Jim Kelly-Markham used your Jan. 4 edition to plead for an assumption of authority without agenda ("Institutional Zone Vital to City Planning"). In an approach more emotional than analytical, he asks that all property used for "institutional" purposes be specially controlled. Why? To protect communities, he says.
Doubtless much could be done under the rubric of "protection of communities" if the government could seize the rights of people in property whenever it wished. Fortunately, we not only have a Constitution, we also retain the good sense and judgment that produced it.
First, what is an institution? Is it a church? If so, all churches whether storefront or cathedrals? Second, must the "institution" own or merely rent or use the property? Third, what kind of review machinery will be in place and how is it to be paid for? Fourth, who compensates the institutions victimized by this new bureaucracy for their lost values and the expense of the new proceedings?
We should realize that the organizations usually viewed as "institutions"--schools, libraries, museums, hospitals and theaters--are, typically, the most under-funded and yet most socially beneficial facilities in the region. Usually when they acquire property they must do so at prices reflecting the underlying zoning and value. Virtually always they must pay the going price when they expand. How can they effectively borrow to carry out their mission with a cloud on their title?