How Do Zoning Laws Impact Tenants, Landlords And Residents?
"I've done the legal research. It's a nightmare," a Patch reader said.
I got a call from Gerhard Sweetman, 75, of Norristown, this weekend.
The self-described U.S. Air Force veteran talked of his 1950's military stint in a Mississippi technical school where he was prohibited from socializing with fellow students because "they were black."
Today, Sweetman fears racism and other prejudices are carried out by another form of government, the local zoning department. And that's just one step in a process that can lead to action from higher government authority, he said.
Through a zoning law, a rental home can be inspected without a search warrant, he said and described his experiences as a Section 8 tenant who took the issue to the federal court level.
"Renters' apartments (are) searched yearly by codes enforcement," he said and talked of "coverups" by the U.S. government, police and news organizations.
Sweetman said he wants to justify the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment - part of the Bill of Rights that guards against unreasonable search and seizure.
"That's why we have a screwed up country where the Bill Of Rights doesn't apply in state cases," he said. "All laws have to be constitutional."
Local government gets money to conduct a checkup of a rental home. That can lead to unofficial inspections including the discovery of personal information such as sexual preference, gun ownership and location of valuable property, Sweetman said.
"If (landlords) don't comply with code enforcements, it will cost (them) money," he said.
He also said the practice will impact single-family homeowners and added it's a mistake to believe zoning laws will help real estate property values increase. "They'll put this clause into mortgages."
Additionally, "there would not be these rough neighborhoods without zoning restrictions," he said. "Zoning causes the problem. It's not the solution."
Sweetman said he's a fugitive in New Jersey for refusing to pay a fine regarding "unrelated people living with you in a house."
Also, he hasn't found an attorney to help in his fight against codes enforcement because "nobody wants to touch this with a 10-foot pole."
While Sweetman acknowledged many folks will disagree with his opinions, the issues he raises -- regarding zoning practices -- impact entire communities.
Folks in Pottstown often share concerns and argue over matters such as enforcement and upkeep of landlord, tenant and single-family properties.
The question is, what's the root of the problem?