Commentary

Zoning Out the Amish

The Amish have been forced into politics. Not by high taxes, the war in Iraq, social security reform, or even forced vaccinations. No, zoning did it. With small farms becoming uneconomic, they have been turning their traditional skills to new trades to supplement their income. Unfortunately, zoning laws banning home-based businesses are getting in the way. Here’s the story from Geauga County, Ohio, near Cleveland. Geauga County is home to 12,000 Amish, the fourth largest community in the world. The Associated Press reports:

In a rare foray into politics, the Amish, whose religion dictates that they keep their distance from outsiders and modern conveniences, are campaigning to eliminate a township’s zoning laws on Nov. 8. They say restrictions on the size of home-based businesses are preventing them from opening woodworking shops as they shift from agriculture. Such shops allow them to continue to work alongside their children ââ?¬â?? one of the tenets of the Amish lifestyle.

None of the neighbors objected to the proposed woodworking shop, but local zoning codes prevented the township trustees from accomodating the request. So, off to court they go. Notably, a market-oriented approach to zoning and planning control would emphasize the impacts of development proposals on neighbors and the community, not strict adherance to rules and regulations imbedded in a land use code. Reason Foundation’s policy studies on market oriented planning can be found here and here.

Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.