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“Opportunity” My Ass

Slum?
Slum?

As I wrote in a previous post, there are numerous areas in New Hampshire that do not have zoning restrictions. This is attractive to my husband and I because if we find the right piece of property we may be able to live on it and operate our businesses there as well, saving time and money over the type of arrangements we have now (rent/mortgage and utilities to maintain two locations).

Admittedly, owning property in an area without zoning can be scary for those of us who’ve lived most of our lives in planned neighborhoods. But if you’re willing to tolerate the prospect of your neighbor running an auto repair business in his shop out back, you might find that you, too, can appreciate the greater prosperity and economic freedom offered by areas that shun zoning.

Back to reality, though. What’s on my mind isn’t zoning as much as zones – specifically, a government-created area called an “Opportunity Zone.” In case you’re not familiar with this euphemism, here’s what it means:

The Opportunity Zone designation criteria require the targeting of areas that display “Pervasive Poverty, Underdevelopment, General Distress, and Blight”. The designation criteria are met by the targeting of poverty areas that are in decline, suffering from disinvestment and are in need of redevelopment and revitalization. Specifically, such areas must be in an eligible census block group and contain parcels meeting the designation criteria of O.C.G.A. § 48-7-40.1(c)(4) as well as one of the required local redevelopment initiatives as described in the Georgia Urban Redevelopment Law at O.C.G.A. § 36-61 or the Enterprise Employment Act at O.C.G.A. § 36-88.

Blight?
Blight?

Last year the county decided that the Opportunity Zones offered a pot of money too attractive to resist pursuing, and they were willing to force the “pervasive poverty / underdevelopment / general distress / blight” label on large sections of the county – despite the insistence by at least one of their commissioners and a couple of citizens that the label was neither wanted, needed nor applicable. I’m not an attorney or legislative wonk, but unless one plays fast and loose with the criteria outlined in the rules, these areas are hardly the poverty-stricken slums the county wants the state and federal governments to believe they are. Or, I feel sure, does not want potential suitors to believe they are. They got their “opportunity” zone and, like most every government program, it’s headed for expansion if they get their way.

There’s a hearing Tuesday morning, at which citizen input will be accepted. Then, when few or no people show up to question the wisdom of expansion of our so-called blighted areas, they’ll just do what they planned to do all along.

I know it’s not perfect elsewhere, even in New Hampshire. But I’ve had enough of government growth that goes virtually unchecked by citizen involvement or concerned journalism. Could I change it by saying my piece? Maybe. But as a spouse, parent, business owner and wife of a business owner, my days are full and my to-do list is never ending. Every minute I spend trying to beat back government – while others sit in front of their big-screen TVs, unaware or apathetic – is a minute I could’ve used to take care of something more critical to myself and my family. I’m constantly stressed by the undone, frequently handling things in the nick of time and, frankly, I don’t feel like wasting my time on a lost cause.

In a town full of apathetic bystanders, just a few people can change things if they’re persistent enough. Even one person can change some things on their own, if they invest significant time and energy. However, the depth and breadth of issues that one person can handle is limited by his/her other obligations. And thus far I haven’t seen even “just a few” who are watchful, informed, persistent and who’ll show up and speak up at meetings of these government bodies. And I personally will not invest significant amounts of time on my own, trying to stop a leadership and citizenry unwittingly hellbent on destruction.

My focus is on getting to a place where the government is already a lot smaller and they’re generally disinclined toward growing it so efforts to the contrary can more realistically be defeated. Where I don’t have to give up all my spare time and part of my work time to watch countless politicians and numerous governmental bodies, and other people show up and speak up. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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