You Can’t Please Everyone

Almost without fail, any article or discussion that in any way pertains to land use in Houston inevitably draws laments about the city’s lack of zoning. As an example, a recent article in the Chronicle was humorously complaining about the proliferation of oil change businesses and pharmacies opening in Montrose. A reader commented:

Oh, to have a zoning code that might have dealt with this hodge-podge of uses.

Certainly, zoning could eliminate businesses from residential areas. Indeed, one of the central purposes of zoning is to prohibit such “incompatible” land uses.

While the residents of Montrose may not like the mixture of businesses opening in their neighborhood, residents of other neighborhoods celebrate such mixed uses. Midtown is but one of the many examples of walkable communities that are all the rage today. It turns out that a lot of Houstonians want to be able to walk to restaurants, shops, grocery stores, and even work. And that means that businesses must be located nearby, which is typically prohibited under zoning.

Some people like mixed-use communities and some don’t. And that is the beauty of a Houston without zoning. Developers are free to build the types of communities that residents want, rather than the types demanded by city bureaucrats. And residents are equally free to find the type of community that they desire, rather than the type imposed upon them by the government.

There is a fundamental moral difference between a city with zoning and one without. A city with zoning denies developers, builders, and residents the freedom to act on their own judgment. A city without zoning recognizes the freedom of individuals to make and act on the choices that they believe are best for them.

No public policy will please everyone. But the absence of zoning gives everyone the freedom to find a community that they find pleasing.

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