Letter to the Editor: Private land should stay private land
Published 12:58 pm Friday, May 28, 2021
I love steak, could eat it at every meal, but I can’t afford steak at every meal, so sometimes I have to eat Bennie-weenies — which are good, but it’s not steak (forgive me, I say this to make a point).
Someone that wants to escape to the countryside, or some hot-shot “land developer,” sees a beautiful hay field or agricultural property, especially right after it’s been cut or fertilized. Instead of buying a large hay field, they buy a couple of acres next to the hay field, with an unrealistic expectation that it will always be a hay field, and build a nice house there.
The farmer, who cleared the land, established the field, worked tirelessly to try to make a living working the land, one day decides that he’s going in the hole fooling with hay and needs to do something else with his investment that he’s worked so hard for, paid taxes on, and made so many sacrifices for. So, he decides to raise chickens, plant medical marijuana, put up solar panels, or whatever it takes to be able to make it work.
The farmer’s good neighbor, who came out to the country and didn’t want to buy enough property to be satisfied, but mooched his view from the farmer, all of a sudden is mad and upset because the farmer is doing something different with his own property. Now, the guy that moved to the country, or the slick developer, wants to lobby the government to force the farmer to either not be able to do what he needs to do to make ends meet, or force the farmer to give up a barrier on his land taking property out of production. Of course, the new guy or developer could plant a barrier or put up a nice fence on their side of the property line since they are the ones that are taking offense, but that will not do. This would be the same as me wanting steak, but getting Beanie-weenies, then petitioning the government for them or the taxpayers to buy me steak to eat at every meal!
I’ve heard a lot of throwing around of the term “zoning,” lately. Zoning was looked at in Washington Parish as a overreaction after Hurricane Katrina back around 2006 to 2007. The way it was done should be the example of what not to do!
To this day the term zoning is a “curse” word in this parish. There has been a fundamental lack of understanding of the concepts of rural development in the past. Zoning is a reaction to growth, not a means of directing it. The old proposed zoning map of Washington Parish that was done in the past looked like Soviet Russia with the Blue Sector, Yellow Sector, Green Sector, and so on. Zoning is a means of being able to make laws within a particular area, that does not apply outside of that zone, to typically protect something inside of that zone. Otherwise, it’s just a law comprehensive to the entire parish from one inch outside of city limits to the most remote area in the parish.
I don’t know of any industrial areas outside of the municipalities that are concentrated enough to warrant industrial zoning, but if there were, it could be zoned to protect our industrial businesses. So, if someone wanted to build a mansion in the middle of the industrial zone, they couldn’t claim that they were harmed by the surrounding industry.
One area, that I know of, that could possibly use some zoning is areas immediately joining municipalities like Bogalusa, where the city limit line doesn’t end the population density — where just outside of city limits looks like the inside of the city — with houses in close proximity on relatively small parcels of land like city lots. If it was zoned residential, then restrictions could be made, for example, to restrict livestock to parcels within that zone large enough to accommodate the livestock and protect the residents (where in the rural areas, land use restrictions are not warranted to restrict livestock).
If our Parish Government wanted to protect our agricultural industries in the rural areas, they could simply pass a resolution declaring that according to the Washington Parish Tax Assessor, the vast majority of the parish is agricultural, and therefore sights, smells, and sounds are reasonable expectations of living in the rural areas of the parish.
The Capital Regional Planning Commission, which includes Washington Parish, has to justify its existence. When I was on the parish council, a good friend of mine, who was serving on the Washington Parish Planning Commission, was tied up in knots over something a representative of the Capital Regional Planning Commission said. He proceeds to tell me that “we are required by law” to comply with the wishes of this Regional Planning Commission Representative, because it “came from Regional” and was non-negotiable. The Regional Planning Commission has no, zero, jurisdiction over the Washington Parish Council or the Washington Parish Planning Commission. That would be like saying the Police Jury Association had some kind of jurisdiction over the parish council.
The Regional Planning Commission, much like the Police Jury Association, is a tool created that is supposed to assist local governing bodies with resources they may not otherwise have. Our Planning Commission and Council exists to serve the people of Washington Parish — not the Regional Planning Commission. Of course Regional is always going to push for zoning, because that is what their very existence is all about, not that blanket zoning is what’s best for our area.
I encourage members of our government to use all resources available for the betterment of our parish, just do so objectively. Please remember that private property is absolutely fundamental to our democracy and capitalism. The more the government is involved in private property, the less “private” the property is.