Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Jaworskis: Definitely Neighbor Troubles

Kevin Libin tries to spin it as a case of Big Brother crushing the freedom-loving, but the guts of his story (which I've bolded) supports the case I made yesterday:

What’s happened since could be a case study for libertarian scholars on the pernicious effects of regulation on society, its power to threaten the well-being of individuals in the name of collective rights, to curtail enterprise, and to turn neighbour against neighbour as locals accuse each other of siccing state authority on each other in envy.

The Jaworskis aren’t sure why inspectors, after years of summer seminars, suddenly showed up on the property to itemize violations. There was a “complaint,” they were told, though they insist neighbours always seemed fine with the event, which drew 72 people this year, each paying $125 each ($75 for students). They recently turned their home into a bed and breakfast to make ends meet, marketing their pastoral property as a perfect spot for wedding planners. They suspect another hospitality business in the municipality of Clarington turned them in. They have no proof, but they have grown suspicious others are exploiting government to hurt them.

Furthermore, the Jaworski's aren't the only B&B in Clarington who've been subject to this kind of treatment:

Nancy Mallette runs Bloom Field Garden Centre in Clarington. Her website advertises that her property “is legally zoned … to hold your wedding ceremony and tented reception” so, she says, planners know they won’t have their events suddenly cancelled by regulators, as sometimes happens with unlicensed establishments. After trying to erect a tent on her picturesque property for her son’s wedding, someone complained. She spent 15 months and more than $100,000 to get proper zoning, including digging a new well and building new bathrooms.


She’s heard, too, that businesses have been reporting on each other to make trouble with regulators. Not her, she says. She thinks the region would prosper if everyone in the hospitality business were free to compete at their best.

In any case, I'm not sure I see the problem here as being the heavy hand of government. Neighbors using local by-law officers to diddle one another is an old story. I, for example, rented part of a house with a guy who was harassed by a neighbor via frivolous complaints made to the city (your lawn is unmowed, and so forth). This went on until the guy in my house figured out who was doing the complaining and began filing his own set of frivolous complaints (your tree hangs over my property). In this whole affair, the person with the best claim to "victimhood" was probably the by-law officer.


Dr.Dawg said...

BCL: the only reason this neighbourly nonsense flourishes, though, is because the by-law people show every willingness to be used in this fashion. If they were to exercise discretion and good judgement, the problems would largely disappear.

buckets said...

It seems to me that an underlying issue here is in this sentence. "Nancy Mallette … spent 15 months and more than $100,000 to get proper zoning, including digging a new well and building new bathrooms." If she goes through that expense for her business, however, she has incurred costs that put her at a disadvantage to those who are ignoring the zoning (and other) regulations.

Let's imagine, however, that the complainant was someone like Ms. Mallette, who had spent a good deal of money to meet zoning regulations and acquire the appropriate zoning. A seminar approaches them, they do their calculations of their costs and expected profit, and put in a bid of $25 more per head than the unzoned place down the street, which (because they had not undergone the costs of zoning) was able to outbid them.

And here, I think, is the rub. Those who don't bother with regulations will always have a competitive advantage over those who do. Which means either we enforce them or not have them.