Martinez Must Save Property Rights from Antigrowth Elites. (Fair Comment)

Article excerpt

When Mel Martinez took the reins as the new secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), he had little reason to suspect that in addition to heading the nation's housing policies, he also would be handed the dubious distinction of being asked to unleash a 2,000-page blueprint for controlling every aspect of local land use across America from a "directorate" located in Washington.

Unless Martinez acts to stop it, in the next few days what benignly is dubbed the Legislative Guidebook will be jointly issued by HUD and the American Planning Association (APA). The guidebook is a comprehensive blueprint of model statutes and planning guidelines whose goal is nothing less than a centralization of land planning for state and local governments and elimination of the need for messy and "inefficient" local land-use control.

The Legislative Guidebook is the brainchild of an insular group of no-growth activists who found fertile soil for their antigrowth agenda at HUD during the Clinton administration. Flush with more than $1.7 million in HUD grant money, these activists (with the knowledge and input of only a select few) spent seven years crafting the guidebook.

Between July 1994 and June 2001, under the leadership of the HUD-APA "directorate" the project went through 11 amendments and expanded in nature and scope to the almost 2,000-page document it is today, filled with generic rhetoric that masks its true radical intent to federalize local government control and eviscerate constitutionally protected private-property rights. The general public, as well as minority- and small-business owners, farmers and virtually everyone affected by the guidelines, was excluded from the process.

Not surprisingly, then, the results of this exclusionary process is a product that is antibusiness and anti-private-property rights. Many provisions in the guidebook statutorily will take private-property rights without just compensation. One small example of the detailed level of control embodied in the guidebook is its treatment of ordinary commercial signs, which virtually every small business and restaurant has. After prescribing uniform size, shape and color standards by which every sign is required to look alike, the guidebook recommends an "amortization" plan, which will give small-business owners a limited period to enjoy their identical signs before they must be removed altogether, without payment of just compensation as required by the U. …