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Don’t revise zoning laws: abolish them

    As the Bedford County Supervisors are considering a major revision to the county’s zoning laws, now is the time to ask a fundamental question: Who really owns the land?

    Zoning presupposes that the government owns the land.  Only on that basis can it claim the right to prohibit us from building on, occupying or using our land contrary to the zone the government assigns to it. Logically, this means the government is the landlord and we, who hold the deeds, are its subjects..

Virginian Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence. It announced we no longer recognized the King of England as our civil lord. Any last remaining vestige of holding land under a royal lord then ended in this county. Land was then held under God. But we have now come full circle. We are now, in fact if not in name, subjects on the government’s land.  That is why we need various approvals to use our land or structures as we sit fit. Approvals are grants of permission from the government lord.

The English and American common law developed primarily from an application of biblical law. The concept of trespass protected land from an invasion from without. Today, the government sends its agents on our land to check for our compliance with its zoning regulations. For violations, we can be forcibly removed, fined, even arrested, treated like trespassers on the land we say is ours. Jefferson would call this tyranny and want to know why we, the Virginians of our day, have submitted to it.

    Yet, we Virginians submit, for we long ago forgot freedom under God. Local governments hire planners to engage in socialistic, central planning. Some benefit, some suffer, in the name of the public good. One man gets permission to erect structures that will supply his heirs with income for generations. The family who paid taxes on the farm for generations cannot fully develop it in the name of saving open spaces. This reduction in the value of their land is theft by zoning.

We are told the choice is zoning or chaos, but that is not true. All landowners should be allowed to do with their land as they please, subject to this one, common law, condition: They may not interfere with anyone else’s use of their land. Doing so would create a nuisance, a civil wrong akin to trespass, an invasion of sorts of a neighbor’s land without actually venturing on it. In former times, farming, timber cutting, mining or early industrial practices that befouled water downstream or created erosion, drifting smoke or odors would have been examples of this. An abused neighbor could resort to court to stop the nuisance. But if you did not create a nuisance, you could use your land as you wished: No nuisance, no restraint.

Today, nuisances would include noise, traffic, hours of operation, shining lights and other activities of modern life, provided they genuinely interfered with a neighbor’s use of his property. Proposals for erecting structures and commencing uses could be announced sufficiently in advance by public notices. If no nearby landowner complained, the structure could be built or the use begun: No complaint, no restraint. If there were complaints, they could be lodged with hearing masters who would have judge like authority to rule only on this issue: Would the proposal create a nuisance to the detriment of the property owner who filed the complaint? The proposal could be modified or denied in full, as needed, with the right to appeal for each side. There would be no comprehensive zoning plans, no zoning boards, no zoning officers, no hired planners.

This is a mere sketch, of course. Such a plan awaits full development, but the concept is sound.

Public safety is another issue. Government is obliged to protect life and property. This involves, for example, building safety codes, road safety, passage for fire, police and medical vehicles, sanitation and drainage. But this does not require sweeping, categorical zoning requirements.

 As Bedford County reconsiders its zoning laws, this basic question must be asked: Who really owns the land? Only by abolishing zoning can true ownership of the land be returned to the people.

Louis F. Sette


A Tribute for Memorial Day

    I have written this in memory of my nephew, Donald Walter Hicks. He served in Vietnam. He died last April. I have written this as a tribute to his and the many others who gave their lives for our country.

    Donald Walter Hicks, along with many others, gave his best to our country the USA.

    When America entered the Vietnam War, these young men and women did say, “I’m ready, I’ll serve my country; I’ll do all that I can, To protect this land of the free, every child, woman and man.”

    Don’s roots were laid deep in Bedford County’s dirt so red.

    His parents Vernon and Lucille Key Hicks from the town were led; from the Key house which was located on Washington Street

    And the Hicks house on Jeter Street, to view it is a treat.

    Don grew up Roanoke with his brother Vern and sister Sally, so sweet

    He was the second son, keeping up with his siblings wasn’t an easy feat.

    After graduating from high school, Don off to college did go

    He chose UVA, his dad’s alma mater, and wholeheartedly did show;

    After graduating and further studies, Don to Reece Air Force Base went

    At this Lubbock, Texas, Don received training before he was sent,

    To Vietnam where Don in his airplane, Cessna 150, along with his crew

    Made many flights over Vietnam as at the controls he flew.

    After his service in Vietnam, Don became a teacher, that is all he wanted to be.

    To encourage his students and help them their own knowledge of accounting see.

    He settled in Virginia and led a happy and joyful life,

    With his children Mandy and Mikie and Celeste, hus wife.

    Don’s interests were many and varied, that we all agree upon

    For he collected turtles, scuba dived, enjoyed bicycling, all so much fun.

    Who else would ask for the rook that stood in Mother Key’s yard.

    Or the large piece of Feldspar at 607 Jeter Street, which was so white and hard

    Both were moved to Salem where Don’s last days were spent,

Relaxing or going to Duke University Medical Center for his cancer treatment.

    Agent Orange used in Vietnam got Donnie in its grasp

    But the spirit of this young man will live on and lasts,

    In the hearts of those who knew Don and loved him so much.

    His family, neighbors, students and fellow teachers whose lives he had given a gentle touch

    Don Hicks served his country well, as so many of the Bedford Boys did;

    And the patriotism of all, whatever the war, must not be hid.

    His memory and the memory of all those who served so gallantly,

    We’ll remember this Memorial Day, May 25, 2009, and say so softly

    “God bless all of our men and women, who are serving their country today,

    And all those who went before and did pave the way.

    Thanks for making our nation ‘the home of the free and the brave.’ “

    We’re thankful to be American, we salute you with a proud wave.

    We remember the many who fought to make our country free;

    We than God for each of you as we kneel on bended knee.

    None of you will be forgotten, you can be sure of that,

    As we say “thank you,” for your sacrifice, we tip our hat.

Janet Carter


Bedford Farmers Market about gone

    The past two to three years I have leased a table and sold for about 18 years. The tables were leased June to October from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays were our primary days until a couple of years ago. The management leased out our table, with orders we leave by 1 p.m., to wine vendors and other businesses.

    I have no problem with wine vendors since Tuesday was a farmers day for years; why not a tasty Thursday? We spent years down there. We vendors worked together. We seldom saw the managers; we are mature people that don’t need watched....

    I received my application with hours cut back, prices up and with restrictions equal to a World War II boot camp orders.

    Will someone condone all these restrictions when the tables set there probably more than 80 percent of the time empty. Bedford County and City built this place with taxpayers money for a farmers market. If the management is trying to shut it down they deserve an A plus. There doesn’t seem to be any input received from the vendors. And none wanted.

    I have in the past looked forward to each year. No longer.

Lewis C. Hensley