Buncombe County recently enacted countywide zoning. The county commissioners are now scheduled to hear zoning requests #54-#69 at their next meeting. They will also consider two amendments to the zoning ordinance. The extended meetings are an annoyance to Chairman Nathan Ramsey, a Republican who voted against zoning and keeps saying, “I told you so.”

Some complain that zoning only punishes the poor (who can’t afford a lawyer) and the unconnected (who don’t know how to work the system). It therefore fails in giving the people the protection it promises. According to Albert Sneed, the lawyer hired by citizens to fight against the zoning ordinance, the John Locke Foundation came to the same conclusion that President Johnson’s Kaiser Commission and Reagan’s Commission on Housing, the Brookings Institute, and the Commission on Barriers to Affordable Housing reached: Zoning drives up the cost of development.

It can’t even be argued that zoning is good for job creation. In the City of Asheville’s budget this year, Community Development, which includes building inspections and permitting as well as planning operations, only used 3.7% of the city’s $130 million budget.

But ascendancy to power, not unlike other human endeavors, comes largely to those who aspire thereto. Those who want power and know how to get it, know how to get more – even if it is little more than the power to grant or deny a request to rezone property that was given an outrageous initial zoning. In short, real governmental piecemeal confiscation of property rights is a lot scarier than any of the wafting externalities conjured as excuses to justify it.