Stop expecting so much from your government.
If the citizens of this county, this state, this nation could follow that simple rule, we’d all be better off.
Most of us would agree that we shouldn’t expect the federal government to give you money if you don’t work for it. But just as importantly, people should stop demanding that their government take care of things that should be their responsibility.
This conversation started when someone on Facebook worried about apartments being built near Riverwood Plantation.
“I have a huge problem with this,” she wrote. “The fact that more, almost all the community is unaware of this and will not be informed.”
A few details:
In 2005, the developers of Riverwood Plantation brought Phase II of the project to county officials for approval. The 1,500 acres, on both sides of Washington Road, includes all types of development – from commercial sites to apartments. Residents of Riverwood hashed out details with the developer, and county officials signed off on those final plans.
A few things have happened since, including the construction of the big commercial corner with Publix, and the creation of General Wood Parkway. The developer clearly hasn’t been in a big hurry to proceed with the rest of the plans, but when that changes, those plans already are in place – including sites for apartments.
A few years after the Riverwood approval, commissioners developed a distaste for new apartments. They rejected a rezoning on Wheeler Road, turned down expansion of a complex on Washington Road and fought over Marshall Square before imposing a brief moratorium on apartment rezonings.
None of those subsequent changes had any affect on parcels already zoned for apartments. That was sort of the point: Commissioners contended there are enough parcels zoned for apartments already, including those Riverwood sites.
Now: The person worrying about those sites assumes most of her neighbors are “unaware” of the future apartments and “will not be informed.”
If they’re “unaware,” whose responsibility is that? Who is supposed to “inform” them that their home is near a piece of property that one day could be used for something other than a tree farm?
Answer: It is not the government.
If you aren’t “aware” of existing zoning of property near your home, that’s on you. The county spends bajillions of your tax dollars on mapping, even paying a pilot to take aerial photos to put on its Web site. Look it up, for crying out loud.
As for being “informed,” no government is required to keep you updated on how your neighbor is legally using his private property. If you want to know how someone else plans to use his land within the limits of the law, ask him. (He’s also well within his rights to tell you it’s none of your business.)
We’ve come to expect instant access to all manner of information, to the point that we demand to be told, ahead of time, about something that we just might be interested in later.
This issue comes up repeatedly. Remember the land being cleared on Furys Ferry Road behind Forest Creek, and residents there raising hell because “their” trees had been cut down? The private owner had zero obligation to tell them what he was doing with his property, yet county officials were lambasted for not “doing something” about it.
Same with Magnolia Trace. Neighbors blame county commissioners for not “informing” them, but the fact is that the site was zoned for high-density housing 31 years ago. The private owner can use his property any legal way he sees fit as long as it is within that zoning.
And no, the owner doesn’t have to tell a single neighbor about those plans. What’s more, in this case the developer actually did inform adjoining neighbors, and was thanked by having its flyers doodled on and turned into inflammatory handouts.
It comes down to this: We must stop expecting to have a government so powerful that it can dictate private property use and make it everyone’s business what their neighbors do on their own land.
If we keep demanding such authority, one day the government will have it. Welcome to China.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)