18 Aug 2006 Anti-Property Rights Initiative Gets Boost from Unlikely Source: Senator George Allen
Washington, D.C. – 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.
The Chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Resources has filed a report explaining the situation in Yuma. The report, which accompanies legislation designed to amend the Yuma Heritage Area in order to protect property owners, states:
“When the Yuma Crossing Heritage Area was authorized in 2000, the public in Yuma County did not understand the scope of the project and was surprised by the size of the designation… Concerns were raised by citizens about the size of the designation and the potential for additional Federal oversight. The fear of adverse impacts on private property rights were realized when local government agencies began to use the immense heritage area boundary to determine zoning restrictions.”
Thomas Jefferson was quite clear in his views regarding property rights when he wrote: “The true foundation of republican government is the equal right of every citizen in his person and property and in their management.”
Robert J. Smith adds: “No one supporting such plans and legislation attacking the underlying principles of a free society can conceivably then have the hubris to attempt to wrap themselves in the mantle of Mr. Jefferson’s belief in individual liberty, or in Ronald Reagan’s inclusive conservative Republicanism.”
“It dishonors 250 years of American history and freedom-from Abraham Lincoln’s genuine Hallowed Grounds in Gettysburg to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello mountaintop,” he said.
For more information on this issue, see “The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area: An Example of How Pork-Barrel Politics Can Threaten Local Rule and Property Rights,” by Peyton Knight, available online at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA540HallowedGround.html, or “Assertions vs. Reality: The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act of 2006,” by Peyton Knight, available online at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA548.html.
The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-partisan, non-profit educational foundation founded in 1982 and based in Washington, D.C.