Was it a good decision?

Shawn Magrath

Like most readers, I was a little surprised to see that the city voted down a proposed zoning change earlier this week. And, like most readers, it didn’t really affect me one way or the other because I didn’t really have a dog in that fight. However, unlike most readers, I commend the council on their decision not to follow through with the zoning change.

I guess I just put myself in the shoes of those opposing the change. If I bought a house in a residential neighborhood, I wouldn’t expect the city to pull the rug out from underneath my feet because my neighbor wanted to open a garage/disco/barbacue joint/laundromat/hair care center/air port next to me. (In this case, it’s not so much the proposed auto repair business that bothered me as it was the potentially adverse effects of changing mandated zones to allow one business to do what it wants).

I admit that some arguments made opposing the change were… well… they were pretty weak (after all, neighborly disputes have nothing to do with the issue that was at hand and a zone change wouldn’t make a neighbor vanish into thin air). But I also saw a lot of merit to some of the arguments that hit more close to home.

Strongest argument in my book? Several people own houses within that zone and a zoning change gives potential for other businesses to more easily take advantage of that area. That’s good for the local economy, right. But then again, so isn’t filling vacant storefronts along main street. The only difference is that a focus on those storefronts doesn’t impact local residents the way this zoning change would have. Altering city zones to accommodate one business only opens the flood gates for more to happen (which is bad news for the people that live on that entire block). What I learned from a popular children’s book, “if you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk.”

Hey, let’s talk about the morals in all this. (I know you’re thinking “what do teeth have to do with it?”). Should the law be changed upon the request of one individual? Here’s a kick in the head… If my apartment building doesn’t allow cats because my neighbors are all allergic but as a cat lover, I ask that my lease be changed so that only my apartment allows my cuddly, lovable feline companions. Should it be allowed? Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

On top of all this, I really don’t think that the proposed location would have been the best spot for a garage to begin with. But we need jobs, you say? How many jobs could be provided by a garage that can’t take in more than two cars at a time? But we need businesses you say? OK, the zoning change would have allowed for one more business – at least temporarily. In such a tight, somewhat hidden location, how long would it have really lasted? Yeah, the city should be “business friendly” but allowing any business to go anyplace isn’t being business friendly more than it is being reckless. Anyone familiar with the game of chess knows a game can’t be won by randomly moving pieces. There’s a certain strategy involved. If someone wants to open a repair garage, I’m all on board (after all, I don’t trust my Pontiac any further than I can throw it) but even from a business stand point, there are much, much better places to do it.