Charity - Not In My Backyard!

Via a reader, from the AZ Republic:

A Phoenix ordinance banning charity dining halls in residential neighborhoods withstood a challenge by a north-central Phoenix church.

Retired Arizona Supreme Court Justice Robert Corcoran, serving as a hearing officer, ruled Monday that feeding the homeless at a place of worship can be banned by city ordinance. The decision affects all Phoenix churches with underlying residential zoning.

Over the summer, city officials maintained that CrossRoads United Methodist Church, 7901 N. Central Ave., violated Phoenix zoning code by feeding the poor and homeless on its property, a use that can only occur in commercial or industrial zones.

You will be relieved to know that this has nothing to do with a wealthy people fearing that their Xanax-induced equilibrium will be upset by actually seeing a poor person in their neighborhood.   We are assured as such by Paul Barnes, a "neighborhood activist" who presumably participated in the suit to stop the Church from holding pancake prayer-breakfasts:

"It's not a problem with homeless people in wealthy neighborhoods. That would be a matter of prejudice. This issue would be setting churches up to avoid zoning ordinances."

Wow, I am so relieved.  And we all know what a problem it is when churches are organized solely to evade zoning regulations.  Why, just last week the First Baptist Church and Gas Station as well as the United Methodist Church and Topless Bar opened right in my neighborhood.

You will be happy to know as well that the Constitution in no way limits the government in any way when it wants to regulate your property:

In a 19-page opinion, [Judge] Corcoran said the city can restrict where the homeless and poor can be fed and that zoning regulations apply to everyone equally. Additionally, he said that trumping land-use regulations is not a constitutional right.

Whew - yet another assault on the rights of government bureaucrats has been bravely turned aside.

Update: More random embedding of ads by the Republic.  They are putting them between words in the paragraph now.  RRRRRR.  Hopefully it is gone now.


  1. D-man:

    Help me out here. I like to think I'm as a much a libertarian as anyone else, as well as a strict constitutionalist. I don't think the constitution says anything at all about this situation. Therefore, under the 10th amendment, such matters fall under the jurisdiction of the states. If the state constitution grants local governments the power to establish zoning ordinances, where's the beef?

    Personally, I can relate to the ordinance. Imagine living next door to the church and having an endless stream of these homeless druggie/wino folks passing over, under, around, and through my yard on their way to their daily fuelings. I bet my yard would have little deposits here and there that would make dog loads look puny in comparison. I'd be pissed, too.

    How about if you lived next to a teen center and they decided to stage "drag racing night" every Saturday? Would you still think it's their land and they can do what they want with it?

    Don't like it? Pick up and move to some other city or state where there are no zoning ordinances. Or go move to the industrial zones so that you can embrace this silliness first hand. "Live their dream," so to speak.

  2. Osprey:

    You pretty much summed it up, lol. :)

  3. Michael:

    I Google earthed the location and it is a mixed use area off of I-10. There are a number of food service business in the area. Fast food, deli and cafe types. I get the feeling that the Fair Trade Cafe a block over from the church didn't like the idea that Christians were feeding people in need and not the government.

    This is a hard core urban so no yards D-man.

  4. me:

    D-man. True to the letter of the law quite possibly. However, there is the worrying tendency of levels of government in America to impinge upon the freedom of the individual, a trend directly opposed to the founding fathers core values and the attraction of 'the land of the free' that for instance, brought me here. It's all fine and good for the government to regulate international treaties, the modalities of federal law enforcement etc. However, once people seriously start telling me what I can or cannot do in the privacy of my property (feeding the poor, build a pool like I want to, or, where I live, hang laundry out to dry (I kid you not)) the value of said property to me is sadly reduced. Conformism runs rampant, and this is just one more indication. I wonder how long until someone figures out that zoning by household tax bracket would be perfectly legal...

  5. Allen:

    Any chance of this being an matter of religious freedom?

  6. BobH:

    "... it is a mixed use area off of I-10."

    Huh? It's one block south of Northern on Central -- about 5-6 miles from I-10, and in the midst of a very high-end residential area. Looks like Google Earth might need a bit of work if that neighborhood is showing up as "mixed use".

  7. Michael:

    I wonder if this could end up being a violation of equal protection. The church is surrounded by structures where people are permitted to provide food for a fee.

    I don't know how Phoenix does it zoning, but if the area is residential, why is the area filled with small businesses.

  8. Evil Red Scandi:

    "United Methodist Church and Topless Bar" - that could actually bring me back to religion. Hallelujah!

    Really, with this situation you get to pick your poison - zoning districts, HOAs / CC&Rs, or letting people just do what they please with their land. All three involve risks and potential pain. Life's tough. Deal with it.

  9. Michael:

    I got a different location with the zip code and matched it up with mapquest. I see now that the area is upscale and can see why people wouldn't want a homeless magnet in the area.

  10. Matt:


    "Pick up and move to some other city or state where there are no zoning ordinances."

    This place is where exactly???

    I would much rather spend a little more time shooing people off of my yard than having the county tell me how to build my porch and where I can put my car.

  11. Donna:

    The church in our neighborhood(which doesn't pay the property taxes the rest of us do)bought up property, tore down houses, put up a block-wide gym and a daycare center, and with the additional essentially commercial-level traffic totally changed the character of my residental neighborhood. Perhaps a cafe, even one that doesn't charge, should be run in a area zoned for commercial use.

    Are you saying you don't think there should be zoning restrictions at all?

  12. Michael:

    Warren runs a small business that deals with many governments and deals with pointless regulation. While not speaking for him, I get the feeling that rather than ban all churches from providing food for the homeless, the issue would be better handled by dealing directly with the individual church.

  13. Dr. T:

    Last year, Germantown, Tennessee passed a law against having your garage door open except when driving in and out or using the garage. If your door is open, and you aren't in the garage, then you can be fined.

    No one should have to see the inside of your garage, and you have to ensure people's rights not to see your clutter. That summarizes the justification for the law.

    Are such laws constitutional? No. One of the non-enumerated rights covered by the ninth amendment is the right to make use of your property in the ways that you wish. Your neighbors cannot claim that they are being harmed because they see inside your garage or they see homeless people at a church. In order to diminish your rights, other people have to prove significant harm (injury or direct economic loss).

  14. gadfly:


    Those AZ Republic ads just go poof and disappear when you use Firefox with Ad Blocker.

  15. Michael:

    Dr. T,

    Well put.

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  18. Sam Hall:

    Houston Texas doesn't have a zoning code and they seem to do just fine.

  19. ParatrooperJJ:

    I am suprised the church has not heard of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law that allows churches to overide local zoning laws.

  20. Greg:

    Of all the Christian denominations, I can just see the United Methodists embracing that topless bar.

    I have to wonder, though, how effective this church's plan would be. If this is a high end area, how are the poor going to get there? If you want to help the hungry, who likely don't have cars, you need a location closer to them.

  21. Cluebyfour:

    May the 'activists' who filed this complaint never go hungry.

  22. LoneSnark:

    D-man, you shall not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The church has been harmed by this ordinance, just as anyone is harmed by an ordinance which limits the possible use of their property. As such, an argument can be made that this ordinance and all other zoning ordinances are a taking by the government and are therefore required to pay compensation. But as the supreme court has ruled, the government can destroy 99% of the value of your property and not owe you a dime, because the title is still in your name.

    Hence the game sometimes played by city officials. If you donate your property to the city we will let you write it off your income taxes at market value. However, if you refuse to donate your land to us, we will rezone your land to a useless state.

  23. Brad Warbiany:


    You migrated to WordPress, right? I think if you use the plain text editor instead of the HTML editor, any embedded ads will quickly show up when you cut-and-paste the text from another site. I've excerpted a few sites that have embedded ads and sidebars that show up in-stream on the copied text, but with the plain text editor I can see if they're trying to insert any embeds when I paste into my composition box.

    Alternatively (if you prefer the rich html editor), you can just try pasting to Notepad first and that should show you if there's anything you don't want in there.