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Zoning: Loving your neighbor as yourself

October 19, 2003|by Scott Blanchard

The anti-zoning mentality is a selfish one.

Zoning, or at least matters relating to it, have been in the news a lot lately. Most notably locally, perhaps, is the controversy over the proposed quarry in St. Thomas and land preservation issues in Washington County, Md.

Almost every argument I have ever heard against zoning is based in selfishness and the inability (or unwillingness) to see that the problem is not zoning itself, but rather the application of it. This brings to mind an oft-cited witticism used by gun owners (of which I am one): "People kill, guns don't!"

According to Scripture, our main obligation to God is to love him. This commandment was expressed in the Old Testament with the words, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." In the New Testament, Jesus said of this command, "This is the first and greatest commandment." To this commandment of God's law, our Savior bound a second - love for neighbor. He said of this commandment that it is "like unto the first," that is, love for neighbor is like love for God. I'm pretty sure that most Christians would agree that love for God would take precedence over oneself.


To my way of thinking, zoning, when applied with wisdom, community input and responsibility, exhibits a concern for neighbor and community. A concern, by the way, that should trump self-interest (such as the construction of a quarry, a porn shop, a junkyard or the land application of sewage sludge).

Both proponents and opponents of zoning have historically misunderstood the real value of zoning. It is not merely the protection of specific monetary property values that good zoning practices attempt to ensure.

The real value of zoning is that it can effectively be used to preserve the "intangibles" that define the very essence of what it means to be an American - love of God, love of family and love of our community.

What are these intangibles that make our houses our homes and that are truly priceless? They are different for all of us, but I'll bet there are some that are common among us - the sense of security and safety, the peaceful quiet in the early morning hours while we sip our coffee, the cool breeze that comes through the back door with just a hint of the smell of freshly cut grass, the sound of a distant church bell.

The bottom line is that what is valuable to one community may not necessarily be valuable to another. Some land uses are simply incompatible with the character of a community. This incompatibility does not necessarily translate into a monetary loss.

For example; having a strip mall built right next to my home would probably drastically reduce the monetary value of my house, but might increase the monetary value of the land my house is on. However, if I truly love my "home" and the intangibles that make it my home, this would still be a tragic net loss to me.

There are those who value, above all else, property and the right to do with it whatever they want regardless of how it impacts their neighbors. To those people I direct them to the good book, "Do not love the world or the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the father is not in him." Just in case you missed the message, property is a thing!

Scott H. Blanchard represents the Coalition of Residents Organized for Political Self-expression in Greencastle, Pa.

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