Board Ponders Private-Property Rights; the State Natural Resources Panel Wants It as Part of Its Mission Statement

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Byline: BRANDON LARRABEE

ATLANTA - The latest fight over property rights to come before the Board of Natural Resources goes right to the heart of the panel's mission.

Literally.

Board members are set to hear public comments next week about an amendment to the board's mission statement that would specifically list private-property rights as something that should be considered in crafting the state's environmental policy.

"The Board of Natural Resources will be widely recognized as a public agency that holds as one of its core values a respect for private-property rights and strikes a reasonable balance between private-property rights and environmental impacts when adopting regulations," the amendment says.

Private-property rights have long been a rallying cry for those who oppose some of the more stringent environmental rules about what can be built alongside state streams and salt marshes.

The most recent skirmish came earlier this year when the Board of Natural Resources approved a rule laying out how the agency should grant permits to commercial property owners who want to erect a dock, walkway, boat ramp, marina or similar structure.

The rules require connected "upland facilities," such as buildings and parking lots, to be built at least 50 feet away from the marsh.

That came only after pressure from environmentalists, who argued a proposal that would have required a 25-foot buffer was insufficient.

Supporters of the buffers say they are necessary because the vegetation in those areas filters out some of the pollution that would otherwise go spilling into the water.

But opponents of the wider setbacks said they interfere with owners' private-property rights. …