Friday, September 19, 2008
In a week in which the lines between private business and the government became blurrier than ever, it’s worth thinking about the line between land boundaries. Although we often think of property boundaries as being absolute, we know that one sometimes can cross the line without violating the law, as polluters one. But what about “sight lines”: Do or should certain property owners have a “vested” right to have a view of another location? Or, should a business venture have a vested right to have its business sighted by the public? What if government is doing the action that blocks the view? In Florida, the state legislature has enacted a law that prohibits government “beatification projects” with trees that block the view of an existing billboard. (The provision is entitled “Vegetation Management,” Fla. Stat. sec. 479.106.) And in Osceola, the local government was ordered by the state transportation authorities to cut down certain trees that blocked “view zones” of billboards. Now, I have never been a rabid billboard-hater; some billboards in fact provide visual interest. But if one constructs a billboard, as with any land use, isn’t the usual rule that one takes the chance that something else may be built next door, in accordance with existing local land use laws, even if it blocks the view?