Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The wonder of lax zoning laws

The fertilizer plant that exploded in West, Texas, probably hasn't received as much attention as it should, given the Boston Marathon bombing, too. It's really been a surfeit of disasters, hasn't it? But I wanted to post this image, which really drives home the problem of lax zoning laws.

From Daily Kos:
It's tragic enough that maybe three dozen were killed because of the gross negligence of the owners of West Fertilizer Co in West, Texas.

But compounding the carnage, it seems as if half the town was leveled including several schools and houses five blocks from the plant. But wait, there were houses five blocks from a fertilizer plant? There were actually houses across the street from this plant, and not just houses, but two of the town's three schools...

Fertilizer is a well-known component of homemade bombs for a reason—it's extremely explosive. The thought that people would build homes around a fertilizer plant boggles the mind, the thought that they would build two schools directly adjacent to it is borderline criminal. What if that explosion had occurred during school hours? ...

The middle school suffered severe fire damage. An apartment building adjacent the plant was completely leveled, killing about 15. See that tan circle off the northwest corner of the plant? That was a playground. A nursing home was within the blast radius and was completely leveled. You can see many more pictures of the damage here.

There is a reason zoning laws exist. But Texas being Texas, apparently the "freedom" to set up shop next to a bomb trumps everything else—including the lives and properties of far too many in West.

Now, I don't know what caused this explosion, but I really suspect that it's too early to be throwing around accusations of "gross negligence." That might be true, but let's wait for the evidence.

However, just look at that image! (Click it to enlarge the picture, if necessary.) That's why reasonable, rational people support zoning laws!

I grew up in a small town in Nebraska, and I can remember my Dad - a right-wing Republican if there ever was one - complaining that they couldn't get zoning laws passed in the town. So it's not just Texas, not at all. (Still, would any place but Texas put schools next to a fertilizer plant?)

No, government is not always the problem. And yes, we need regulations, because we're social animals. We live together in groups, and what you do can affect your neighbor, sometimes disastrously.

Reasonable people can disagree about the extent of zoning laws, and about the exact restrictions written into the law. But look at that image, and the one below, and tell me that we don't need zoning laws at all.

More photos here. Make sure you've read this post from a volunteer at the retirement home, too.

1 comment:

Chimeradave said...

Wow, that's nuts! What were they thinking?!