A few years ago, a nearby township turned down a proposed zoning ordinance. Opponents declared a god-given right to do as they wished with their land – until a neighbor opened an entertainment venue in which young, mostly unclad, women danced and served customers. Suddenly, zoning was a divine protection.

A landowner can do (almost) anything he wants with his property. That’s the official rule. The unofficial rule has a few more exceptions, mostly dealing with what a neighbor may do with his property.

More than 20 years ago, when I was reporting on a planning board in another state, there came a person to object to a residential development being planned on a 19-acre parcel behind his property.

“I was assured that land would never be developed,” the allegedly injured party declared.

“The only way to ensure that is to buy it,” the head of the board responded. “Otherwise, as long as the owner complies with the zoning law, we will be required to approve the plan.”

Out along portions of the Atlantic coastline, though miles from shore, beachfront owners have risen in opposition to their viewscape being interrupted by rows of wind turbines that would be generate the electricity to power their shaving tools, hairdryers, computers and televisions.

A group of solar objectors in Nevada halted progress on what was to have been one of the largest solar-powered electricity generation arrays in the United States. The group said it feared loss of tourism.  

Recently, headlines in my local newspaper have announced loud objections to solar installations in the former farm fields of a township near my home. Meanwhile, a natural gas pipeline company quietly installed more than 8,000 panels to power its pump station in an even more rural part of the county.

Farmers do not typically sell large portions of the property when it is making money. On the contrary, for the past several years we have seen land sold to developers because it is the farmer-owner’s retirement fund. The land is, in truth, a form of stock market – no pun intended.

On the other hand, we need the electricity to power the homes we are building for the children and retirees we continue to create. And we need clean electricity for those children and retirees to breathe while they are enjoying what a dairy farmer friend often called “view stew.”

There are other ways to generate the needed electricity.

What if Walmart and other big box stores were to cover their parking lots with solar “roofing” that would provide electricity for the stores and shade for babies and pets otherwise being roasted in overheating vehicles?

One of the best ideas includes a “distributed grid” in which all roofs, beginning with new residential and industrial developments, are covered with solar panels, interconnected to form a part of our electrical grid. Such a scheme may not solve all our needs, but to the degree it does, it would put to use all that wasted impervious surface that otherwise does nothing for us other than keep the rain from dripping on our keyboard. We cannot even drive on it or, when we are not driving, park our cars on it.

We are going through major changes. Droughts in our wheat belt may cause food shortages that will force us to “Buy Local.” The droughts are caused by climate changes in turn caused, in part, by our current means of feeding our addiction to electricity.

It’s time we put that house to work, charging its batteries while we are out of it earning the monthly rent payments.

Thanks for coming along. If you like what you’ve seen, please take a moment to tell your friends where we are.