Herriges Rezoned: The Neighbor’s Dilemma

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A related, and also repeated, complaint was that heavy construction vehicles would be traversing those 23-foot wide streets for a year or more, causing major disruption to neighborhood quality of life during that period. Can I argue with that? Not really; it would no doubt be disruptive.

Should the subdivision have been built with only one exit onto an arterial road, instead of a more connected street grid? No, but it was. Do people have a god-given right to demand that no one drive in front of their houses? No. But do they have an incentive to use their voice in the democratic process to minimize those impacts? Sure, they do.

Some of the complaints at the podium were overstated (one speaker, for instance, objected that the headlights of cars turning onto the new street after dark would shine “right into her living room”), but who among us hasn’t ever overstated a case in the name of making a point or winning an argument?

It’s frankly true that these people bought into the neighborhood with the expectation that the property in question wouldn’t be developed. Most were expressly told that the subdivision was “fully built out” and were surprised to learn last year that the developer could add more homes. They were angry because their expectations were now being violated.

I could argue all day about whether these objections are serious or frivolous, or whether they outweigh the developer’s property rights or the collective interest in using land efficiently. Those arguments almost never move people who don’t want to be moved. The kind of person who chose to buy property in a gated HOA subdivision did so for a reason.

More important than telling them why they’re wrong and expecting to change minds (you won’t) is understanding the fact that they have zero incentive other than altruism to adopt the other side on this issue. What do the residents of the 403 existing homes in this subdivision possibly have to gain from 35 additional homes? There is only downside for them, no upside.

This fact, though—and here’s the important part—is actually a function of the car-dependent development pattern. It’s not inherent to all cities.

The Car-Dependent Suburb’s Response to Development

Think of it this way. You can roughly divide your city or metropolitan area up into circles or zones of concern—you have different incentives based on how proximate an area is to you or how remote.

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