Whitewater’s Planning Commission Meeting: Residential Overlay Miscellany

Here’s a bit more on the proposed overlay — there are arguments that I’ve made before, but did not repeat in my 5/16/10 post about the May 10th Planning Commission meeting.

The proposed overlay has a grandfather clause for existing rental properties, but that hardly solves the long-term problem of restrictions on buying and selling of property for certain uses. There’s a gamble here, a hope that by excluding certain uses, existing owners (at least most of them) will achieve the economic benefits of a stable, residential neighborhood. Less onerous restrictions were ineffective in the Tratt Street area, and I doubt that stricter ones will work here.

On Tratt Street — the city’s planning consultant once ridiculously proposed a residential island in that area, only to find that owners saw that once an area moved to mostly rental properties, further restrictions against rental housing actually reduced their options for sale at a good price.

Here’s the situation the city faces, since this municipal administration has inadequately encouraged sufficient rental space in a college town. Restrictions on the Starin neighborhood (for example) work, and rental demand goes elsewhere. Restrictions on the Starin neighborhood fail to prevent rental conversion, and area residents will be back for something more draconian. Note that over time, however, the restrictions on possible uses reduce opportunities for re-sale, and a smaller number of potential buyers will disadvantage prospective owner-sellers.

Finally, there’s something funny about an association called itself ‘historic,’ as a way to justify its use of government to get its way. If the neighborhood seemed truly historic to enough buyers, they’d not have problems of ‘encroachment’ with landlords as potential buyers. Average people, considering buying a house, are apparently unpersuaded that the area’s historic in a way that would command a large number of buyers at a good price.

So the Starin association seeks to alter the legal landscape, and use an ordinance to boost housing prices that buyers won’t offer now. I doubt that will work long-term, and to the extent it does work, this neighborhood association is simply diverting the buyers it does not like into other neighborhoods.

Those other neighborhood should act quickly, and form their own special-interest associations, with even more categorical and definitive names. I’d suggest Really, Truly Historic, and Way More Historic Than Those Weasels on the Other Side of Town as possible choices.

Update: When does a private group go astray of good and limited government? When it seeks a public, legislative, imposed fix to circumvent the voluntary, free exchanges of ordinary buyers and sellers.

Comments are closed.