Private Property Rights Under Attack by Comprehensive Land Use Plans

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“Private property must be guarded as priceless freedom. Land owners should reject the sustainable development idea that only government can protect nature, air, soil, water, open spaces, and the poor.”

Dr. Ileana Johnson Paugh

Dr. Ileana Johnson Paugh

Humans have always desired to own a piece of land that could be passed on to their heirs. Once they acquired property for homestead or farming, men labored on their land under the assumption that it was theirs to keep in perpetuity.

If you ask the government, land belongs to the proprietor as long as the required taxes are paid in full each year and the government does not confiscate the property through eminent domain or deem it environmentally endangered and in need of protection. If you ask progressives, land belongs equally to everyone and nobody should be allowed to “own” anything, it should be communal property.

The painful lesson in communal property (communism) at Jamestown has been forgotten or never learned. When people worked the land together, some worked harder and some were lazier, yet everyone ate the same. The entire settlement almost starved to death. The following year, when the communal property was divided into individual parcels, everyone prospered.

Humans understood then that individual freedom and cooperation on smaller scale are much more successful than domination by a few in an exclusively government-run society.

The idea of Sustainable Development that emerged in 1987 from a conference by the World Commission on Environment and Development, chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland, seemed innocuous. It was defined as “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” It sounded lofty except for the nagging questions: who decides what the needs are, how are they going to parcel out the needs, how are they going to implement them, and who will police the decision-makers?

This call to Sustainable Development became the blueprint of a myriad of rules and regulations incorporated in the 1992 document called Agenda 21 signed by 179 nations at the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. This 40-chapter document addresses every aspect of human life, not the least of which is property.

According to Henry Lamb, Bill Clinton’s creation of the President’s Council on Sustainable Development (Executive Order #12852, June 29, 1993) “was responsible for instilling sustainable development consciousness throughout every agency of the federal government,” using enormous grant powers. These “vision” and “challenge” grants were given to state and local governments, to NGOs such as the American Planning Association, Sierra Club, and to HUD, DOE, and EPA to develop and implement community plans around the nation.

County-wide or region-wide plans by the years 2020, 2025, or 2030, contain 129 “visions” included in eight categories. These visions were developed at the first Glades County, Florida visioning meeting in February 2, 2006. They are eerily similar to the recommendations in the Agenda 21 document and in any sustainable development pamphlets. (Henry Lamb, Sustainable Development or Sustainable Freedom? pp. 5-6)

· Preserve natural environment
· Save/improve the wetlands
· Restrict development in sensitive areas
· Sustainable agriculture and farming
· Comprehensive resource preservation
· Never compromise wetlands or wildlife
· Preservation of scenic views
· Designation of scenic highways
· Development should be clustered
· Rural village concept
· Smart growth planned developments
· Increase density, increase walkability
· Impact fees that limit mobile homes
· Zoning should encourage infill
· More codes to be enforced
· Conservation easements on agricultural land
· Sidewalks, bike paths, and walking paths
· Multi-use trails and corridors that are landscaped

Villages, towns, and cities developed as the result of the wishes of the people in a free market. Then local zoning ordinances were developed based on existing land use, initiated by the land owners who, from time to time changed the zoning designations. Such changes were only made by locally elected officials, balancing the wishes of the landowners with the rights of other constituents.

The “comprehensive planning” required by sustainable development in Agenda 21 is initiated by a coalition of international organizations such as ICLEI (International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives) who decide in their “visioning consensus” how and where everyone should live.

ICLEI infiltrated over 600 county and local governments in the U.S. who became members of this organization that recently changed its name to ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability USA to avoid the stigma of an international organization meddling in American zoning affairs.

The top-down unelected government develops comprehensive master plans that form “urban boundary zones.” Municipal services such as water, sewer, fire, and police protection are not provided beyond these zones. The comprehensive master plan serves the purpose to create “sustainable communities,” the vision of the globalists who created Agenda 21.

It is not a coincidence that “every county’s comprehensive master plan contains the same elements, the same goals, the same processes,” spelled out in Agenda 21. Citizens participate in local visioning meetings and consensus-building stakeholder meetings under the false promise and understanding that they do have input in their communities. In reality, the decisions have been made for them in advance.

Henry Lamb said, “Such comprehensive land use plans adopted by government gives the government, not the owner, the superior right to decide how the land may be used.” Elected officials were convinced by “the promoters of sustainable development that private property rights are not as important as the proposed benefits of sustainable development, individual freedom is not as important.” (p. 23)

The first lawsuit filed on October 15, 2013 against Agenda 21 promoters is the lawsuit against the comprehensive plan called Plan Bay Area. The legal challenge was launched by the Post Sustainability Institute/Democrats Against UN Agenda 21 and Freedom Advocates, spearheaded by Michael Shaw and Rosa Koire.

Alleged violations include:

· Plan Bay Area violates voter-approved urban growth boundary ordinances, “nullifying these boundaries by restricting development to very small locations in just some cities”
· Plan Bay Area “violates the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by taking property rights without just compensation”
· Plan Bay Area “violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Equal Protection Clause” (Priority Development Areas land owners will receive permits 80 times more than owners outside of the PDA)
· Plan Bay Area “permanently strips all development rights from rural properties in the nine county Bay Area, effectively taking conservation easements on all rural lands without paying for them”
· Plan Bay Area “restricts development rights within the Priority Development Areas,” limiting construction to mixed-use, high density Smart Growth development.

“Plan Maryland” is a statewide blueprint of land use that maintains 400,000 acres as agricultural or forest land and spares it from development in the next 20 years. Governor O’Malley’s executive order allows development only in “approved” growth areas along the Baltimore-Washington corridor. Homes on two-acre plots with septic system were deemed urban sprawl. Homes built within city limits on half-acre plots in range of sewer hookups were not deemed urban sprawl. I discussed this comprehensive land use plan in my best seller book, U.N. Agenda 21: Environmental Piracy.

The comprehensive plan for Baldwin County, Alabama, called Horizon 2025, was rejected by the Baldwin County Commission as a “massive land grab.” Additionally, Gov. Robert Bentley signed a law forbidding policies connected to Agenda 21, barring any private property confiscation without due process. This decision drew strong criticism from the Smart Growth proponents who used psychological “projection” to paint Americans who are discovering the truth about Agenda 21 as right-wingers who see “smart” environmental planning as an “Agenda of Fear.”

In the fishing community of King Cove Alaska, an 11-mile gravel trail connecting the Aleut community to a life-saving airport has been denied by the Department of Interior Secretary Jewell because the road would jeopardize the waterfowl. “The people of King Cove want a small road through what was their backyard,” using less than 1 percent of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. But giving up refuge land would be a bad precedent. “I’ve listened to your stories, now I have to listen to the animals,” said Sec. Jewell.

Residents of Riverton, Wyoming (pop. 10,000) found out in horror one day that the EPA had given their town to an Indian reservation. Their deeds of trust could be tossed unless the Indian reservation recognized them. The EPA declared Riverton part of the Wind River Indian Reservation, nullifying a 1905 law passed by Congress.

A WWII veteran in New York is fighting local government attempts to confiscate his grocery store via eminent domain in order to open a municipality-owned market.

Paugh - pic of family losing home - Comprehensive Land Use PlansSome local governments confiscated land under eminent domain in order to preserve it. Most famous is the seizure of 572 acres in Telluride. The owner wanted to develop the land along the San Miguel River. The town set the land aside as open space. The confiscation by the state Supreme Court was upheld on grounds that overcrowded mountain towns need to preserve their recreational and natural assets.

Andy and Ceil Barrie may lose 10 acres near Breckenridge, Colorado because they ride an ATV on a 1.2-mile mining road from their 3-bedroom home in a subdivision to the 10 acres they purchased surrounding a hundred year old cabin in the middle of the White River National Forest. Summit County is using eminent domain to preserve open space instead of the usual economic development. (Becket Adams)

In 2012 the EPA threatened Lois Alt, a chicken farmer from West Virginia, with a $37,500 fine every time it rained on or near her property. The fine, mandated under the Clean Water Act, was levied because “storm water near her farm would come in contact with dust, feathers, and manure before entering a local waterway.” High levels of nitrogen were found in the chicken waste which could also threaten the water supply.

Property rights can be taken away under the guise of protecting the environment. The American Policy Center identified cases of such abuse.

· Mud puddles become wetlands that must be protected
· Improving land by planting trees, bushes, filling a ditch with dirt, or building a fence can result in arrest and fine of the property owner under the Clean Water Act
· Building on one’s land can be blocked
· If the area is deemed wetland, the owner can no longer use it or sell it

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a bill, the Defense of Environment and Property Act of 2013 (S 890), which would attempt to reign in the EPA, Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and the Fish and Wildlife Service, agencies of our federal government that infringe on Americans’ private property. The bill is in the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

In Virginia, the House passed SB 578 on February 26, 2014. The Senate bill, sponsored by Senator Obenshain, had already passed unanimously, entitling landowners to compensatory damages and reasonable attorney fees when successfully challenging a local land use decision based on an “unconstitutional condition.”

“When property owners run up against City Hall, it doesn’t always seem like a fair fight,” said Obenshain. “No matter what the merits of a property rights challenge, any property owner at odds with local government feels like David taking on Goliath.”

Once the governor signs it, SB 578 will discourage localities from abusing their authority by imposing unconstitutional restrictions on the property owner’s ability to use his/her land.

Private property must be guarded as priceless freedom. Land owners should reject the sustainable development idea that only government can protect nature, air, soil, water, open spaces, and the poor. All societies run by totalitarian governments have severe environmental degradation, little or no private property and misuse of resources, a chasm between the haves and have-nots, and no hope for the future of individual citizens.