Tempe's dictatorial rule - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Tempe's dictatorial rule

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Posted: Monday, April 14, 2003 11:10 pm | Updated: 1:02 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

“A man's home is his castle,” so the old proverb goes. Behind its walls, the homeowner makes the rules — and the government must stay out, unless its minions have first obtained a search warrant that will pass muster under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution in a court of law.

Unless you live in Tempe, Arizona.

Tempe, you see, has an ordinance forbidding more than three unrelated people from living in any one house. Should you own, say, a four-bedroom home, share it with a beloved companion and rent out two of the rooms to lodgers, a municipal bureaucrat can show up at your door with a clipboard, declare you out of compliance and demand that you alter your living arrangements.

None of their blasted business, you say? Solid citizens and homeowners have rights, you say?

That's what Tempe residents Amy Collins and Matthew Davis thought, too, until a city code inspector did just that to them earlier this year. Collins and Davis were told that an unmarried couple and two boarders were an agglomeration of humanity unacceptable to City Hall, and that they'd have to cull their household.

Never mind that their home is neatly kept, that they're a stable domestic partnership, and their place is in no way one of the college-kid “party houses” the ordinance was designed to exclude from the fine old neighborhoods near Arizona State University.

Never mind that the Tempe municipal government bestows official recognition to such domestic partnerships among its own employees.

Never mind that Collins, by every appearance a professional, model citizen, won't be able to afford to live in Tempe if she cannot rent out her rooms.

And never mind that in the United States of America, responsible people who are harming no one ought to be left alone to engage in what our Declaration of Independence so aptly termed "the pursuit of happiness," free from officious bureaucrats and tattling busybodies.

Officialdom has spoken, and must be submitted to.

Collins’ case is on hold at the moment, one of her boarders having moved out. But she intends to fight the rule, which is up for review this summer when the city rewrites its zoning ordinance.

Some neighborhood activists oppose any rescinding of the rule. But given that such rules have been found unconstitutional in three states, they and not Collins may soon find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

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