David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
What You Zone

July 24, 2016

One of the ways I try to support my community is by serving on the county's local planning commission.  Theoretically, I represent education, although I can't remember even the glimmer of an educational-based conversation from my three years on the commission.  Eventually, I volunteered to be the secretary for our group, as I believed that by taking the minutes I could at least justify my inclusion among eight other "commissioners" who seem to have a greater passion for and understanding of zoning ordinances. 

Sad to say, my monthly reading, especially when we receive a township's zoning ordinance, is deathly boring.  And, remember, I work in academia, where we thought we had a corner on that market.  Turns out we can't hold a candle to local government when it comes to defining the parameters of that market.

This weekend I have three hefty packets of township ordinances to finish reviewing and I want to pull my hair out.  Allow me to touch upon just some of the "highlights."

I have had the word "and" defined for me: it "indicates that all connected items, conditions, provisions, or events shall apply." I could have sworn it excluded.  Then, again, I may be confused by the academic way leaders can say "and I want your opinion," but not want it.

What I used to call "adult entertainment" is much more complex than I thought.  Just when I thought the adult entertainment business had been driven completely online, I discover that it must be alive and well, at least in the minds of zoning law.

"Adult Use" seems to be the generic term for "adult entertainment" these days and can be an umbrella term for nine places where guys in raincoats may go: adult arcade, adult bookstore/video store, adult cabaret, adult motel, adult motion picture theater, adult theater, escort agency, nude model studio and sexual encounter center.  Yes, you read that correctly.  There are businesses that can be called sexual encounter centers--and, no, the seedy bar doesn't seem to be included in that.  Lest you think this is all to be said about "adult use," note the clarification of "sexual anatomical areas," which include "less than completely opaque covered human genitals," as well as "human male genitals in a discernible turgid state, even if completely and opaquely covered."

Allow me to give you a few minutes to take a cold shower.

I would hope that zoning planning would account similarly for gun use as they do for "adult use."  I was wrong.  At least in one instance, a gun range is defined only as "an outdoor facility for the firing of handguns, rifles or other firearms. . .  an indoor gun range shall be considered an indoor recreation facility."  Later, when the ordinance clarifies special land uses, gun ranges receive five short sentence requirements.  In contrast, "adult uses" structures get thirteen lengthy paragraphs.

Don't worry if you think I am promoting sex over guns.  Other special land uses have a lot more requirements than gun ranges:

  • Bed and Breakfast establishments have eleven requirements;
  • Campgrounds have eight requirements;
  • Car Washes have seven requirements;
  • Golf Courses/Country Clubs have twenty-two requirements (none of them apparently to restrict hackers like me from playing);
  • Riding Stables have nine requirements;
  • A Wind Energy Conversion system commercial, has twenty-four (although several have multiple stipulations in addition).

The musical "Rent" had it all wrong with the song "what you own," where the cast proclaim, "when you're living in America/at the end of the Millennium/you are what you own." 

When you're living in America/in home or in condominium/you are what you zone.