Zoning the Land for the Glory of God: A Developer's Lament
In the region where I work, I've noticed that these planning processes are increasingly used to quietly segregate people into socioeconomic and racial buckets—all in the name of "orderly development" consistent with the comprehensive plan. For example, in one recent zoning case, a locality determined that a property was suitable for residential development, but that new homes must have a minimum of 2,800 square feet, use costly brick construction and front facades, have irrigated lawns, hold two-car garages, and be built on no less than quarter-acre lots. From a builder's perspective, I know that the cost of simply building a home with these features will exclude many in the community who are not able to support the attached mortgage. This is a convenient and quiet way to perpetuate segregation and to drive the poor away. In fact, a locality could establish a comprehensive plan that not only segregates people within its borders but functionally pushes a class of people outside of its borders over time. That's not a great way to care for the least of these—the poor, the widow, the fatherless and the alien, as we are encouraged to do throughout Scripture.
Further, why are landowners forced by zoning to use property for a single purpose? Why are so many commercial shopping centers vacant wastelands of parking from 8pm to 8am? When the Lord asked us in Genesis 1:28 to steward the earth, did he really envision sprawling and separated uses in the manner we have crafted in the West for the past 60 years? How can we glorify our Creator in the stewardship of his creation? Another silent group that needs an advocate is our children who will need to deal with an ailing infrastructure. Our desire to segregate leaves a staggering infrastructure maintenance burden on the next generation.