Question in Property Rights Fight: `Who's Taking Whom?'

By Cantrell, Patty | Nation's Cities Weekly, August 14, 2000 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Question in Property Rights Fight: `Who's Taking Whom?'


Cantrell, Patty, Nation's Cities Weekly


The takings bill aimed at smart growth, S. 1028/H.R. 2372, is likely to be voted on by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 7. --Ed.

Most people know better than to keep their neighbors up all night with rowdy reveling. But there are always some people who believe their right to party is greater than their neighbor's right to peace and quiet.

The same is true when it comes to land. Thousands of communities have developed zoning rules to protect residents from the effects of sprawl, such as storm water flooding and traffic congestion, and to conserve valuable trees and green space.

Yet a growing number of real estate speculators have been trying hard in the past decade to thwart local land use rules with lawsuits in which they claim their right to make a profit on their plots is superior to the community's right to protect wildlife, woods, wetlands and people. The courts, in turn, have largely told them to go home and grow up.

But like a kid who doesn't like Mom's answer and tries an end-run with Dad, the nation's development lobby is now working over Congress. And Congress may soon give speculators the privilege they want: A free ticket to federal court to decide local property disputes.

Senate Bill 1028, which has passed the House and is now under consideration in the Senate, would allow developers with complaints about local zoning rules to bypass state courts and normal local appeals. If approved, this bill would give well-financed developers the ability to drag communities into high-cost federal court cases to haggle over ordinances that hundreds of judges have already ruled are constitutional.

This strategy -- to secure a special audience with federal judges far removed from the local, democratic planning and zoning process -- would, as the developer lobby put it, be "a hammer to the head" of local officials. It would do so by undermining this country's democratic decision making process.

Millions of Americans own parcels of land that mean the world to them. Whether they live in a trailer in the woods or a bungalow in town, local residents use zoning ordinances and environmental regulations to establish in law how much they value their way of life and the natural world that supports it. In turn, the U.S. Constitution and judicial system provide important checks and balances on those rules. Land use cases can go all the way from small claims court to U.S. Supreme Court if they have merit.

Yet the developer lobby is seeking to twist the Constitution and the judicial system in order to have its way. This political maneuver is particularly telling because it comes as the competition for land in countless communities grows more intense. Citizens all across the nation are battling to protect open spaces, reduce congestion, and improve their quality of life by developing new zoning plans that slow haphazard sprawl and build healthy communities.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Question in Property Rights Fight: `Who's Taking Whom?'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?