Saturday, December 6, 2008

Crap Shoot Zoning – Predictability Loses Out and So Do You

When talking about the subject of illegal rooming houses the other day with a Bellingham resident, the matter of predictability arose. When we zone particular areas for a particular purpose, the objective is to separate incompatible uses. One would be shocked to find someone trying to build a gas station at the end of a residential cul-de-sac or for that matter to build a home in the middle of an industrial park. One might also think about the effect of such incompatibilities on the values of the properties.

When it comes then to illegal rooming houses, somehow the incompatibility issue is forgotten or brushed off for the sake of convenience or perhaps the dollar – pick which. The result is that your street can be partially rezoned without the slightest warning and without consultation. There is no predictability here. All depends on the whim of a homeowner or a landlord or a property manager who decides that she wants now to rent the place legally, according to the Bellingham Municipal Code or illegally, turning the home into a rooming house.

Several months ago I read an article on the subject of the art of selling a home in today’s market. The essence of the piece was that a real estate agent must now be much more familiar with the neighborhood, even the street, on which the sale home is located in order to present the home in its best light. Moreover, the agent must also know about those facts which may cause problems with a sale, such as rentals, especially those which do not conform to code.

Were I to have a need to sell my home now, what sight would greet a prospective agent and a potential buyer? Since a good number of people tend to look for homes on weekends and a good number of real estate agents tend to hold open houses on weekends, the picture would be a bit off-putting. A typical Sunday across from my house, the illegal rooming house would be the host of 8-10 automobiles instead of the normal 5 during the week which belong to the 5 students who now rent there. The cars would be parked helter-skelter, according to the relative sobriety of the drivers who parked them the night before. Down the street would be the same sight at another rooming house with assorted trucks, cars and SUVs.

Houses are being sold at a rate greatly reduced from that of the past several years. Your home may be a gem among the others but the condition and use of the homes around you count. Now is the time to take action. Click on the form at the right and complain at this very instant about that illegal rooming house on your street. (Send the completed form to Darren Sandstrom, Neighborhood Compliance Officer, Bellingham Police Department, 505 Grand Avenue, Bellingham, WA 98225) It is your neighborhood. Do not let the scofflaws gain control.


Anonymous said...

Easy to criticize landlords and the almighty dollar when you collect a nice fat pension off the back of tax payers. Many landlords this will be there only retirement check. If you have a problem with student behavior, contact the police and demand enforcement

zonemaven said...

My Dear Anonymous,

I was unaware that being penniless was a precondition to speaking in a democracy.

And by the way, it is "their only retirement check."

Anonymous said...

Oh you must have worked for the gov't. Speak to the question. Have you contacted law enforcement if those bad students were so loud. Or are you so bored in life that you have to watch their every move. My god, so simple. No wonder our country is bankrupt. We have to many freeloaders living off the taxpayer.

zonemaven said...

Dear Anonymous,

"Oh you must have worked for the gov't." Yes, that is stated in my bio.

"Speak to the question. Have you contacted law enforcement if those bad students were so loud." Yes, but this has nothing to do with enforcement of zoning codes on illegal rooming houses.

"Or are you so bored in life that you have to watch their every move." I am not bored at all nor do I watch their every move. I don't have to in order to come to some conclusions.

"My god, so simple." Yes, it is simple. The city should enforce its zoning laws.

"No wonder our country is bankrupt. We have to many freeloaders living off the taxpayer." I agree - there are the banks, the investments houses, the corporate elite and all the other recipients of the government largesse package of $700 billion. And your phrase should read "too many freeloaders". "To" is a preposition and "too" is the adverb needed to modify the adjective "many." I guess there are too few grammarians teaching nowadays.

Dennis said...

Good point regarding what is essentially owner-dictated spot zoning. I hadn't thought of it that way.