EDITORIAL: Coerced compliance in Destin

Staff Writer
The Destin Log
This home on Calhoun Avenue is one of the most noticeable eyesores in the city of Destin, as it greets visitors as they come over the Marler Bridge. While it's not visible now, the dilapidated home used to have an expletive "tagged" on the side in graffiti.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This editorial first ran in the Northwest Florida Daily News.

We recalled that conversation as folks responded to our March 8 editorial, “Clean up this carport … or else!” The editorial questioned the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce’s push to toughen enforcement of the city code. The chamber wants Destin officials to prohibit residents from parking cars or boats on their lawns or piling up too much stuff on their carports.

Shouldn’t people be allowed to do as they wish on their own property?

No, said quite a few readers. Here’s a sample:

-- “Regulations must be imposed and enforced to make people do the right thing.”

-- “When you and your type start to hurt others’ property values, then we have the right to stop it.”

-- “I should have the right to expect others in the community to uphold certain standards or suffer the consequences of coerced compliance.”

Yep, all that talk about small government and individual liberty tends to vanish — poof! — when the neighbors get messy. Then we hear calls for City Hall to step in. People must be controlled.

For the record, laws that require private property to look a certain way — a certain color, a certain size, a certain degree of tidiness — are difficult to justify when the public’s health and safety are not at risk. A contributor to our Spout Off column said his neighbor’s carport is so junky it’s breeding rats. That makes it a health violation. There’s already a law for that.

And, also for the record, it is not government’s job to guarantee your property’s value.

If you believe the house next door is an eyesore and is hurting the resale potential of nearby properties, try having a talk with the owner. Fattening the ordinance books and broadening the reach of government are a poor substitute for neighborliness.