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Sometimes in local government I draw a comparison with the "suicide bomber" problem.  The first suicide bomber missions (including the 9-11 attacks) easily defeated airline security measures because the airlines and regulators assumed individual rationality.  For example, rules forbid passengers from putting an unattended suitcase on an airplane because such a suitcase could contain a bomb.  However, if the suitcase was attended (that is, the passenger who owned the suitcase also got on the plane) then everything was assumed to be okay.  Why would someone knowingly get on a plane that is going to blow up...?

We have seen a few land uses recently that fit (obviously in a less dramatic way) this pattern: Regulators like the RDOS simply did not anticipate the problem.  For example, on the West Bench we have seen an uptick in the construction of huge "monster garage/workshops".  The RDOS has no restrictions against such buildings because no one ever anticipated that someone would spend a lot of money for a rural residential lot with an expensive house on it and then hide the house with an industrial building.

This one seems a bit the same.  I appreciate that agricultural land is not worth what it once was, but I am still a bit surprised that someone would purchase such a large parcel of agricultural land for a non-productive (that is, personal) use.  The RDOS is covered with scrubby, unproductive land in the middle of nowhere that offers better privacy at a much lower price per acre.  In short, we do not have bylaws on the books that require land to be used at it highest and best use because we more or less assume that market forces and individual rationality will push it in that direction anyway.

The alternative is that the RDOS gets into the specific bylaw business.  We will have to start imaging all sorts of potentially offensive uses (the possibilities are limitless) and writing them into the bylaws.  Because the bottom line is this: Unless an existing bylaw specifically prohibits an activity, that activity is permitted.  No government can go around after the fact applying new prohibitions (whether the vast majority thinks it is a good idea or not).  We have to work with the bylaws we have.

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