Thursday, January 29, 2009
While news reporters tell us that the public is putting environmental concerns on the back burner during our current financial recession, this lack of national attention doesn’t mean that environmental steps in land use law are not moving forward –- more quietly, and often through administrative law and the courts –- at the state and local level. From El Dorado County, Cal., in the northern Sierra Nevada comes this week an interesting case about a small advance of environmental demands in land use law. Under an ordinance adopted in 1998 by the mostly conservative county, developers must pay (or mitigate for, either on-site or off-site) for potential harms to rare plants in the area. This is one of many interesting adaptations of the concept of impact fees that are working their way into state and local land use law.
The county argued in the case that the fee relieved a developer of having to do an environmental impact report under the state's complex Environmental Quality Act. Not so fast, said a California Court of Appeals, reversing a lower court. Although the fee serves to mitigate potential harm to rare plants in the area, it does not cover all the purposes of the impact report, which include addressing a wider range of plants and the effects that the specific project might create. The case is California Native Plant Society v. County of El Dorado, No. C057083 (Cal. Ct. App. 3d Cir. Jan, 28, 2009).
Monday, January 26, 2009
President Obama has promised as his one of his first major actions to approve the funneling of federal money to local infrastructure projects and other economically stimulating land use projects. But the latest word from Congress is that proposed bills would impose … now this is shock … a lot of pet projects that would do little to immediately stimulate the economy or change the face of American development. If the President refrains from using his currently enormous popularity and clout to make Congress bend to his will in this matter, when would he?
Meanwhile, here’s a less significant land use step that President Obama might be wise to take. There are reports of local governments seeking to change street names (and create holidays) to honor our current president. Honoring today’s politicians is always a bad idea. (Witness the wise postal policy that no living person may appear on a stamp.) It’s time for the President to nip in the bud this unwelcome manifestation of Obamania ….
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