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Personal freedom, personal responsibility

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Our communities have successfully developed smart solutions to avoid foreseeable nightmares from sprawl, traffic and other infrastructure limitations (HCN, 11/26/07). Across the West, new affronts to a legacy of urban planning are now emerging in response to these successes. Arizona's "wildcat" subdivisions are one remarkable example, and last year's so-called "takings" initiatives another. Thanks in part to the early warning from HCN, we got the word out to California voters, who soundly defeated our version of Proposition 207.

In Santa Cruz County, Calif., our new planning director has recently proposed permitting the construction of up to three "outbuildings," two stories high and containing a toilet, on each single-family lot. The impact on our rural mountain communities - their traffic, sewage and water supplies - would be devastating. As with the takings initiatives, these proposals would effectively overturn four decades of land-use controls and nine decades of zoning regulation. These new regulations are also attempting to avoid all environmental review.

I'm sure Jon Regner was well-intentioned in his bid to buy his house in what soon became a historic preservation district. What Jon may need to realize is that personal freedom is not the only legacy of the American West; personal responsibility and community coordination also were necessary elements for survival on the frontier. Private-property rights do not trump the rights of a community to shape its future.

Gary Lasky
Santa Cruz, California

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