Thursday, July 5, 2007

Oh no! Arizona's property measure is a success!

In an unfortunately typical piece of drive-by journalism, the Arizona Republic sets its sights on Prop. 207, a property rights measure that won two-thirds of the vote when it was put before the voters last November.

Breathlessly, the Republic warns us:

A new state law billed as a property rights safeguard has dealt a blow to residents and city leaders who want to save old neighborhoods, create shopping districts or influence what is built in their communities.

Little in Proposition 207 dealt with eminent domain: the power cities have to force property owners to sell.

Arizonans are now finding out that the measure severely limits cities' power to change land use, a crucial tool that helped create signature Valley neighborhoods such as Mill Avenue in Tempe, the Encanto historic district in downtown Phoenix and the Esplanade at 24th Street and Camelback Road.

Similar proposed projects across Arizona face years of delay because cities must get property owners to sign legal waivers to avoid lawsuits.

The newspaper's take is the same load of condescending pap we heard before and after the 2006 election: Oh, pity the poor Arizonans, duped into supporting a radical property rights measure dressed up as eminent domain reform.

Yeah, right.

I know just a little bit about the history of Proposition 207 because I worked for Americans for Limited Government, a principle supporter of the measure, during the campaign to get it passed. In the op-eds I penned, I was very open about the impact of Prop. 207 on a wide variety of land-use restrictions. I was open about that impact because we all thought that was a major selling point for the measure--it would protect private property against a wide variety of incursions; not just the type currently making the headlines courtesy of the miserable Kelo decision.

For its part, the Republic used its editorial and news pages to vigorously attack Prop. 207's broad protections for property owners.

The matter was thoroughly discussed.

And 65% of voters thought a little protection for their homes and businesses against intrusive bureaucrats and politicians was a great idea.

Now the Republic is back, pointing to the early effects of the proposition and trumpeting, "See? We told you so!"

Well, yeah, you did, you annoying nits, and now that you mention it, the results ... well ... the results look pretty damned good!

The Republic cites a dropped plan for a property-restricting historic district in Tempe, a tussle over a plot to impose a burdensome business district in Phoenix and a battle over yet another proposed historic district in Flagstaff.

In all three cases, property owners who don't want to surrender their liberty and money to government planners and neighborhood bullies are turning to the provisions of Prop. 207 to protect themselves from being dragooned into grand schemes that they oppose.

It's hard to even understand the hurt feelings over the business district, since the article makes clear that the idea can still be implemented using businesses that agree with the project, and skipping those that don't.

As for historic districts--those are a perfect example of what Prop. 207 was intended to protect property owners against. Historic districts are an oppressive way for busybodies and politicians to use the power of the state to convert whole areas into museums to some fancied era. Why buy a favored building and maintain it when you can simply decree that your neighbor's house must be maintained as a shrine to some romanticized bit of the past?

Quite rightly, Prop. 207 mandates that homeowners who object to being burdened by a historic designation, among other restrictions, must be compensated for their trouble.

Oddly, the article barely touches on one troubling outcome of Prop. 207: The growing tendency of some government bodies to extort waivers of property rights out of home and business owners.

Some cities are abusing the waivers, said Timothy Sandefur, an attorney for the Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation, a group that advocates for property owners. Owners shouldn't have to sign away rights so the city will grant minor requests, he said.

Sounds interesting, right? Who is "abusing the waivers" and what does that mean?

Well, you won't find out in the pages of the Republic.

According to the East Valley Tribune:

Trying to get a permit to add on to your business? How about a zoning change?

If so, you might be forced to sign a waiver saying you won’t ever sue the city for any government decision that affects the value of your property.

On Thursday, Mesa joined cities across the state that are trying to get around a new, voter-approved property rights law.

Starting now, property owners in Mesa requesting annexations, zoning changes and approval of site plans to construct apartment buildings, retail centers and manufacturers will be compelled by the city to sign the waivers. Residential additions do not require waivers.

Cities are requiring property owners to sign away their rights?

That bothers me a lot more than hearing that Prop. 207 is actually working as intended.



Anonymous Adam said...

I love Prop 207. Just sent in my demand letter in to the City of Prescott. (July 18). One more thing - Down with historic preservation -

July 21, 2007 2:43 PM  

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