Zoning Meetings: Hell On Earth?

This is the National Day of Prayer.

So what better time to talk about Hell?

I’ve been there — at least that’s what I’ve told many acquaintances during my years as a reporter. After all, I’m fairly certain that if there was a Hell (and, let me add, I don’t believe there is), it would include a level devoted entirely to zoning meetings.

If ever there were meetings designed to make you detest the fact that you exist, it is Planning Commission meetings, Board of Adjustment meetings and any other body that deals with property zoning issues. The only thing worse than having to sit through these meetings is having to actually go back and re-live them in order to write a story about what transpired during them.

I know, because I’ve covered my share of zoning meetings.

Don’t get me wrong. Zoning is useful and important. The people that serve on those boards deserve our praise (and I try to dole it out when I can) for their willingness to analyze and apply zoning laws to real-world proposals. It’s a tough and largely thankless task.

But unless you are personally involved with or affected by the zoning issue in question, these meetings can be hard to endure while maintaining consciousness. Most issues that come before these boards are fairly routine, a small variance or a non-controversial conditional-use permit. Then there are those that deal with a large livestock operation or a person’s livelihood, and they can be very interesting on a human level. But when they start getting into the minutiae of the zoning ordinance, watch out — if you can keep your eyes open:)

I was reminded of all this earlier in the week while covering a zoning case that stretches back years. In this instance, the zoning laws are playing a very big role in hampering a gentleman’s business, and the neighbors are also concerned about the outcome of the case. So, it is certainly interesting on many fronts. But, again, there is so much history and sorting through facts and zoning laws that it can (and did) challenge a reporter’s sanity.

If you don’t believe me, go to the next county Planning Commission (or its equivalent where you live) meeting and give it a try for yourself. It doesn’t count if you have something on the agenda. Hopefully, it’s a “good” one that lasts three hours.

And may I be the first one to greet you: “Welcome to Hell …”

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