August 18, 2006
What did Rapanos "hold"?
I vaguely remember a controversy back in the '90s about the reporting of the famous Lucas decision, which set forth a limited ground for property owners to recover from the government for a regulatory taking. Today there's another problem with the reporting of a complex land use decision. Perhaps the biggest victory for landowners against government regulation since Lucas is Rapanos v. United States, decided by the Supreme Court in June. What did Rapanos "hold"? For anyone who has read the case, the answer is clear: There was no majority opinion in Rapanos; Justice Scalia's four-justice plurality opinion was not the opinion of the court. But according to Westlaw (accessed this morning), "Justice Scalia ... announced the judgment of the court, holding that: (1) term 'navigable waters,' under CWA, includes only relatively permanent, standing or flowing bodies of water, not intermittent or ephemeral flows of water, and (2) only those wetlands with a continuous surface connection to bodies that are waters of the United States in their own right are adjacent to such waters and covered by the CWA." But Justice Kennedy, who concurred only in the judgment remanding the case, disagreed with this reasoning of the plurality. Isn't this reporting as to the "holding" incorrect?
August 17, 2006
The forests of northern Maine: Going, going ... ?
Northern Maine is in many ways the wildest and most sparsely populated area of the eastern half of the United States. When timber prices were low back in the '90s, preservationists suggested that government and private trusts could buy up much of the region, which is bigger than each of the other New England states, for relative pennies … before development came.
The news today is that a developer wants to get rezoning for a huge area near Moosehead Lake and construct the largest development in Maine's history. The day may not be far off when northern Maine looks like the Great Smokies or the South Carolina coast -- boom regions of recreational housing development within reach of the huge eastern metropolises, especially in an era of massive retirement. Here's a story about the Maine development project and the legal and lobbying controversies swirling around it.
August 15, 2006
Citizens split on Wal-Mart in Maine ...
[Wal-Mart wars, continued …]
Reflecting the diverse attitudes of the nation, a number of small cities in southern Maine have recently produced mixed results in referenda to impose retail size zoning limits, supported by opponents of Wal-Mart. The advocates say that they are trying to preserve local businesses and the character of their communities, of course.
These Maine downtowns are quintessential New England –- handsome brick storefronts pressed together in a pre-auto world, lovingly tended and bedecked with flowers in the short summers. But look more closely and one finds that things have not been frozen since the 19th century –- most spots are occupied by boutiques, coffee shops, and tourist-oriented craft stores. The hardware and clothing stores are long gone. Are today’s mom-and-pops truly threatened by Wal-Mart? Or is it more the visual insult that bothers the big-box opponents?
August 13, 2006
The risks of segregation ...
Here is another warning about the dangers of segregation, with a twist that might either be construed as very conservative or very liberal. The consensus of the mainstream media is that most of the plotters to blow up planes bound for the U.S. from Britain were emboldened by their social and economic isolation in northeast London. Land use and cultural segregation of cultures within one nation is a dangerous thing, as proven time and again, from England to Yugoslavia to Chechnya to Israel/Palestine to Sri Lanka to the projects of Chicago and New Orleans …