Wyoming Liberty Group
Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard proved in 1939 that the world-changing magic of American innovation can spring from a home-based business, perhaps even in a small residential garage. Despite this, and other examples including many from Silicon Valley, some Wyoming cities are waging a campaign against entrepreneurship and small, Wyoming-grown, businesses. Cities like Cheyenne use zoning codes to prohibit residents from starting many small business types from home. While other homeowners in a residential neighborhood can have legitimate concerns about private nuisances such as noise, light, and congested parking, do cities need oppressive land use laws to govern home-based businesses or is there a better way? In fact Casper’s home occupations ordinance provides an example of what other cities can do to facilitate, instead of undermine, entrepreneurship in local communities.
Senate File 68 – Property rights ombudsman is yet another example of the compounding cost of government regulatory interference. This bill would create an Office of Private Lands and Energy Ombudsman.
Normally, anything that would strengthen the position of private property rights owners versus state regulation should be a good thing. For that reason alone, SF 68 deserves a serious look by the Wyoming Legislature. However, that serious look must also be tempered by serious analysis. Legislators and citizens need to look past the catchy property rights ombudsman title of SF 68 and think critically about what this bill really says about the state of private property rights in Wyoming and even how the bill’s provisions might interact with existing private property rights. That analysis yields several, deeper questions that HB 68’s $150,000 price tag might not answer.
- Should 20% of Your Neighbors Be Able to Dictate What You Can Do With Your Property?
In Wyoming a mere 20% of neighbors can effectively block new private investment by a landowner by forcing a three-fourths (¾) majority vote by a municipal governing body to approve a land-use zoning change. Wyoming Statute § 15-1-603 empowers a minority of people in collusion with government actors who do not own land to dictate to property owners what they can do with their own land. This empowerment extends far beyond the authority people normally expect under a republican form of government, placing disproportionate power in the hands of individuals who did not buy the land to be developed. This one Wyoming zoning statute threatens both private property rights and housing availability in growing communities.
Two news stories about elections and voting rights emerged in the press over the Thanksgiving weekend. One story is about the future of direct elections right here in Wyoming. The other story came from Hong Kong, where pro-democracy demonstrators have been protesting for the right to directly elect the Chief Executive by universal suffrage since September 2014. This demand for free leadership elections sounds familiar to all Americans, whose founding fathers also wisely included protections against the tyranny of the majority in the republic they established. It is also instructive for Wyoming residents who may be asked to surrender the right to vote for the chief state education executive.
The Cheyenne City Council wisely rejected design standards for property owners who invest in new buildings in the Cheyenne Business District (CBD) zone downtown. This decision took courage and a commitment to principle because some local architects and members of the Downtown Development Authority Board of Directors publically supported adding this additional layer of regulation on downtown property owners.
Another landowner wants to build an apartment complex in Cheyenne. As usual, this landowner must obtain the blessing of Cheyenne’s bureaucrats and elected leaders. Recent history also suggests that the homeowners within eyesight of the proposed project immediately north of Walmart off of Converse Avenue will come out in force to try to prevent this exercise of private property rights.
The City of Cheyenne Planning Commission is going to vote on whether to apply Unified Development Standards to new buildings downtown.
Currently, the UDC Design Standards to not apply to downtown buildings.
As a result, the part of Cheyenne that is zoned “CBD” or Central Business District” acts like a zone of freedom for designers and builders compared to the rest of Cheyenne.