Wednesday, January 14, 2009

'Well-intentioned meddlers'

Thankfully, the state border make[s] it much for (sic) difficult for well-intentioned meddlers like Mary to "save" us by destroying our homes and property values.

That's from a comment on the previous posting, which linked to "What Will Save the Suburbs," about whether current suburban development can ever be successfully re-used after today's incarnations move and change.

My apologies to aforementioned commenter, but come on! How do you think present-day suburbia came to be? It took massive government "meddling."

The current single-family-only subdivisions would be completely unnatural if we had that mythical "free market." It takes constant government meddling, in the form of zoning laws and code and zoning inspectors, to keep some folks in those subdivisions from opening nail salons or small coffee shops in those houses, or renting out the bonus room above the garage to a grad student, or splitting their McMansions into quadraplexes and rooming houses to avert foreclosure. It took government "meddling" to create single-use suburbia and meddling is required to maintain it. Just try subdividing your large lot into three smaller ones and putting some apartments on one of the lots. Better yet, just try taking your lot in Morrocroft neighborhood near SouthPark and building high-rise condos - which you almost certainly could sell, or could have until last year.

One huge reason suburbia is hard to convert is because it was built under government rules that didn't allow mixing uses. So there are no stores inside single-family home subdivisions, and no apartment buildings or condo buildings either. Other government rules have mandated a certain number of parking places for businesses, hence the big asphalt oceans left behind when the big boxes bail out or go belly-up.

Sure, some of suburbia is built by choice - mostly by people who learned to tailor their development techniques to match what the zoning laws required, and now they'd just as soon not have to re-learn new techniques if the old ones are A.) Legal and B.) Making money.

Suburbia is just as much a product of government intervention as the newer, mixed-use and transit-oriented developments. Different rules, yes, but rules just the same.


Anonymous said...

Someone got served.

Anonymous said...

Wow Mary, that was beautiful.

Anonymous said...

That's not intirely true, there are some cities that never established zoning laws at all (best example: Houston, Texas) but developed nearly the same as cities that did.

Maybe research cities that don't have government rules and/or zones and see how they do then compare cities that are more rigid than Charlotte.

Andrew said...

I agree with what you say, except for this:

"So there are no stores inside single-family home subdivisions..."

Candlewyck, just north of the Arboretum, is a bit mixed, although not really. We have a Food Lion in the subdivision. The only way to get to it is from a residential street. No other stores, just a Food Lion. Oh, and a CashPoints ATM now too. Those are awesome.

I like the fact that retail is there, but I'd much rather have 3 or 4 specialty shops rather than one hokey Food Lion.

Anonymous said...


Since you're in the mood for rebutting user comments, why haven't you answered the one question asked REPEATEDLY on your blog, regarding sidewalks, transit, Obama's stimulus, and the other millions, billions, trillions in spending:


tajblues said...

To anonymous #3. The examples your are trying to think of are every hisoric city where everything HASN'T been torn down. See: Charleston, Savannah, St. Augustine, Aiken, and for a local example...NoDa. All built before the gov told them how to do it. All walkable, all with retail, all in scale.

Anonymous said...

If you are really concerned about this, call your Congressman. If you have issues with stimulus, call your Congressman.

Anonymous said...

And the mass exodus out of the People's Republic of Mecklenburg continues.

Mitch said...

If suburbs didn't already exist due to 'government meddling', someone else would invent them eventually.

Are you saying that I actually don't like my half-acre, clean and well-kept property that my kids play in with other kids? It's all because I've been manipulated by the government into thinking this is what I want?

I've lived in Manhattan, Philly, Boston and they are fun but vagrants pissing on my brownstone steps is not something I yearn to share with my kids.

Relax, have the ultimate Planner of the Universe about to take the White House and every element of my horrible suburban lifestyle will be under siege in the cause of Righteous Living.

Anonymous said...

"suburbia is hard to convert "

I'm sure I'm behind the curve here, but what is it that the suburbs are in need of converting to?

Anonymous said...

Aaaaahhh. Somebody hurt little Mary's feeling and got her ranting again.

Anonymous said...


Government didn't invent suburbs - Levitt & Sons did, in 1947 after WWII. Read about it here:

Of course, Mary will never believe that anything ever existed without government.

Jumper said...

I guess the enterprise is "free" if the developers don't pay for it...

The local's get to pay for the developers' constant screw-ups.

In other news, a column on traffic:

Anonymous said...

Wow. And here I hadn't noticed this until now. Guess Mary pays more attention to me than I do to her.

Yes, suburbia is created by government meddling. Bad schools drive parents out of the city. High crime drives people out of the city. High taxes drive people out of the city.

So, yes, government created suburbia: your sort of left-wing, well-intentioned, meddlesome elitist government. I "weighed my options" and got the heck out. Mary, admit it: you're just upset the SC state line prevents people like you from assuming more power over the lives of people like me.