A front-page story Saturday about a Gilbert referendum to stop a proposed retail shopping center almost had us double-checking our birth certificates and driver’s licenses to make sure we still are living in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
The group behind the referendum, Manage Commercial Density in Gilbert, claims the city has approved too many locations for retail businesses, creating the potential for some businesses to fail and leave empty storefronts or be replaced by activities the group doesn’t like.
Group president Gordon Ray explained to Tribune writer Beth Lucas why he and about 120 other former county island residents oppose the rezoning of 170 acres in farmland at Greenfield and Germann roads, with 45 acres slated for a future shopping center.
“Everybody I talked to was in agreement. They said, ‘We cannot believe what they’re allowing in Gilbert,’” Ray said. “Anything anybody wants, they just say yes. It’s out of control.”
The Gilbert Town Council decided Tuesday night to have faith voters will continue to embrace our economic freedoms by rejecting this ill-conceived referendum at a November election. We endorse the council’s vision in standing up for our American ideals rather than catering to the overblown worries of a handful of residents by stopping the retail center.
Ray and his referendum-signing cohorts apparently have forgotten Gilbert is part of a freedom-loving America, where we encourage everyone to pursue their dreams through free-market capitalism.
A cornerstone of our cultural and economic philosophy is that people buy property and then determine how to best make use of it. We expect people to risk their own sweat and money in developing this property in the hope of reaping unlimited rewards if they are successful.
We have more than two centuries of experience to reveal that private ownership, risk-taking and economic freedom lead to a greater accumulation of wealth for all of us, as well as more improvement to the overall human condition.
Yes, some individuals make the wrong choices at the wrong time. But Americans know wise decisions arise most often when we trust the survival instincts of those people with the most direct investment in the outcome, rather than some outside group which has far less at risk if a venture fails.
Some of our history also has prompted many to embrace putting some limits on the choices available to property owners through zoning and land-use laws.
But those limits are, or at least should be, used only to protect general health and safety and to encourage compatible practices with neighboring property owners.
Manipulating zoning laws to go further, to dictate how and when economic opportunities will be available, smacks of the failed Soviet model of central government planning or of the class warfare mentality of modern socialist Venezula.