Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Without zoning, it’s a roller coaster ride …

Rollercoaster    Zoning laws were justified in the early twentieth century in part through horror stories about industrial land uses in a rapidly urbanizing nation being built next to established homes.  Such stories are still possible in freedom-loving Texas, where big news this week was the opening of a new commercial roller coaster, the “Broadway Bullet,” right next to an old home in Kemah, Texas, on the Gulf Coast.  The owners had refused to sell to commercial interests who wanted to further develop the waterfront area.  Like some other cities in Texas, Kemah has no zoning.  Here is a story, along with an entertaining video, from the Houston Chronicle.

   Would a Texas court enjoin the roller coaster a nuisance?  Or is the house now simply in the wrong spot?  Is such a tale a justification for zoning?   Should the city buy out the house through eminent domain?

   Even if the owners can’t get any relief from law, they might get some assistance from another source: A roller coaster aficionado has indicated that he might be interested in buying the house.  This might not be so bad –- Do you remember the story of Alvy Singer’s youth in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall”?

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I don't think the lack of zoning is the issue here. Cities change zoning all the time to accommodate new developments (and they ought to). Even if Kemah had zoning, if all the neighbors were willing to sell out for a profit, they'd surely prevail at a zoning hearing.

Posted by: AC | Sep 5, 2007 3:03:15 PM