Community involvement and zoning laws

Published 9:04 am Friday, September 8, 2017

By TJ Ray

Business cards are small, portable billboards that broadcast our identities and spell out our passions. Mine says this: T.J. Ray, Dealer in New & Used Words and Exotic Sentences & Paragraphs.

Truth is, an old saw or a clever lexical coinage makes my endorphins scream. For example, “There oughta be a law!”

How often does one nod at those words, concurring with the speaker that some situation or other is so disturbing that it should be challenged by legal authority. To make said law, duly appointed or elected people assemble, examine the cause of the outcry and decide an issue. Sometimes their decision leads to non-action; at other times it results in an ordinance that has the force of law and is enforceable by officers of the law.

Usually, the party screaming “There oughta be a law” feels vindicated and goes on with life. Simultaneously, other citizens may be heard moaning and protesting the new stricture on their lives. Nevertheless, if the new rule results in greater harmony among the populace, it continues to have power. Should it prove to aggravate things more than it calms them, authorities may reconsider it before altering it or rebroadcasting it.

Thus we come to an actual law under consideration in our fair County. The corpus of rules involved spells out a new mode of interaction in Lafayette County: it is called Zoning. And it is a response to citizens who are disturbed by development and construction that they consider unnecessary or invasive of their domain.

Another old adage just popped up on my mental desktop: “You can’t please all the people all the time.” No doubt those words apply to the process under consideration.

To minimize the number of folks who are anxious or just plain opposed to zoning, nearly a year of meetings by committees and seven public hearings across Lafayette County have been held. All these hearings have been publicized and open to public comment.

In many, many of those sessions, ideas would be thrown out that some folks liked but others immediately challenged.

Soon more town hall meetings will come along, giving citizens opportunity to learn what is likely to become the law. After that, a vote by the Board of Supervisors will decide the fate of the zoning plan. Though an affirmative vote will alarm many folks who take issue with this or that element of the code, they need not feel that all is lost. If, for instance, someone wants to develop land in a place not zoned for such development, an appeal to rezone may be made.

Unless something unforeseen occurs, there will soon be a county-wide set of laws that define land development. Some folks will celebrate while others complain. The complaints may result in standing before a judge, who will decide each issue.

In the meantime, if you have ideas to improve the new order, take the time to make them known. Until the ink is dry on the zoning book, it is open to challenge. One more old saying: “Be careful what you’re wishing for: it might come true.”

TJ Ray is a retired professor of English at Ole Miss.