Thursday, June 28, 2007

In other words, Prop. 207 is working

From Reason Foundation's blog by Leonard Gilroy:

In just the first seven months of implementation, there have already been several indications that Prop 207 is changing the way Arizona communities approach regulation and growth management issues. For example, in April 2007 the Phoenix City Council voted to repeal a historic designation it had placed on an area in central Phoenix after being threatened with a Prop 207 challenge from an aggrieved landowner. Also, the Tuscon City Council recently delayed the adoption of a neighborhood preservation overlay district to study the potential Prop 207 ramifications after a group of property owners opposed it on Prop 207 grounds, arguing that it would restrict the use of their property and decreased its potential value.

In other words, Prop 207 is working.

I've just written a piece on Prop 207 that will be featured in Reason's upcoming Annual Privatization Report (slated for a July release) that talks about these events and more, and I've got a policy brief in the works that will provide more details on Prop 207 and articulate the case for it as the best current model for state-level property rights protections.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Flagstaff Follies

The Flagstaff City Council really stomped on Prop. 207 property rights this time ...

All over Arizona, city and county officials have been following the new citizens' enacted law by not forcing zoning overlays and other unwanted "do-gooder" districts (read, historic, neighborhood, etc) on property owners.

Why? Because they know that by imposing their elected power to pass regulations which diminish an owners property values, they put the taxpayers in jeopardy of having to pay property owners for their loss. It is irresponsible for city council members to expose taxpayers to such lawsuits.

The "rule-of-thumb" is choice ... whether or not a property owner chooses to participate in a historical designation, or the like, and allow for said owner(s) to opt-out or opt-in.

Some specific areas are ripe for a historical district and such designations will actually increase the property values; but many times some properties are just old and the forced designation makes these properties uneconomical. People bought such properties knowing the existing regulations only to have the rules change after they made their investment -- many times their lifetime investment, now ruined by some local political activists prancing around saying, "Wouldn't it be nice if ..."

The Arizona city and county officials, for too long, did not respect these property rights and the losses created, thus the overwhelming passage of Prop. 207. It is known as "push-back."

In spite of the so-called "collective wisdom" that the city and county governments have gleaned since the passage of Prop. 207, the pretty little buttercups from Flagstaff have thumbed their collective city council's noses at property owners and passed an historical district with no opt-out provisions. Guess what ...!?!

The City of Flagstaff (read, taxpayers) is getting sued! Not only are they in the process of getting hauled into court, but they are being opposed by one of the pre-eminent law firms in the United States of America, the Pacific Legal Foundation. (PLF)

Here is the release issued by the PLF: (Be sure and click to read their "demand letter")

PLF Begins Process to Defend Arizona Homeowners under Prop. 207

by Timothy Sandefur

The Pacific Legal Foundation today filed a demand letter with the City of Flagstaff, Ariz., which starts the clock ticking toward filing a lawsuit under Proposition 207, the Arizona Private Property Rights Act. This will be the first case invoking the protections of the Act.

The case challenges the new city ordinance adopted last night, which imposes a "historic district overlay" on a portion of the city. Essentially a new layer of zoning, this overlay imposes severe height and width restrictions on properties in the area and creates a new bureaucracy with power to deny property owners the right to renovate their homes.

PLF represents Jon Regner, a Flagstaff firefighter who purchased his property with the intention of renovating it and living in one house while renting out the other. The new ordinance prohibits him from doing this. PLF also represents several other landowners whose property rights are being trampled upon. Fortunately, with Arizona's powerful new property rights protection law, these property owners have a legal tool with which to defend themselves.

Arizona local governments and citizens were working with each other to understand the new operating procedures since the passage of Prop. 207. And, from Big Rattler's perspective, they were doing O.K. with only a few dust-ups.

Even the rabid Prop. 207 haters like Pima County land-czar and self-anointed prophet of all things being built now and in the future, his eminence Chuck Huckleberry, had to yield to the provisions in Prop. 207. (That does not mean he has stopped trying to figure out to work around the law to retain his "rightful" throne.)

Hopefully, the Flagstaff City Council will do their due-diligence and realize that they must allow those property owners, who choose not to be included in the newly designated historical district, a legal avenue to opt-out.

As always ... Big Rattler will keep you posted.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Just how Prop. 207 was designed to work

The Arizona Republic has a story today that once again illustrates precisely how Prop. 207 was legally designed to work.

If the government takes value away from your property via new rules and regulations for the common good, then the common good (read, taxpayers) should do the right thing and pay the property owner for their loss. In the ethical world, it is called honesty and being a good neighbor.

Before Prop. 207, "do-gooders" backed by their political cronies used to have free reign in sticking it to property owners for their "common good" projects, like historical districts and neighborhood protection overlays. Their "visions of the anointed" were -- in their elevated minds -- of such high proportions and so thoughtful that the lower rubes surely would see the wisdom of their most public endeavors ... even if it took the low-brows a bit of time to become as enlightened as they are.

Well, Big Rattler doesn't spend any time sitting coiled on a cone at the Sedona energy vortex surrounded by crystals, so I just don't get that type of enlightenment. But what property owners do understand is that these "feel-good" districts and overlays make their banker nervous because many use property to back loans and now the property is not worth as much.

One would sure have to spend a lot of time at an energy vortex to dissipate that kind of nervous energy, not to mention you might lose your job spending so much time away from work!

Thankfully, some politicians will try not to break the law, unless they have to; and Prop. 207 is the law.

Here is the link to the story (6-19-07) followed by a couple excerpts:

TEMPE -- A handful of Maple-Ash neighbors initiated the request for the historical designation, a measure that allows a neighborhood to establish suggested standards for building exteriors in order to preserve an area's character.

But while no one seems to dispute that the cozy, quaint texture of Maple-Ash is something special in a Valley full of cookie-cutter homes, the request was hotly contested.

Dozens of longtime neighbors that support the effort say they see historical designation as a way to protect Maple-Ash from development that doesn't fit with the current flavor of the neighborhood. Dozens more oppose the plan because they say it could conflict with landowners' development rights and property values ...

Tempers flared Tuesday night during the Development Review Commission meeting that stretched past 1:30 a.m.

The commission had already delayed making a decision once. Six months ago, the board agreed on a postponement to give city staff time to investigate a new zoning method called "form-based code" that could have helped the neighborhood.

Tuesday, the commission unanimously agreed that form-based code solution was a good idea, but shot down backing historic designation for an entirely different reason: Proposition 207.

The initiative has made waves throughout the state since voters approved it last year. The language of the proposition is dry, but the potential impact could be monetarily devastating for taxpayers.

Proposition 207 mandates that if a city makes a land-use, or zoning, change that decreases the value of a private property owner's land, the city is responsible for providing adequate compensation.

In other words, if Tempe put the historic designation in place on Maple-Ash and a landowner thought his or her property was devalued because of the new development rules that come with such a designation, the landowner could sue the city. Landowners drove that point home Tuesday night when they talked to the commission.

"We obtained an attorney," said Janice Williams, a property owner. "The attorney assured us there would be a case, the city would be liable."

Another property owner predicted historic designation would devalue his homes by 30 and 50 percent.

"It would make an intolerable situation where I would be forced to sue the city through Proposition 207," John Dickson said.

The group pushing for historic designation was disheartened by the decision.