After I put up the post this weekend about a Virginia Tea Party group’s opposition to a state law forcing counties to upzone enough land for medium-density development, I sent an email to Marc Scribner at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a libertarian group, asking his opinion on the law. He was kind enough to give us his thoughts, and here they are:
While I would like to see a lot more upzoning and would support state-wide legislation that would limit local exclusionary zoning (or ideally prohibit it!), subsection (1)(B) provision (6) seems problematic. Basically, legislatures should restrict exclusion, rather than force inclusion by establishing UDAs and specifying design and form aspects, if they are to pursue land-use liberalization at the state level.
Also, the lack of a provision limiting property condemnations within UDAs could spur more eminent domain abuse, which has been a nasty side effect of poorly structured upzoning that results in things such as access to transit and new sanitation capacity being prioritized over property rights. David Alpert might not agree, but I consider the government robbing private property owners of their land to be a far greater offense than prohibiting multi-unit housing or mixed-use development, as much as I dislike these regulatory takings. (Although I believe Virginia has an interesting requirement that jurors in an eminent domain case be property owners.)
The reason why one might see more ED abuse within upzoned areas is that going from less intense development to more intense generally calls for more public infrastructure investment (or worse, grandiose PPP projects). This is particularly true in more residential areas, as commercial and industrial zones typically have near-adequate or overbuilt sanitation facilities, etc., that can accommodate more growth. Not saying that dev is bad, but any time comprehensive redevelopment becomes more likely, people need to be more vigilant about takings.
I’m not sure if this cure is significantly worse than the disease in terms of reinforcing smart-growth planning ideology and giving a leg-up to rent-seeking developers at the expense of awful Euclidian zoning regimes, but at least they didn’t mention on-street bike lanes.
So, there you have it. I personally think the Virginia law looks great, but as you can see, not all libertarians are so sanguine about it. And for the record, here is the provision that he talks about in the first paragraph:
The comprehensive plan shall incorporate principles of traditional neighborhood design in the urban development area, which may include but need not be limited to (i) pedestrian-friendly road design, (ii) interconnection of new local streets with existing local streets and roads, (iii) connectivity of road and pedestrian networks, (iv) preservation of natural areas, (v) mixed-use neighborhoods, including mixed housing types, with affordable housing to meet the projected family income distributions of future residential growth, (vi) reduction of front and side yard building setbacks, and (vii) reduction of subdivision street widths and turning radii at subdivision street intersections.