In last Tuesday’s pre-council meeting, we discussed the idea of paying Freese & Nichols $120,000 to create a Master Plan for Old Town Keller and the commercial corridor along US-377 on the North end of town.

First let me draw a distinction between private master plans and government master plans.

An excellent example of a private master plan is Keller’s own Hidden Lakes community. Hidden Lakes is the result of Hanover Properties’ careful planning of land it actually owned and/or other land owned by people who voluntarily agreed with the plan. Hidden Lakes is a success story—1,700 or so homeowners who voluntarily bought into the plan.

Government master plans, on the other hand, dictate how other people’s property is used. If these other people don’t like the choice the government has made for them, well, that’s just tough. Or, as Mr. Trine put it, “at that point they can come back and ask for a change and justify it.”

Freedom and government are opposites. Every expansion of government entails a reduction of freedom. The more detailed we make our plans for other people’s property, the fewer options they are left with. My fellow councilmen apparently see land use as a “highest and best use” issue—We will not stop at deciding what is permissible—we will decide what is best. But surely they forget the dark side of their well-meaning plans: when a landowner has a different view of the highest and best use of his land, he’ll find himself in jail if he tries to act on it.

Why not trust people to act in their own interest? Let’s have some simple zoning and development codes that seek only to prevent someone from building something that harms his neighbor, or harms his neighbor’s property value. The free market works. I don’t know the proper mix of businesses in North Keller, and neither does Lyle Dresher or Freese & Nichols. But the people who are willing to invest millions of dollars of their own money have a pretty good idea.

Finally, I’ll close with a quote from City Manager Lyle Dresher, introducing the discussion of the Old Town Master Plan. You can make of it what you will:

…it’s just to develop an overall master concept plan of what we would like to see that look like, very much like what we did in Town Center.

Video of Old Town Master Plan discussion

Anaheim, CA city council lets the free market decide