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December 30, 2004

Nice job framing, Peter Hurley

On KUOW's conversation yesterday, Peter Hurley of Transportation Choices called in to comment on the debate about the Critical Areas Ordinance - but he didn't just comment, he reframed the entire discussion. Peter's been reading his Lakoff.

He reframed the debate over the Critical Areas Ordinance as a dispute between one property owner who wants to raze his land for development and the harm it would cause to neighboring property owners who would be hurt by soil erosion, flooding and other costs.

Nice work, Peter. We need more activists making an effort to apply our strengths...

You can listen to the audio from the show here.

Posted by Jeff on December 30, 2004 at 11:40 AM in Policy | Permalink

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Jeff...I've been reading up on the CAO lately, and have some concerns. Do you think that Govt. has the right to completely dictate the usage of private property? Do you draw a line somewhere? Do you believe in private property rights? I'm trying to withhold judgments, until I get a better grasp of the issues. But, on the face of it, I can see some problems ahead for the CAO.

Posted by: Timothy | Dec 30, 2004 4:37:11 PM

Tim, I admit, I'm not super knowledgable about the CAO yet - but I do believe that the government should restrict development where naturally habitat may be destroyed that would cause harm to endangered species e.g. salmon or neighboring habitat and property owners.

A land rights initiative passed in Oregon this year - they had tried to pass it several years ago but failed.

Essentially these unlimited lands right initiatives, framed as they are (property owners in a free country should be able to do whatever they want), set up a situation where private individuals can blackmail the state with threats of development - corporations can essentially develop land how they see fit or sue for compensation for having their property rights restricted.

These initiatives are a tool of corporations to build power.

Landowners should have to compensate neighbors for damage they may cause next door or downstream. I don't want my neighbor building a chemical factory next to me and lowering my property values.

Posted by: Jeff | Dec 30, 2004 4:42:42 PM

Sure...I agree that property owners should be required to pay for the impacts of the developments that they initiate; but, that is a much different position to take the unilaterally restricting all development on a persons private property. Zoning, as well, is much different than universal restrictions.

So, if you make the argument that a land owner should be required to compensate neighbors for damage they may cause, then, by this logic, shouldn't you also require the state or local governments to compensate landowners when they willfully and specifically diminish the value of the property? Does this not go both ways?

Posted by: Timothy | Dec 30, 2004 4:58:49 PM

The CAO does not "restrict all development" on anyone's property. It merely sets limits on the amount of one's property that one can develop in certain areas -- in order to avoid adverse impacts on one's neighbors. It is well within our rights as a society to set limits on what people do with their private property when those actions impose costs & impacts on others.

If we're going to talk about requiring the government to pay when it diminishes the value of private property, shouldn't we also consider having landowners pay when the government increases the value of their property, for example, by building roads & sewers, providing police protection, etc.?

Posted by: Jon Stahl | Dec 30, 2004 10:10:30 PM

Certainly I agree that we need to be able to have zoning laws that restrict certain types of development on private property. But, in the very radio show that Jeff linked to, the representative from 1000 Friends of Oregon, when asked "what types of things can landowners affected by the CAO do with their land?" he responded "lot's of things." "Like what?" he was asked. "They can grow trees," he responded. Listen, I'm a lefty. But, that answer was completely laughable.

Private property is a huge aspect of the American system, and if we are going to begin dramatically restricting what people can and cannot do with property that they've bought and are paying taxes on, then we need ask serious questions about our belief in private property. And, I'm not arguing against having developers pay for the impact of their developments. But, if the impact is so severe that we can't allow land owners to do anything at all on thier land, then we need to put our own money where our principles are, and buy that land from private land owners.

I guess I'd ask this...is there any limit on this whereby those who support the CAO would conclude that this has gone too far?

Jon Stahl wrote: "If we're going to talk about requiring the government to pay when it diminishes the value of private property, shouldn't we also consider having landowners pay when the government increases the value of their property, for example, by building roads & sewers, providing police protection, etc.?"

Well...it seems to me that landowners alreayd DO pay for these services via their property taxes. Right? Whereelse does the money for these activities come from? Perhaps you can enlighten me.

Posted by: Timothy | Jan 3, 2005 11:59:40 AM

And...those spelling errors convince me that I need to "preview" all of my posts before I post them! ;-)

Posted by: Timothy | Jan 3, 2005 12:08:27 PM

The CAO simply limits the percentage of a piece of property in critical habitat areas that a landowner can develop -- it doesn't prevent someone from "doing anything at all" with their land. You're fighting a straw man.

Posted by: Jon Stahl | Jan 3, 2005 5:12:48 PM

Jon...I am still trying to understand the scope and impact of the CAO. Let's assume that your characterization is correct, that the CAO simply limits the percentage of a piece of property in critical habitat areas that a landowner can develop.

That raises the question, then, to me, where is the line that we draw? I mean, can we just legislatively restrict 90% of the use of privately owned land for the benefit of the public? At what point do we need to compensate the private land owner for the fact that we've just removed value from his property? Do you believe that there is any line at all?

And on the issue of designating "Critical Habitat Areas." Is there a line at which we will draw the designation? What if the designation is so strict that 90% of all private property fits the description?

If I were to build a highway, and I need to build it through your property, would you expect me to compensate you for the land I've taken? If so, then should we not also compensate private property owners when we decide, as a community, that maintaining a certain piece of property in as natural a state as possible is a benefit to the community much like is the building of a highway? Why would we expect the private land owner to bear the full cost of this decision if the public at large is the benefactor?

Posted by: Timothy | Jan 6, 2005 10:56:31 AM

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