving persuasion and voluntary cooperation, rather than through the heavy hand of political edicts.  In fact, our political system should ideally focus on its core (and only proper) mission of helping us all to effectively defend our rights against others’ aggression, while leaving all other concerns to free people in a free society—and our politicians should NOT seek to compel us to live up to anything-and-everything that suits their fancy.  What follows next is a brief overview of some of the worst city ordinances envisioned by these documents, accompanied by some of our commentary.

  • Censoring Internet communications (perhaps) in violation of our rights to speak freely (see V2030 5.2.3).

Vision 2030 expresses concern about “the risks associated with free and open access to the Internet,” along with a legislative goal to “provide safe and secure Internet access.”  It’s unclear if this phrase refers to wanton electronic censorship or to something more innocuous (as some have suggested) like restricting children’s access to pornography at Provo’s public library; but, in any case, we urge caution.  While Vision 2030 was being composed, Provo owned a shoddy overpriced money-losing fiberoptic network called iProvo, which our city council had built from 2004 to 2006 using a massive $39.5-million-dollar loan (which Provo taxpayers are still repaying), but later sold in 2013 to Google Fiber for only $1 (while paying hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in related expenses); this transfer-of-ownership perhaps explains why this entire section about censorship was excluded from Vision 2050.

  • Reconstructing Provo’s infrastructure to impede private traffic in favor of public transit (see V2030 12.1, 12.2; V2050 9.1, 9.2).

Vision 2050 calls for neither eliminating nor minimizing traffic congestion, but “managing” it in such a way that it discourages people from driving.  This may (or may not) imply joining a recent nationwide trend of so-called “road diets” that are now severely obstructing traffic in various major U. S. cities for the purpose of “encouraging” drivers to give up their automobiles for politically-favored alternatives.  Provo’s city officers may be fulfilling these goals right now (at least in part) through their insanely-expensive road-reconstruction project to establish Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), which they have admitted isn’t justified by current consumer demand.  We should note, by the way, that even this current relatively-low demand is highly inflated due to heavy taxpayer subsidies, without which all UTA fares would be at least several times more expensive.

  • Dictating which buildings will get built where, while regulating the details of both their form and their function, all in accordance with the principles of “sustainable development” and/or “smart growth,” but in violation of property rights (see V2030 1.5.2, 1.6.2, 2.1.1, 2.2, 2.4; V2050 1.3.5, 1.5.4, 1.6.2, 2.1.3, 2.2, 2.3.6, 2.5, 2.7.3, 2.8.1, 4.6.1, 6.6, 6.7, 6.9, 9).

Although zoning is common, some cities like Houston have thrived without it, as it curtails development, reduces competition, promotes false “order” and/or aesthetics over genuine needs, reduces housing supply while raising housing costs, excludes “undesirables,” and wastes people’s valuable time with needless paperwork.  While traditional zoning controls only the function of buildings, newer zoning trends control their form, as well, and this seems to be referenced in Vision 2050—in fact, Provo’s city councilors in 2016 discussed the idea of mandatory landscaping for all residential homes, which they would regulate through city code.  Some consider such form-based code to be vital in implementing “smart growth,” which forcibly redirects development away from a city’s outskirts toward its center, thereby concentrating municipal residents into high-density walkable urbanesque cores served by public mass-transit, which is exactly what these documents envision for Provo.  “Smart growth” is a closely-related concept to “sustainable development,” which has become associated with “watermelon” environmentalists who advance communistic principles under the guise of protecting nature.  Communists have long favored such “delandization” policies in nations that they’ve sough to subvert.

  • Redistributing demographics, including by expelling renters from Provo to other parts of Utah County, in violation of our property and/or contractual rights (see V2030 1.5, 2.1, 2.3, 5.3; V2050 1.5, 2.1, 2.3).

Provo’s city officers have expressed displeasure with Provo’s current owner-renter balance, along with a desire to exercise political power to artificially restrict rental housing (which would inflate rental costs for students while unjustly enriching landlords), subsidize homeownership, discourage relocation, and even encourage each neighborhood’s residents to have diversity in their ages.  It’s unclear exactly how our city officers might enforce age diversity—perhaps each block would be assigned a mandatory elderly couple?  In any case, our public officers shouldn’t decree who lives where—such decisions should be made contractually within a free market.

  • Expanding Provo’s current array of city-run business ventures, regulating what it doesn’t run, and subsidizing politically-favored relocations and/or expansions and/or startups, all in violation of our property and/or contractual rights (see V2030 3.1, 3.3, 3.6, 3.7, 3.8, 4.7, 5.4.2, 7.3.2, 9.1.2, 9.3.2; V2050 3.1, 3.3, 3.6, 3.7, 4.7, 4.8, 5.3.2, 6.2.4, 6.3.2, 6.4, 6.8).

Provo’s city officers seem to want to control (or at least manipulate) our municipal economy as much as we’ll let them.  Their current roster of city-run businesses (which should all be fully privatized) includes a redevelopment agency, a monopolistic power company, an airport, a television channel, a library, a money-losing performing-arts center, a rather-profitable (for now) new recreation center, a fitness center, a golf course, an ice rink, a water park, a city park service, a gun range, a garbage-collection service, a recycling service, and a cemetery, with plans to possibly add a museum and/or beach.  Such additions might be funded through Provo’s new RAP (recreation, arts, and parks) tax, through which our city officers may entertain us as much as they please while sending the bill to taxpayers.  But it’s not right for our politicians to be running and/or regulating our businesses, which distracts them from their proper role of helping us to defend our rights.

  • Socializing Provo’s health-care system, while ensuring that Provoans maintain proper diet and exercise (see V2030 6.1, 6.2).

Vision 2030 expresses a desire to guarantee every Provoan “access” to health care, which appears to be a city-level version of “Obamacare.”  Which may explain why, after our nation’s Congress passed the unconstitutional Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, this section was excluded from Vision 2050.  What also disappeared were goals about ensuring that all Provoans live healthier lives.  As for how Provo’s city councilors considered enforcing such health laws, we can only speculate—perhaps it would involve regular home visits from “health enforcement agents” to ensure that we’re all talking enough walks and eating enough vegetables?  Creepy…

  • Recruiting residents to help implement this statist agenda (see V2030 5.3.5, 10.1.3, 10.2, 14.3.4; V2050 7.1.3, 7.2, 11.3.4).

Provo’s city officers also want to educate Provoan children to engage in “sustainable development,” and to understand the “roles of government,” which they seemingly believe is to reign over the rest of us—and to harness some Provoans as volunteers to help them to render their statist vision a reality.  Rather than trying to finagle us into serving their interests, they should be helping us to remain free to pursue our own interests within the limits of our equal God-given rights.

Please lobby your city councilors against such such goals, and please encourage fellow liberty-lovin’ Provoans to do likewise!  Since these goals/objectives were generally their idea, they might resist relinquishing them, or they might eliminate them only on paper while pressing ahead with them in practice—but your efforts may still either slow or pause their statist plans enough to have an impact while we’re in the process of helping our neighbors to choose better successors.  And we hope that you’re already actively proselytizing your neighbors, as well, especially as our local weather is growing milder.  As a reminder, you’re more than welcome to peruse our Free Provo website for both ideas and resources.


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