Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Revenge of the Zoning Monster

A new retail mall is being proposed in Baltimore. You won't believe who is behind the opposition!

Actually, yes you will.

There is a bill before the Baltimore County Council that would allow a new shopping center in Baltimore. There has been petition drives and mailings opposing the new mall on the grounds that the process is not being honored (because the Council may issue a variance).

Except the opposition is coming from the owner of two of the largest Baltimore County malls, General Growth Properties. GGP owns both the White Marsh Mall and the Towson Town Center. Naturally, they expected the zoning laws to protect their properties from new competition and are objecting now that the Council is thinking about changing the law to allow someone else to build competition.

So GGP is having a fit over the rules being changed to benefit someone else.

But that's the problem with zoning generally: Americans have to go to the government and ask permission, like Serfs in feudal Europe, to use their property for productive ends. Zoning laws are generally written to be highly restrictive in what they allow, and then then government would grant exemptions to people they like.

One of the many things wrong with zoning is that it's often used in this manner: one established interest campaigning to use the law to create a special class for themselves and keep out any competitors, especially the dangerous ones: small, innovative businesses that have to get by on merit and not government connections.

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