This commentary is by Lynn James Edmunds, of Wallingford.
How would you know if zoning objectives really measure up to the ideals of their stated goals? More importantly, how can you distinguish a real need for regulation from one that is perhaps just a desire of your local or regional planning commission?
Section 101 of zoning regulations entitled “Purpose” conjures up a myriad of benevolent premise to justify imposing restrictions on residents of Wallingford. But when these impositions are perceived as random and arbitrary, they can make you feel unfairly treated or micromanaged. Do you feel forced or pressured to give up additional property rights each time you are asked, and would you feel that way if these requests came from an obvious need identified by your peers, one that felt less like a power grab hidden behind an illusion of benevolent cause?
Shouldn’t isolated problems be dealt with on a case-by-case basis no matter what part of town you reside in and without preemptively imposing zoning regulation on everyone or discriminating against a few just because they live in a particular neighborhood?
The chicken war it seems started out as a solution looking for a problem. The only problem is when it found what it thought was the problem, turns out it really wasn’t a problem after all, as many residents have attested to on Wallingford’s Front Porch Forum.
If your planning commission believes imposing preemptive or excessive regulation is really the only answer when problems arise, shouldn’t the intent of their solution at least be clearly stated in the regulation they put forward, so it does not require interpretation by said commission or zoning administrator in order to be administered fairly?
Well don’t hold your breath, Wallingford’s new zoning proposal would increase the number of definitions required for interpretation from 43 to 149 presumably to clarify regulations — however, of the 149 terms identified as definitions, 85, or 57%, cannot be found anywhere in the text of proposed regulations.
For example, why are we defining the term “Cemetery, Mausoleum” when there is no regulation pertaining to cemeteries in this document? Should we anticipate there will be in the near future?
Restricting individual property rights is a serious matter, therefore regulations should be grounded in sound principles of reason that clearly identify a genuine need and a specific intent within their text, not left to rely on an arbitrary interpretation of incoherent definitions.
Regulation should not be based on, or contaminated by, excessive or irrelevant definitions that could be ambiguously combined into multiple conclusions of intent, or alter the intent of other existing regulations by erroneous interpretation. The threat of bloated and unnecessary regulation is building pressure in Wallingford. What began as a war on chickens may now cause residents to focus on other areas of dysfunction within the planning structure of our town, thus yielding a better understanding of what happens when zoning regulation goes too far.
Hopefully this will lead to adopting an attitude that is more respectful of our rights and slower to choose control measures as a way to solve all our problems preemptively using the zoning police.