Karl Marx, whom we don't often quote, said history repeated once is tragedy, history repeated twice is farce.
The saga of Rockdale zoning has taken some steps toward and beyond farce this spring and summer. The most recent one came Thursday when the city's Planning & Zoning (P&Z) Board rejected a proposal (request? recommendation?) by the city council to turn several Rockdale thoroughfares into heavy commercial zones.
What's "heavy commercial?" Think Walmart.
Absolutely nobody in the room Thursday wanted that. Not the people who've been supporting a months-long quest for an antique store on what's now a residential block on Ackerman. Not the neighbors who don't want the store. Not the P&Z which voted 6-0 against heavy commercial.
(There is a "light commercial zone," designation which would have accommodated the antique store but it wasn't an option. At least it wasn't on Thursday.)
It's the P&Z, good, civic-minded volunteers, who are caught in the middle. Their only options Thursday were to approve a zoning change nobody wanted or reject it and risk appearing, to some, anti-business. That's obviously not the case as P&Z members went out of their way to state.
It's important to keep in mind the P&Z board does not actually decide zoning. It recommends to the city council. It's the council that has the up or down vote.
At Thursday's meeting one visitor wanted to know, more or less, if this entire matter was dragging on because the council doesn't want to make an up or down decision on the antique store.
The answer is "yes, but it's more complicated than that."
The council doesn't want to do "spot zoning" requests, doesn't want to consider every single zoning request on a case-by-case basis. There's a procedure in place for that through the P&Z board which is supposed to meet, hear input from persons in the areas of proposed zoning changes and make a recommendation.
Keep in mind that if a city council, any city council, routinely goes against its P&Z board recommendations, there's not much use in having a P&Z board.
Bottom line. This matter has gone on too long and the P&Z board has done the best it can in what's basically an impossible situation.
It's time for the council to make its own decision. History repeated twice, or three or four times, may indeed be a farce. But nobody's laughing.—M.B.