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Friday, August 18, 2006

Senator George Allen's Surprising Anti-Property Rights Initiative

Why is Senator George Allen so enthusiastic about a proposal to increase federal control over local land use in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia?

A new press release examines Allen's proposal:
Anti-Property Rights Initiative Gets Boost from Unlikely Source: Senator George Allen

Nearly one year after the U.S. Supreme Court's shocking Kelo v. New London decision touched off a firestorm of bipartisan support for stronger property rights protections, some anti-property rights groups are receiving support from a surprising source: Senator George Allen (R-VA).

Senator Allen is the chief sponsor of legislation that would create a massive federal "National Heritage Area" that would stretch from Charlottesville, VA, through Frederick County, MD, and end in Gettysburg, PA. Such areas are best described as heavily regulated corridors where property rights may be strictly curtailed.

Allen's bill would deputize special interest groups -- many with clear anti-property rights agendas -- and federal employees to oversee land use policy in the corridor.

"Senator Allen often describes himself as a 'Jeffersonian' conservative, which he defines as someone who doesn't like 'nanny, meddling, restrictive, burdensome government,'" said Peyton Knight, director of environmental and regulatory affairs at the National Center. "However, if you fail to support your rhetoric with substance, you're all hat and no cattle."

Sen. Allen's initiative in some ways resembles a pork-barrel earmark, as it disburses funds to pre-selected preservationist interest groups. Unfortunately, it is even worse than an earmark, as it would threaten property rights by:
1) Creating a "management entity" to oversee land use policy in the area composed of groups that have a record of being hostile to property rights.

2) Directing this management entity to create an inventory of all property it wants "preserved," "managed" or "acquired."

3) Giving the management entity the authority to disburse federal funds for the purpose of land acquisition and restricting land use - an enticement for such activities.
"This is a transparent effort by "not in my back yard" elitists to milk millions of dollars from the nation's taxpayers to mandate gentrification of their rural landscape. These bluebloods want their pretty views and bucolic fields preserved in perpetuity at the expense of property rights, small landowners and farmers, and taxpayers," said Robert J. Smith, a senior fellow at the National Center.

"It is remarkably similar to the exclusionary zoning for 'green space' and 'open space' that roiled New Jersey politics and communities for a quarter century," Smith adds. "Such policies were ruled unconstitutional by the New Jersey Supreme Court in the Mount Laurel decisions for being economically and racially discriminatory, and as an effort to lock out low and moderate income families and especially people of color, blacks and Hispanics."

Mychal Massie, national chairman of the African-American leadership network Project 21, which is affiliated with the National Center, notes the impact of Allen's bill will be felt disproportionately.

"Senator Allen's Heritage Area scheme is further evidence of the chasm that develops between working families and elected representatives once they are in office," said Massie. "Allen's measure would restrict and limit land use to all but the very wealthiest, and would severely and unjustly handicap families and individuals of moderate means."

Dr. Roger Pilon, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Constitutional Studies, notes the irony that overzealous preservationists at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello are corrupting Jefferson's legacy, ostensibly in an effort to protect it: "They want to traduce Jefferson's views in order to save his views."

Citizens of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania might look to property owners caught within the boundaries of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area in Arizona to catch a glimpse of their possible future...
Read the rest here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:34 AM

Copyright The National Center for Public Policy Research