Monday, April 14, 2008

Social engineering through the law

The little piece of Arizona in which my wife and I live has been something of a refuge from an increasingly regulated and bureaucratized modern world. Down our dead-end road and in the area around, people have lived pretty much as they pleased, working on their homes and even building additions without permits, running businesses from land technically zoned as residential, keeping animals in numbers beyond those formally permitted by the busybodies in the distant county seat, and otherwise living their lives as they wish without terribly inconveniencing their neighbors.

Until now.

Last year, new neighbors purchased six acres across the road and split the land into three parcels. On the middle parcel they built an attractive faux-adobe home -- what most people call "Santa Fe-style" but which is more commonly referred to around here as a "Sedona-type" house. It's by far the most up-scale dwelling in an area otherwise populated by manufactured homes and simple stick-built houses.

But architecture wasn't the only thing the new people brought in -- they also imported a new set of attitudes and expectations. Within months after the completion of their house, the new people began filing complaints with the county against the people already living here. So far, the complaints have consisted of charges that people are running businesses from residential land, harboring more animals than allowed and allowing people to illegally dwell in travel trailers on land zoned for single-family homes.

We're not supposed to know who filed the complaints, but it's not hard to guess -- especially when a woman on the receiving end of a complaint (a descendant of the family that homesteaded the area) calls an acquaintance at the county and gets a nudge-and-wink acknowledgment of what she already knows.

Of course, the charges are true. Many of the people who abide here chose the area precisely because it's been possible to live here and ignore the regulatory accretia of 21st Century America. That's a known quality of the area, and people come here or avoid the area because of that characteristic.

But there's nothing written in stone about the area's immunity to modern law. If somebody starts insisting that every regulation and code be enforced, the folks living in the shadows can quickly run out of options. They either start abiding by the laws they tried to escape, they continue to flout them and suffer the consequences, or they leave. At least one home is on the market as a direct result of the new crackdown.

Which is probably what the new folks across the road have intended from day one. You see, this is an odd place to build a Sedona-type house -- unless you're looking to buy land at a discount in anticipation that the area will gentrify. And there's no better way to hurry along the process of gentrification than to insist on the enforcement of every rule that makes the local way of life impossible. When county officials start snooping in places they've never before been welcome, the local scrap-metal dealers, unlicensed horse boarders and eccentric bird collectors by necessity head for the exits -- and make way for blander folks more amenable to rule-bound life.

Then the value of the Sedona-type house will rise, as will that of the two adjoining parcels that the new people plan to develop with similarly up-scale homes and sell to buyers willing to pay a premium for a newly gentrified piece of Arizona that's been cleansed of the hoi polloi.

It turns out that the new people are building contractors and that they know the laws and the inspectors who enforce those laws very well. They're in an extremely good position to use their knowledge of the county's regulatory apparatus as a whip with which to drive "undesirables" out of the area. It's all about using government as a tool for social engineering.

Hmmm. Laws as weapons to be wielded by well-connected individuals against people less informed and less powerful. Whoever would have guessed?

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Blogger BobG said...

They wouldn't be from California, would they?

April 14, 2008 3:24 PM  
Blogger J.D. Tuccille said...

I'm note sure where they're from originally, but they came via Phoenix. Increasingly, that's almost the same thing.

April 14, 2008 3:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Well Well!! And My wife and I had begun to think we had been singled out to be "Crufifed", by the Nice "Big City ", folks who recently built, a lovely New "Pueblo Sedone Style", piece of out of place Stucco, in our lovely "Rimrock, AZ" area!!After they got the zoning changed thru a bought and paid for hearing committee, after 3 previus denials, Our home burned down and we have had no help from our Insurance agencyb "American Family", we had the old home demoed at our expense purchased a 34 ft 5th wheel rv which is attatched to a legal leach tank with APS aproved pedestal; power and using our own well water! We have been given 30 days to vacate our propertry by the Yavapai County folks orproduce a "Plot Plan, and building plans to them???

October 12, 2008 7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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March 19, 2009 12:46 AM  

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