The Clayton News-Star carries a cautionary tale today.  It has to do with “special-use districts,” a particular type of zoning designation.  The News-Star reports,

In zoning, the special-use designation allows a town to say yes or no whenever one business leaves and another wants to move in In Clayton, that means a 90-day review process and then a vote by the Town Council.

Last week, Clayton planner Jay McLeod told the Town Council that shopping center owners say the lengthy review process is a hindrance to filling empty storefronts quickly.

“Any time there’s an added use in the shopping, even if that use is allowed in traditional highway zoning, it’s required to come to the Town Council for approval,” McLeod said. “It’s proved problematic for getting new tenants.”

“If you were a business looking for a place to open up, you find one and they say it’s going to take three months for you to open and another where you can open up in a couple weeks, which one do you think you’d choose? Losing potential tenants because of the long process is effectively punishing the shopping centers.” (Planning director David DeYoung said.)

For the second time in three months, a property owner has asked the Clayton Town Council to lift the designation.  It’s not surprising that increasing the time and bureaucracy associated with opening a business acts as a deterrent.  Business owners go elsewhere.

Clayton’s experience should serve as a warning to other municipalities.  Be very careful about overly restrictive zoning, lest you inadvertently hurt the very communities — businesses, consumers, and workers — that you’re trying to help.