Pender County Commissioners voted last week to deny a rezoning application for 347 acres of land.  It was an application which would have allowed a developer to build 562 homes – single family and towns – and that the planning board had unanimously approved.

But the County Commissioners voted no.  And here’s the part that gets me.  Under the current zoning, the developer who owns the land can build 530 homes, so this denied application only prevents that last 32.  Really?

Maybe there’s some magic threshold at 530, but it seems pretty arbitrary to me.  Of course, more homes mean more demands on infrastructure, but if that’s the concern, there are less blunt ways to deal with the issue.  The most basic, it seems to me, would be a property rights approach.  The developer owns the land, so what’s built on it, as well as the infrastructure to support it, is the responsibility of the developer.  It’s one thing for the county to just tell the developer he can’t build.  It’s a very different thing for the county to tell the developer that he can build what he wants, but he has to also build the water, sewer, electric, and road infrastructure to support it.

Local governments should be looking for ways to say yes to developers who want to build the homes and businesses that allow communities to grow and thrive.  Might Pender County have been able to do just that?