Zoning Reform Means More Freedom
"Regulatory reforms to eliminate excessive zoning empowers people to plan their own lives free from government coercion."
On Tuesday, Governor Gianforte’s Housing Task Force officially ended the public comment period on its second draft of recommendations. Frontier Institute President & CEO Kendall Cotton has been an active member of the task force and we were pleased to see many of the recommendations focus on some key zoning reforms we’ve highlighted to give Montana landowners more freedom to build affordable starter homes like duplexes and townhomes.
While reviewing this new document I couldn’t help but notice comments which attempt to characterize the housing task force’s recommended zoning reforms as “one-size-fits-all” solutions that would be “forced” onto Montana communities requiring everyone to live in tightly packed apartments.
I share concerns about government planning – giving government the ability to dictate the type of homes we can live in is something straight out of the Soviet Union playbook. But we should be clear about what zoning is and what it is not.
The reality is that zoning is the ultimate tool for progressive social planners. Pioneered by California cities in the early 20th century, today’s zoning regulations have been used to steadily increase control over citizens. The California-style zoning that has infected Montana’s cities uses one-size-fits-all policies to force residents into the types of homes preferred by social planners – whether those be large sprawling estates or tiny apartments.
Zoning reform is the opposite of one-size-fits-all planning. Zoning reform gives landowners the freedom to build denser, more affordable starter homes if they choose. Regulatory reforms to eliminate excessive zoning empowers people to plan their own lives free from government coercion.
So if you are concerned about the government telling you the type of home you can or can’t live in, then you should welcome the task force’s recommended zoning reforms. Whether I want to live on a ranch in the country or in an apartment in town, government has no business telling me which is best for me. That’s something we all can support.
Last week, the American Tort Reform Foundation released its 2022-23 Judicial Hellholes report, in which Montana’s Supreme Court received a Dishonorable Mention. The Dishonorable Mention category is dedicated to examples of unsound court decisions, abusive practices, legislation or other actions that erode the fairness of a state’s civil justice system.
Our Take: This new report highlights the need for reforms to guarantee the impartiality, independence and integrity of the judiciary. Reforms should focus on striking a careful balance in Montana government that honors our founding principles, promotes adherence to the rule of law and better protects individual freedoms.
Pass Me A Cold One
Last Thursday, newly elected Representative Tony Brockman (R) introduced HB 48. The bill will allow distilleries and wineries to apply for warehouse licenses for alcoholic beverage storage. If passed, this bill will finally codify and expand an administrative rule initially only for distillers. This bill is one of the many red tape relief proposals initially requested by the Department of Revenue, aimed at alleviating unnecessarily burdensome regulations on small businesses.
Our Take: Legislation like HB 48 is one of many reforms identified by Governor Gianforte’s Red Tape Relief Initiative, aimed at removing unnecessary and burdensome regulations. By trimming back the regulatory thicket that has plagued Montana for so long, we can unleash economic growth and entrepreneurial opportunity.
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