Leaders of Arizona cities and towns are waging a desperate publicity battle against Proposition 207, the private property rights initiative that would require governments to pay landowners for unfriendly regulations that purport to decrease the immediate value of their land.
Earlier this month, we explained how we share their concern that this Nov. 7 ballot measure reaches too far and could block reasonable land-use planning while costing taxpayers too much. But we have to note that Arizona cities don’t make the case against Prop. 207 any easier when they use their zoning powers to attack controversial, but legal, private property uses.
Paternalistic meddling with free enterprise sends a message to many Arizona voters they have to take drastic steps to protect what they have worked so hard to buy and to enjoy. Consider what the Tribune has been reporting in just the past two weeks:
• The Scottsdale Housing Board would really like that city to limit the number of apartment complexes that could be converted to condos. Some residents have complained because they can’t afford to buy their former apartment, and so some folks in Scottsdale have decided it’s the government’s job to dictate housing trends in one of America’s most affluent and dynamic communities.
The City Council reviewed the housing board’s proposals last week, even though applications for condo conversions have dropped significantly this year as the market reacts as it should to a decline in demand. The real barrier to the council pursuing action isn’t respect for the free market, but a state law that bars discrimination against condo complexes.
• But state laws adopted by the Legislature (as opposed to voters) can be changed with little notice, as a potential new strip club in Tempe has learned. Rep. Laura Knaperek, R-Tempe, won approval for a statewide optional limit of 1,320 feet between new topless or nude dancing clubs and schools, parks, day care centers, etc. A federal lawsuit by Elite Cabaret points out the Legislature approved Knaperek’s bill after Tempe officials discovered city regulations, including a distance mandate of 1,000 feet, wouldn’t prevent the strip club from being built on McClintock Drive.
Knaperek says she didn’t collude with Tempe officials to block the strip club. But so far, no one has denied the lawsuit’s argument that the ultimate impact of the state law is no cabaret could ever be built within Tempe city limits.
And no one has forgotten the Scottsdale referendum in September repealing that city’s new zoning rules for strip clubs that owners said would drive them out of business.
• Meanwhile, the Mesa City Council considered adopting another separation requirement that would artificially limit the number of payday loan stores. The council did the right thing Monday by deciding not to regulate. But the fact that Mesa even considered the move makes us wonder if city officials really understand why so many people were so upset about the attempt to condemn Bailey’s Brake Shop a few years ago.
Today, some government officials are looking to restrict or indirectly ban strip clubs and payday loan stores — legal activities on privately owned land. Tomorrow, it easily could be convenience stores, flower shops or auto repair garages.
Voters wouldn’t feel such a burning need to tie government’s hands if government would start demonstrating more self-restraint and respect for our private property.