Sorry, but Our Zoning Regulations Forbid You From Celebrating Your Freedom

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

For 10 years, libertarian activist and scholar Peter Jaworski has thrown an annual summer seminar and party on the Clarington, Ontario property owned by his parents, Marta and Lech. The Liberty Summer Seminar typically features speeches from libertarian activists and scholars followed by live music and food. This year Peter’s parents, who fled to Canada from communist Poland in the 1980s, face a $50,000 fine for violating local zoning laws.

From the Toronto Star:

Peter Jaworski said the local health department called him a few days before the event and he thought he had addressed its concerns over food being served — he decided to cater — and the three portable toilets on site.

But the couple received a summons to provincial court on Sept. 28 on a charge of using land in an agricultural zone “for a commercial conference centre” contrary to a Clarington bylaw.

Marta Jaworski, 57, said she and her husband, also 57, are “devastated” by the charge, which she called a “taste” of the oppression they felt in Poland before fleeing in 1984 to Germany and later Canada.

“It is a feeling to be hunted. They come in uniforms . . . ,” she said, starting to cry.

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50 Responses to “Sorry, but Our Zoning Regulations Forbid You From Celebrating Your Freedom”

  1. #1 |  Dave Krueger | 

    You’ll be glad to know I have decided to forgo any references to Nazi Germany because, after all, they haven’t actually started rounding up any undesirables yet. I’m sure this is merely a hiccup in what is otherwise a unassailable dedication to individual liberty, zealous support for freedom of expression, and an obsessive worship of property rights. Well, of course, there was that Ann Coulter incident, but aside from that there is no reason to suspect that Canada is in anymore of a race toward an abusive police state than, say, the U.S.

  2. #2 |  Matt | 

    “They come in uniforms.”

    That says it all.

    They roam in gangs. They follow procedure. They do not listen to or understand reason. They demand either your immediate submission or your death.

    And puny hall monitor tyrants will direct the fatal gaze toward you for no reason other than they don’t feel warm and fuzzy about what you’re doing.

  3. #3 |  Cynical in CA | 

    It’s Canada. They don’t pretend to be free like Americans do.

  4. #4 |  BSK | 

    To be honest, when I saw the title of the post I thought this might have to do with Park51 or the related situation with the Christian church that has been plagued with delays. Obviously, we are all at risk at having our freedoms denied for BS reasons.

  5. #5 |  j a higginbotham | 

    and on the same page a link to the banning of kite flying/fighting

    http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/849126–kite-flying-banned-in-milliken-park

  6. #6 |  Andrew | 

    Paging Cynical in CA: I’m going to be in CA next week. I’d love to meet up with one of my favorite internet anarchists.

    Could you email me?: M8R-4v1v331@mailinator.com

  7. #7 |  Joe | 

    Canada is no longer free.

    The United States is close behind.

  8. #8 |  Andrew Williams | 

    I’d like to know the name of the stukach who is hassling the Jaworskis and just “have a talk with” him/her. It’s not bad enough that s/he is hassling these people for no reason. S/he made an old lady cry. And that is just fucking INEXCUSABLE.

  9. #9 |  Andrew Williams | 

    “You are free to do as we tell you! You are free to do as we tell you!”–Bill Hicks (RIP)

  10. #10 |  Radley Balko | 

    I’m thinking “They Come in Uniforms” would be a great name for a band.

  11. #11 |  djm | 

    The National Post reports on this as well, but takes a different tack:

    http://www.nationalpost.com/news/Kevin+Libin+Bureaucratic+bullies+foil+annual+libertarian+retreat/3415362/story.html

    The way the journalist and the Jaworskis see it, the impetus for the raid didn’t come from the state itself, but rather the competition. Seeing a possible competitor, and rather than compete with them (yeah, those annual BBQs are really eating into our profit margin), they figured, “hey, is there a law we can use to deal with this problem?” And so the bureaucrats complied. This marriage between business and government is incestuous at the best of times. Taken to the extreme, it’s called “fascism.”

    There’s a common theme here, whether it’s bureaucratic overregulation, cops shooting dogs, rising public sector pay (and declining private sector pay), schools spying on students, prosecutorial misconduct, or “illegal social clubs.” If you’re part of, or in bed with, the government, we will keep you safe and rich. If not, we will crush you.

  12. #12 |  KBCraig | 

    I’m reminded of Jean “Mike” Coutu’s annual “LIve Free or Die Rally”, which is proclaimed as a “First Amendment Celebration”, where anyone can speak about anything.

    The last couple of years, the town has tried to shut down, stifle, limit, and otherwise interfere with “objectionable” speech and demonstrations.

    Of course, this is New Hampshire, where it just seems natural for “free speech” to include cannon fire. :-)

    http://www.livefreeordierally.com/

  13. #13 |  Ed Godard | 

    Sure- the state is the means, a tool for oppression. Good reason to oppose zoning laws and similar regulations. Safety? Or more likely a way to sic the cops on someone who outcompetes you.

  14. #14 |  Marty | 

    bureaucrats don’t do irony.

  15. #15 |  Maria | 

    The very basic concept of ‘illegal social clubs’ scream class and social warfare to me.

    If you are in fact an important person tied with the government and big business, you can host your fundraisers, your private parties, your gatherings, your Victorian tea parties and little get-togethers at your crews mansions, villas, penthouses, your multi story walkups and estates. You can make your back room deals and talk business, shop and commercial endeavors.

    But if you are a random citizen with access to a space held by other random citizens and you desire to do the same within your own world? No no no. See, you need all the expensive permits, and you can’t ask for donations to cover the costs, and no you can’t make noise and no you can’t provide food cooked in your community. And in fact you can’t do much because you don’t have exit signs or porta potties or hand sanitizer stations. No you can’t imbibe or partake. And really, it’s best you just sit in your room and watch the telly and eat and be quite.

    Just be quite while the important people make the world better for you. Because really, you can’t do it yourself, your sort has proven time and time again that you need to be looked after and told what’s right and good and proper. And you keep mucking things up by being all … human.

  16. #16 |  Bob | 

    I’ll be the unpopular voice.

    Just because you own property, doesn’t mean you can do anything you want with it.

    Just because he got away with this for the last 9 years doesn’t mean there weren’t problems then, too.

    Holding a 2 day conference for 125 guests plus the venue itself (music doesn’t play itself, and the people speaking are there too) on a 40 acre residential plot massively exceeds any normal concept of ‘fair use’.

    40 acres ain’t much, it’s a square 1/4 mile on each side.

    According to the zoning rules, you need to have a parcel greater than 40 hectares (about 100 acres) for non-residential use. The property in question is 16 hectares (about 40 acres)

    3 porta-potties? One is good for about 400 person hours, even assuming all of the guests slept elsewhere, that’s a need for 8 porta-potties. If they camped there? Even more, or arrangements to swap them out.

    I don’t think the guy seriously tried to comply with even minimal permit requirements.

    Go ahead and slam away with the nega-karma.

  17. #17 |  MDGuy | 

    @ Bob: the fact that he’s done it for 9 years actually suggests that he knows what he’s doing and that there haven’t been problems, except the ones that are now being artificially imposed on him by a bunch of authoritarian tools with cleft assholes and an insane desire to control the minutia of citizens’ every move. I’m actually going to give you plus karma for so clearly illustrating the bureaucratic anal-retentive mentality and the resulting petty tyranny that drives people to become libertarians (among other reasons).

  18. #18 |  BSK | 

    But Bob, the question is, why are those regulations in place? What purpose do they serve? What/who are they designed to protect?

  19. #19 |  tariqata | 

    @BSK: Without knowing the exact location of the property in question, this is pure speculation, but I do wonder if it’s on the Oak Ridges Moraine “greenbelt”. If it is, the intention of the property-use regulations is, essentially, to keep the land from being developed beyond its present state. I suspect a lot of posters here will disagree with those rules; it was a major political fight to enact it at all and it’s still controversial for a lot of reasons. (My own belief is that regulation of development on that land was desperately needed: aside from the environmental damage to the ecosystem itself, suburban expansion there would have caused a lot of problems to the downstream communities [i.e., the entire Greater Toronto Area] through congestion and increased erosion and water pollution. However, there are serious problems with the legislation we got and the way it impacted the communities already on the moraine.)

    That said, since the Green Belt bylaws were enacted in 2005, if Clarington’s municipal government hasn’t seen fit to act before now, this is very troubling, and if it’s not because the land is on the greenbelt, it’s even worse. And, sadly, pretty typical of how municipal governments like to work in Ontario.

  20. #20 |  fwb | 

    Canada is NOT the US and people are subjects.

    Still, it is no one’s business what one does with one’s property. If they don’t want one doing something, they should purchase the property. Then THEY can restrict it.

    The only exceptions might be if the use affected the health of others around or near the property or if crimes were being committed. Use laws are a violation of property rights.

    Typical case of everyone wanting to tell others what to do.

  21. #21 |  goober1223 | 

    Bob —

    Do you have a permit to be commenting here? I’m from the government, and I’m here to help. You should probably be moving along to a more suitable venue until you come back with the proper documentation in place.

  22. #22 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I’ll bet the guy didn’t even have a pot-a-potty with wheel chair access. And I wonder if he had an environmental impact study completed. And shouldn’t there have been security guards in case people get rowdy and someone is needed to bang heads? Which brings us to need for medical personnel on site.

    Did this Jaworski character actually think people were just allowed to get together any damn place they please without regard for the rest of society? Just who the fuck does he think he is, anyway? Someone should tell that bozo we moved out of the caves a long time ago. We have rules now. Your freedom ends at the property line. You can’t just have a party where visual and audible effects are permitted to spread to the surrounding area.

  23. #23 |  Bob | 

    @ Bob: the fact that he’s done it for 9 years actually suggests that he knows what he’s doing and that there haven’t been problems…

    No it doesn’t. Where do you get that? Do some research. Oh! I did! The guy, Peter Jaworski, started the Institute for Liberal Studies 10 years ago, and has sponsored a get together every year on his parent’s 40 acre property.

    That’s all well and good when they first started, a few people getting together. While there is no data concerning attendance of the first few gatherings, it’s safe to say that the numbers have increased every year to the point where it’s no longer appropriate to hold a commercial conference on private land.

    What he should have done is moved his seminar to a commercial venue, or gotten the appropriate permits to hold it on his parent’s property in the form of some kind of temporary allowance.

    He failed to do so.

    The argument that it’s “non profit” is a red herring. People paid to attend, as such it’s a commercial enterprise, with the proceeds going to a non profit organization. This is no different from charging admission in the hopes of making a profit. This differentiates it from a ‘family’ get together.

    If the guy had any sense at all, he would have know this, and stopped holding his get together on his parent’s property when it became big enough to require exceptions to the zoning laws.

    THE LAW isn’t stopping Peter Jaworski from holding seminars, it’s just saying that he can’t use his parent’s land to do it for free anymore.

    I’m all for freedom, and I’m all for the Institute for Liberal Studies having seminars on private property to drum up support. But I’m also all for the protection of the OTHER land owners by having reasonable use restrictions in place.

  24. #24 |  Bob | 

    LOL

    #21 goober1223
    Bob –

    Do you have a permit to be commenting here? I’m from the government, and I’m here to help. You should probably be moving along to a more suitable venue until you come back with the proper documentation in place.

    Yes i do have a permit.

    And, I understand that it is pursuant to Radley’s whims and can be revoked at any time.

  25. #25 |  TDR | 

    Yes, Bob, we understand that you understand the law. But you acknowledged the need to justify that law (which is more of a regulation or rule, and there is a difference as you know) by arguing that these laws exist to protect other property owners. That is an unwarranted claim. Regulating food and porta potties (sp?) is a bald-faced paternalistic effort, meant to protect those who are actually in attendance. Noise ordinances, parking regulations, etc. are specific regulations designed to protect against externalities. Zoning, on the other hand, is, for the most part, a general grant of power to local tyrants to use their personal discretion, for reasons they are not required to justify, to determine whether or not they will allow you to do something you want to do. And the involvement of the local health department…completely parternalistic. Completely indefensible.

  26. #26 |  André | 

    Let’s say you’re staging a wedding & reception in your large back yard; you’ve got a couple of kegs, a tent, a live band, some catered food, even a couple jiffy johns to handle the massive number of people… While there would be differences in the purpose and commercial structure of the event, I doubt there would be large difference in the amount of noise, garbage, people, and bothering of neighbors.

    Also, a 40 acres is the amount of land you’d need about 20 minutes to walk a full circle around it. It’s not like a suburban back yard.

  27. #27 |  TDR | 

    Also, Bob, I don’t know where you got the number of 125 in attendance…the article says there were 72 paid attendees. Not saying you’re wrong; just saying I don’t see the number.

  28. #28 |  MDGuy | 

    Odd notion of freedom you got there bob. “You are free to gather for the purposes of political activism*”

    *As long as you pay us a massive fee for the privilege and stay completely up to date on the ever-expanding mountain of regulations, stipulations, ordinances, guidelines, bylaws, and permits! Just remember, if you fuck any of this up, we’ll be there to penalize you for every cent you’re worth, so you should probably hire a lawyer to work it out for you. Oh and by the way, here is a list of preferred vendors and venues who have graciously helped us to draft these regulations! For your protection of course.

  29. #29 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    I challenge you to remain a happy person while you deal with building inspectors and permit police.

    You must comply* or face jail time.

    *There is no way to comply.

    Had this party been in NY or NJ, they’d have been forced to hire 50 union workers to stand around and pick their noses.

  30. #30 |  BSK | 

    “THE LAW isn’t stopping Peter Jaworski from holding seminars, it’s just saying that he can’t use his parent’s land to do it for free anymore.”

    Besides the obvious objections that many have raised, do you realize the inequity this promotes? Let’s assume we welcome and accept this line of reasoning. Essentially what you’ve done is prevent folks without money from holding their own seminars/rallies to support their own ends. You’ve made assembly a privilege of the rich, as opposed to an entitled right shared by all. Are you really comfortable with that?

    (Yes, I do realize that there will always be inequities and that wealth disparity will always impact how influential individuals and groups can be. That does not mean the government should legislate it.)

  31. #31 |  Bob | 

    #26 TDR
    Also, Bob, I don’t know where you got the number of 125 in attendance…the article says there were 72 paid attendees. Not saying you’re wrong; just saying I don’t see the number.

    You are correct. My mistake. I most have translocated the admissions price (125 bucks) with the attendance.

  32. #32 |  Marty | 

    Bob-

    You seem upset that someone used their OWN property to generate a profit. Everything I’ve seen in the article indicates a very reasonable event- 40acres is a LOT of land for this sized event. This doesn’t sound like a wild, high school kegger. If people were disturbed- there are ways to deal with that. If property was damaged, there are ways to deal with that.

    ‘The argument that it’s “non profit” is a red herring. People paid to attend, as such it’s a commercial enterprise, with the proceeds going to a non profit organization. This is no different from charging admission in the hopes of making a profit. This differentiates it from a ‘family’ get together.’

    Classic bureaucratic bullshit. It’s none of your business ‘why’ these people chose to gather. You’re trying to restrict voluntary gatherings by qualifying what you feel are acceptable reasons to gather.

    ‘If the guy had any sense at all, he would have know this, and stopped holding his get together on his parent’s property when it became big enough to require exceptions to the zoning laws.’

    Classic bureaucratic bullshit. ‘If he had any sense…’

    ‘THE LAW isn’t stopping Peter Jaworski from holding seminars, it’s just saying that he can’t use his parent’s land to do it for free anymore.’

    More bullshit. The zoning restrictions may force them to stop. They were able to keep costs down and guests were able to attend an event inexpensively. Camping and not needing to rent a facility keeps costs way down. They already incurred bullshit bureaucratic expenses by having to cater the event…

    ‘I’m all for freedom, and I’m all for the Institute for Liberal Studies having seminars on private property to drum up support. But I’m also all for the protection of the OTHER land owners by having reasonable use restrictions in place.’

    Bullshit. Re-read this paragraph. You use ‘freedom’ when you should use ‘bureaucracy’ and ‘reasonable’ when you should use ‘bureaucratic’.

  33. #33 |  V-Man | 

    I’m curious– what happens if they don’t charge attendees?

    What if I want to invite 100 of my closest friends to a party at my place, and we don’t disturb the neighbors (no noise, no taking all the parking within a 1-km radius) and obey all local fire safety regulations?

    What if we decide to do a potluck supper and everyone brings a dish?

    What if the party lasts only one or two hour, so it’s unlikely more than a few people will need to use the bathroom?

    Basically, when do the bureaucrats come in? 50 people? 10? More than 2?

  34. #34 |  CC | 

    If I paid $125 to attend an event with 72 people that only had three port-a-potties, the government would be the least of the organizer’s concerns.

  35. #35 |  TC | 

    It;s all the fault of those that put on Woodstock in 69! :)

    Actually those folks should have resettled in upper BC!

    If any event actually greater than 13K aw ft per person to host, I can’t imagine why anybody would ever allow a sports stadium to exist!

    I’ll take the 9 years actual experience over some pencil pushers computations and suppositions, any day of the week!

    I’d bet those parents pay some pretty hefty taxes to be able to call that land theirs. That is NOT for FREE!

    Hey fix it by putting up a mosque for the weekend! That’l shut em up!

  36. #36 |  bobzbob | 

    The zoning laws protect the neighbors from activity that might be disruptive or disturbing, or the local public infrastructure might not be designed to support. Zoning laws are always local, so the requirements have been set by the neighbors through the local process. If you don’t like them, get your neighbors to agree to changing them, and you can.

    One weekend event might not be disruptive, but if you allow this activity then you would have to allow the next guy to have a weekly event that attracted 1000 people and was.

  37. #37 |  Frank | 

    I’d like to see these morons pull that stunt on an SCA event in Canada. I wonder what those pussies will do when the real swords, warhammers and crossbows come out?

  38. #38 |  jb | 

    Bob was just a “Radley plant” to generate comments. ;-)

    The gummint (those wonderful folks who invented the fiction that they serve “the us” out here in real, real land) . . . got their blood money in taxes and fees. But they cannot stop there. They love making rules and giving orders. Getting paid for what they love doing the most.

    However, unlike the federal leviathan (Canada or the US), local gummints are many times more Stalinist than the feds. State and/or provincial gummints are barely any better.

    Unfortunately, folks who bee-otch are quickly labeled as quacks who oppose some great(er) principle or another. The great(er) “priniciple” is simple—do as we tell you citizen, and write that tax check, too.

    There is nothing in any social compact that gave Clarington cause for what they did.

    Except . . . they proved the social compact no longer exists in reality, if it ever truly did.

    Move along, citizen, there is nothing to see here.

  39. #39 |  jb | 

    Ve vill tell you how you are permitted to use your property, and ve have many villing idiots who agree vith us, and vote for us, so do as you are told.

  40. #40 |  M Kerrigan | 

    @Bob

    I can understand where you’re coming from, but as someone who has attended the LSS for a few years, I can attest that your concerns about the use of the property interfering with others don’t hold in this case.

    To get to the main ‘grounds’ you drive (slowly) through a wooded area along a small private road for a couple of minutes. Once you’re through there’s an open area with a place to park cars, the guest house (with the fire pit for cooking attached), a man-made lake that take up about a quarter of the area, and a green where the main tent for the speakers is set up. The entire area is surrounded by woods and quite distant from the nearest neighbour’s residence (although I have no idea where property lines run).

    It’s always felt like a large gathering of friends, and part of its charm is that the whole family pitches in, with the Parents Jaworski cooking up (now banned) fabulous meals for the participants in the guesthouse kitchen and firepit. The idea of it needing to comply with government licensing requirements is about as offensive as the health inspector showing up at a large family potluck and demanding the food be discarded unless it has been prepared in a regulated food-service environment.

    I should also note, that while I don’t run the books, my understanding is that the seminar fee is cost recovery at best and for years losses were covered out of pocket by Peter Jaworski and friends. It has always been a labour of love to bring together freedom-minded individuals to argue, learn, and enjoy each other’s company. It has never been pulled together with the purpose of raising funds.

    It is possible to run a seminar without using the Jaworski’s property (the ILS runs one in Windsor), but it is nothing like the casual, intimate experience of the Liberty Summer Seminar. To regulate it like a large corporate function is both absurd and tragic, since it will probably kill a unique, much loved event. Oh, the meta-irony.

  41. #41 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #36 bobzbob

    Zoning laws are always local, so the requirements have been set by the neighbors through the local process. If you don’t like them, get your neighbors to agree to changing them, and you can.

    Ah, another advocate of the tyranny of the majority. Anything done in the name of the majority must be ok because, after all, democracy is simply the will of the people.

    Except democracy, above all else, is almost always the tyranny of a few with the vast majority completely disinterested (unless it directly affects them).

    One of the worst things about our education system is that it glorifies democracy as if it, by itself, guarantees freedom. It doesn’t. All democracy does is convince the citizenry that it has sanctioned its own oppression (which is pretty fucking sneaky, when you think about it).

  42. #42 |  Matt | 

    “Just because you own property, doesn’t mean you can do anything you want with it.”

    That is *precisely* the meaning of owning property. The only condition is that you don’t prevent others from doing as they wish with *their* property.

    “Too often, the ethical-political meaning of individualism is held to be: doing whatever one wishes, regardless of the rights of others. Writers such as Nietzsche and Max Stirner are sometimes quoted in support of this interpretation. Altruists and collectivists have an obvious vested interest in persuading men that such is the meaning of individualism, that the man who refuses to be sacrificed intends to sacrifice others.

    “The contradiction in, and refutation of, such an interpretation of individualism is this: since the only rational base of individualism as an ethical principle is the requirements of man’s survival qua man, one man cannot claim the moral right to violate the rights of another. If he denies inviolate rights to other men, he cannot claim such rights for himself; he has rejected the base of rights.”
    — from Nathaniel Branden’s “Counterfeit Individualism”, Chapter 18 in The Virtue of Selfishness

  43. #43 |  Matt | 

    “All democracy does is convince the citizenry that it has sanctioned its own oppression (which is pretty fucking sneaky, when you think about it).”

    Democracy is cannibalism in clown make-up.

  44. #44 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Precisely, Matt. The “triumph” of democracy is the interweave of the State and the people. I believe we are finding out now that the State is “inextricably intertwined” with the people — that there is no solution to statism anymore. I can’t help but feel that things were more hopeful when the State was a distinct entity from the people, as in Louis XIV’s “L’etat, c’est moi.”

    But you hit the nail on the head. What sense does it make when one is one’s own oppressor? Pure insanity.

  45. #45 |  Dave Krueger | 

    I think I have become Cynical. Well, I guess it beats becoming my parents.

  46. #46 |  Andrew Williams | 

    “I’m thinking ‘They Come in Uniforms’ would be a great name for a band.”

    Actually, I think it would be better as an album title. But I like the way you think, Radley.

  47. #47 |  Matt | 

    “…the State is ‘inextricably intertwined’ with the people…”

    The state is a symptom of aggressive, defective minds.

    Bastiat was right:
    “Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.”

    But he failed to include the threat backing the thing: “Or else.”

    “The pursuit of coercive power over others will someday be universally recognized as a symptom of profound mental illness.”
    — L. Neil Smith

  48. #48 |  Peter Jaworski | 

    Thanks for posting about how I got my parents in trouble, Radley.

    All of the news and more information is on the blog I put together for my mom and dad here: http://www.willowpondbb.wordpress.com

    And you can always email me if you want to know more details, or anything else.

    Cheers,

    Peter.

  49. #49 |  Advocate | 

    If you Google “Clarington ontario free speech bylaw” you will find reports of numerous previous instances of Clarington suppressing free speech. There is even one report of a bylaw being passed to target a specific individual. Interesting reading! Is Clarington becoming like Selma, Alabama was in the 1960’s?

  50. #50 |  Woodworking Promo Blog | 

    Sand Flee 18 Portable Drum…

    [...] person tied with the government and big business, you can host your fundraisers, your private partie [...]…

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