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Zoning as an expression of what cities want to be

It is more than 2,500 miles from Cocoa, Florida, to Meridian, Idaho. You might well wonder why we bring up this apparently obscure bit of trivia. The explanation lies in a recent article about the departure from Meridian of a city planner.

The planner and his wife are selling their house, packing up their motorhome and moving to the Chain of Lakes area near Winter Haven. There they will convert an RV park to a tiny home community.

Before hitting the road, the planner talked a bit with the local newspaper about how he has come to understand how zoning and land use regulations are expressions of what cities want to be.

“The way we build our cities — you know, whether it’s a neighborhood or a downtown or a commercial area — says a lot about us as a people,” the planner said.

He had previously lived and worked in Tarpon Springs, Florida, getting his start as a planner there. He remembers that the town had a significant Greek immigrant population that had a recurring question from its entrepreneurs: why couldn't they live above their businesses as they did back in Greece?

The planner said that in the post-war years, cities had used "zoning to separate things out." But in Tarpon Springs, they listened to the immigrants and began working on an idea that became a mixed use area where people could both live and work.

Ideally, that is how government works. Far too often, however, combinations of complex zoning and reluctant city planners mean that business owners and developers get bogged down in bureaucracy when seeking common-sense zoning changes.

A Brevard County attorney knowledgeable in land-use law can help keep your project on schedule.

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