Dec. 15, 2011 - Citing the UN Agenda 21, which focuses on "one government" and reduction of property rights, "concerned citizens" of Rutherford County, TN objected to plans by the County Planning Commission to "update" zoning laws to comply with a new "Comprehensive Land Use Plan" (aka Comp Plan.
This article gives an overview of complaints and the issues, which seem to center on revising zoning related to rock quarries to shift them to an "industrial" use and subject them to changed setback requirements and state level approvals which were not required before.
I didn't read anything in the article that was specific enough to understand what property rights were being removed except that if a land owner wished to create a rock quarry, they would be subject to much LOWER setback requirements than currently, and subject to State approvals.
“All this is, is a hidden anti-development, anti-growth agenda under the veil of preservation and scenic beauty – all at the expense of the property owner,” said Timm Rudd, Rutherford County Republican Executive Committee member and real estate agent.
Apparently, in this County, the zoning has not been updated since 1984 (similar to what happened in Lake County last year).
I called and talked to Elizabeth Ernslie in the Rutherford County, TN planning office. Tennessee does not require comp plans - they are optional. The plannning recommendations are in the draft stage, and expected to change when the Commissioners review the draft. By the way, you think it is hard here in Lake County to get a decision past FIVE Commissioners. There, they have 21 of them.
The planning draft issues that would get property rights advocates up in arms are (not all in the article):
- Reducing rural density from 3 houses per acre to ONE house per acre, which owners consider a devaluation of future value. The planning department's logic was that they still have many rural, dirt roads and reducing density will reduce need to pave or repair them. I didn't ask if current owners would be grandfathered in or not to the current higher setback. Our observation is they are using zoning rules to reduce density rather than an alternative of letting current owners to create a tax district to pay for added road costs (i.e. market based method vs government regulations).
- Changing setbacks for rock quarries. Currently, quarry noise control setbacks are 1500 feet and there are four quarries in the County. Setback reductions improve land usage by the quarry owners but reduce noise control setbacks for neighbors, which reduce their property value. So, quarry owners benefit and nearby home owners do not.
- Planning emphasis is to encourage people to move closer to cities (an Agenda 21 aim) so residents can use existing city sewers and not septic tanks (sound familiar?). Tennessee has rocky soil which doesn't work well for filtering septic tank contents, I was told. So, the changes are being proposed to push population to city centers to reduce infrastructure costs. But, why not just accept septic tanks in rural areas?
Agenda 21 is frequently described as a socialists method underlying "logical" planning methods by well meaning planners to result in increasing costs of rural and non-urban homeowners. The socialists aim is to make the US like communist countries where land is controlled by government. They do this by influencing well meaning planners to incentivize rural residents into population centers which in the future can be more well controlled by government.
Observers would claim that education of planners to move towards A21 goals was started by Bill Clinton with grants, so it is now natural for them to think society is better off with everyone pushed into population centers.
Which do you think is happening here? Should everyone accept the logic of planning departments, or fight efforts to reduce rural property values or increase costs of rural living in order to push people into population centers.
Here are some quotes of the critics of the plans:
Jake Robinson, a Rutherford County Commission candidate in 2010, railed against the perceived international threat in the additional time he was allowed to give a Power Point presentation.
“It's not just about me and my plan, my yard. If I sit back and say, 'oh, this just affects folks in the rural area and the farmers. I don't care about those guys,' but if they violate their property rights, they will violate mine next,” said Robinson, who is married to County Register of Deeds Heather Dawbarn.