Thursday, February 4, 2010

Castle Beseiged By Planning Board

I can't be sure that there isn't something more to the story that justifies the local planning board's actions, but it seems really unfortunate that Robert Fidler of England is going to have to tear down the little castle he lives in. He was a bit sneaky, hiding it behind bales of hay for four years to try to take advantage of the rule that properties not challenged for four years couldn't be targeted for demolition by the board. But apparently courts decided that that rule would only protect people who let people see their property. Which I suppose is a fair ruling. But I don't know why the local planning board has to pursue this in the first place. I'd be very happy to live across the street from such an awesome building.

I get more sympathetic to libertarianism as you get closer to the local level. The modern world requires strong national governments that can set up universal health care, protect the rights of minorities from the bigots of their region, and prevent localities from cheating when collective action problems show up in interstate commerce. But at the local level where there isn't a great deal of investigative media spotlight and it's cheap to buy up city councilmen or state representatives, entrenched interests find it especially easy to get restrictions and regulations set up for their own benefit. So you get local property owners and business interests with ridiculous levels of power over whether a competitor can start a bar or become a hairdresser. Or whether their neighbor can take in boarders, or build a castle.


John B. said...

It's not clear from the article what the background of the case is or what laws he broke. I agree that sometimes local laws can be onerous or discriminatory, but a lot of times they have good reason behind them. For example, the local government could be interested in preserving farmland, or they might need to protect a sensitive watershed, or the town's infrastructure might be overburdened by existing demands. Unfortunately the AP writer isn't interested in telling us why the house would not have been approved.

In this case it looks like he built the house without consulting the local government at all. I'm not sure there are many places where that would fly.

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