Consequentalism Forever

Longtime readers will notice that my position on preserving the King George Inn, and specifically the tactic I want South Whitehall zoners to use to preserve it, is something of a departure from my usual position, which is the same as Michael Molovinsky’s position – people who want something to happen to someone else’s land other than the use the owner wants should pay up or shut up. Typically that’s because the situation at hand is in an urban setting, and it’s neighbors trying to block a new business or some housing units from going in because they are paranoid about more competition for public curb parking.

I’m not going to deny the hypocrisy. I’m going to point it out before anyone else does, to make the point that my political values are purely consequentialist. I want more urban infill housing to get built, and I don’t want any more sprawl to get built. Anybody who’s on the opposite site of either of those goals is usually going to be wrong in my eyes, and it’s not because of some high-minded commitment to strong or weak property rights as such. I want the land uses to happen that I like, and I don’t want the land uses that I don’t like. That’s my ultimate principle.


  1. Funny you write this, as I noted that in a piece out in a few hours. lol

  2. Didn’t Justice Potter Stewart have a same “form based” view towards recognizing pornography?

    There are a couple other issues wrapped up in this besides zoning issues.

    The chap who owns the building put his life into that business and as such allowed the public to enjoy that building for another four decades–at a time when no one else stepped up to save it. I, like many, had a few special dinners there and would be sorry to see it go–but I think the guy deserves a better retirement than an unsellable vacant lot.

    The silly variance problem is only one small part of the real issue–the maintenance of the building. All the venting about variances, if it deters a sale, means the building will continue to fall down. 18th century buildings have construction features that, if allowed to deteriorate even a little, becomes very expensive (if n0t impossible).

    I’d like to see the Township take steps to see if another land use could be made involving the building, but without data on the condition of the building, its hard to see how realistic this is.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      No, my views on appropriate land uses and building forms are very well-defined. I think municipalities should follow the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s comprehensive plan recommendations. Variances for urban infill are usually appropriate, because the urban codes should be allowing more infill construction to proceed by-right. Variances for sprawl development are not appropriate, because the suburban codes shouldn’t allow street-facing parking lots or setbacks. If I don’t like what the code says, I’ll support a variance. If I do like what the code says, I’ll oppose a variance.

      In the case of the King George Inn, I don’t see why my plan would hurt the current owner. These sprawl developers always have 2 or 3 more plans in their back pocket. They want to build the cheapest off-the-shelf version that they can, and they’ll pretend they won’t build anything else. It’s bullshit. If you keep pushing, they’ll eventually agree to a more aesthetically appealing but expensive version of the project. If South Whitehall zoners say they won’t approve a variance if the developers don’t incorporate a preserved KGI into their design, the developers are going to relent and pay for the preservation. Once the building is restored, it should have no trouble finding a tenant.

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