July 14, 2012
There is a lot of exciting stuff going on at CUNY these days. Not only have they got themselves a shiny new campus in Long Island City, the just inaugurated their new Center for Urban and Environmental Reform (CUER –pronounced “cure”). Headed up by Rebecca Bratspies, this new center is one of the few places engaging specifically with urban environmental issues. Such an endeavor necessarily involves land use issues. I was lucky enough to be invited to CUER’s inaugural scholar workshop. Titled a “Scholar’s Workshop on Regulating the Urban Environment,” the event brought together scholars from multiple disciplines as well as activists and policy makers. It was an interesting format for an event and I enjoyed hearing from architects, historians, geographers and others. I think we’ll be seeing a lot of interesting events and endeavors from this new center. I know I will be keeping my eye on it.
July 14, 2012 in Community Economic Development, Density, Development, Downtown, Economic Development, Green Building, Historic Preservation, Housing, Local Government, New Urbanism, New York, Planning, Sustainability, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack
July 13, 2012
Carousing in Connecticut: The Environmental Law Collaborative
I am just returning to Buffalo after three days at a retreat center in Connecticut for the first gathering of the Environmental Law Collaborative.
Besides my participation in this blog of course, helping to found the ELC (with Mike Burger, Betsey Burleson, and Keith Hirokawa) has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my young academic career. The ELC seeks to foster progress toward an adaptive, conscious, and equitable governance of actions that impact local and global ecologies by engaging the contemporary discourse. The goal of the ELC is to facilitate dialog among thought leaders on sustainable policy priorities, practical implementation strategies, assessment mechanisms, and cooperative analysis of science, economics, and ethics (which is frankly a fancy way of saying we’re going to get together to talk about cool and exciting stuff). We’re also attempting to create a venue for collaborative research and analysis.
With a plan for 10-15 of us to meet every other year to discuss different themes (and perhaps to periodically revisit earlier ones), this year we tried to tackle the daunting topic of re-conceptualizing sustainability in the age of climate change. As climate change continues to dominate dialogues in many fields of research including land use, sustainability is at a critical moment that challenges its conceptual coherence. Sustainability has never been free from disputes over its meaning and has long struggled with the difficulties of simultaneously implementing the “triple-bottom line” components of environmental, economic, and social well-being. Climate change, however, suggests that the context for sustainable decision-making is shifting.
Over three days, 13 of us (yes it is a lucky number) gathered at a retreat center in Chester, CT where we grappled with these issues while sitting outside under a sprawling maple tree and listening to traffic driving by frogs croaking in the pond behind us. Importantly, there was also swimming, hiking, and yarn shopping. We did not figure out the magical way to solve our climate problems or make the world more sustainable but the conversations really pushed the thinking of many of us and we’re planning to figure out a good way to share our thoughts with others. I have a sneaking suspicion that land use issues will crop up in any writing that comes out of this group.
Korngold on Governmental Conservation Easements
Gerald Korngold has posted a new article on SSRN. Governmental Conservation Easements: A Means to Advance Efficiency, Freedom from Coercion, Flexibility, and Democracy. It already looks to be an important piece for conservation easement junkies like me. Korngold explores conservation easements held by government entities. Depending on the jurisdiction, (1) government entities, (2) land trusts, and (3) tribes can hold conservation easements. I agree with Korngold that the character of the agreements and the concerns surrounding them vary by holder. Most writing on conservation easement has focused on holder (2) – and largely considering donated conservation easements. I have been working this summer on a project examining holder (3) and this article examining holder (1) provides lots of food for thought in framing that work and in considering where and when conservation easements are a good idea. Korngold’s abstract is below:
Over the past twenty-five years, courts and commentators have recognized and upheld conservation easements as an important vehicle to preserve natural and ecologically sensitive land, focusing primarily on easements held by nonprofit organizations (NPOs). During the same period, courts and commentators have supported property rights of owners against governmental land use regulation. This paper maintains that these two independent developments militate for the increased use of consensual conservation easements by governmental entities to achieve public land preservation goals. Governmental conservation easements can realize the benefits of efficiency, consent and free choice, and conservation, while avoiding the coercion implicit in public land use regulation. Moreover, governmental conservation easements have advantages over private easements in some situations: governmental easements may be more easily modified or even terminated to address future changes in conservation values and community needs; as with public land use regulation, governmental easements must be transparent and are subject to democratic, participatory processes that NPOs do not have to follow; and properly functioning governmental ownership may be best able to discern and represent the public interest when making acquisition, modification, and termination decisions about conservation easements. I suggest that both NPO-held conservation easement activities and legitimate public land use regulation are valuable and should continue, but argue that increased use of governmental conservation easements can bring significant benefits as well.
July 12, 2012
Letters from the field: Buying a share of utopia in Copenhagen
I’ve just returned from several weeks of travel, and thought I’d post on several items I saw along the way. The first of these was a utopian community in Copenhagen, Denmark, called Christiana. Christiana is on an island, Christianhavn, adjacent to the central city of Copenhagen that had been used for military purposes for centuries. When the Danish military closed a base on the island in the Sixties, some freedom-loving hippies and other radicals set up shop by squatting on the land, declared their independence from the Danish state (adverse possession is for sissies, apparently), refused to pay taxes, and otherwise have engaged in community- and ganja-based decision-making ever since. About 1,000 residents now call Christiana home.
There are several aspects of Christiana that I think land use folks will find interesting. First, after four decades of tolerating open rebellion in its midsts, the Danish government finally decided that it needed to do something about Christiana. You might be anticipating a “throw the bums out” approach; but remember, this is Denmark, not Rudy Giuliani’s New York City. Instead of mounting riot troops at Christiana’s borders, the Danish government sent in their lawyers with an ultimatum: Christiana’s residents could stay, but they would have to buy the land from the Danish government. But the Danish government did not demand the market price for the property; instead, they offered the property to Christiana’s residents for a song. In a sense, all the Danish government is seeking to do is to legitimate the ownership of the land; in other words, if Christian’s residents “own” the land, there is some acknowledgment of the government’s control and sovereignty over that land. But, of course, the Christiana residents disdain this idea of ownership even though they need to raise capital to purchase the land.
The result has been one of the most peculiar of solutions: a stock offering of nominal ownership that investors can purchase.
As the New York Times described it:
[Christiana's residents] decided to start selling shares in Christiania. Pieces of paper, hand-printed on site, the shares can be had for amounts from $3.50 to $1,750. Shareholders are entitled to a symbolic sense of ownership in Christiania and the promise of an invitation to a planned annual shareholder party. “Christiania belongs to everyone,” Mr. Manghezi said. “We’re trying to put ownership in an abstract form.”
Since the shares were first offered in the fall, about $1.25 million worth have been sold in Denmark and abroad. The money raised will go toward the purchase of the land from the government.
I found this struggle over the idea of ownership to be fascinating. After all, the amount the Danish government is seeking from Christiana is far below the market price of the land in the now trendy area of Christianhavn. However, what the government is doing is forcing the utopian community out of its stance of declaring “independence” from the Danish state, while Christiana’s residents attempt to use arcane legal structures to avoid sullying their hands with the prospect of “ownership.” Am I the only one who thinks of Johnson v. M'Intosh on these facts?
The second interesting issue in Christiana was a poster located on the community’s main meeting room, which establishes the community’s “common law.” A picture is to the right. Now, at first blush, this will not look much like common law, but rather a visual statutory scheme, or maybe even something like the Ten Commandments if written for a biker gang. But it was the kind of rules that interested me: they speak, I think, to the kinds of problems that must have evolved in Christiana over time: hard drugs, biker’s colors, firearms, and so on. Each of these rules, you can imagine, resulted from a particular incident, and so a “common law” evolved in this place where all decisions are made collectively. Such a common law speaks to the potentially rough nature of standing as a state independent from the protection of the sovereign. It made me think of the devolution of all of the United States’ utopian communities, from New Harmony on down. Is such a slide into anarchy, or the fight against anarchy, inevitable in such utopian movements? I don’t know, but Christiana remains, and it seems to continue to thrive despite its troubles. It eeks out a living on the sale of rasta trinkets and “green light district” paraphernalia. And even in this space where there is supposedly no sovereign, there is still some law, borne of hard experience, common to all. Its future, cast somewhere between lawfully-abiding property owner and anti-property ownership crusaders, between freedom and the "common law's" protections, will be interesting to watch in the coming decades.
July 12, 2012 in Aesthetic Regulation, Architecture, Community Economic Development, Comparative Land Use, Constitutional Law, Development, Economic Development, Eminent Domain, Globalism, Planning, Property, Property Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
July 11, 2012
The Thermodynamics of Urban Development
The Economist recently published a little piece on the persistent patterns spatial analysts continue to find in the development of urban centers. Some of them, such as the application of Zipf's Law to the relative sizes of the most populous cities, might seem familiar. Others, regarding frequency of social contacts within cities and regions, might connect you to research worth bringing into the classroom.
Land Use Travels: Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is a Central Asian republic halfway around the globe. It's a fascinating place, and my third trip here in the past 12 months. I'm not here doing land use; actually I'm on a federal government mission relating to international law. But you know me: I'm always on the lookout for interesting land use issues. So I'm planning to keep my eyes open and hopefully share some thoughts and observations about land use in Kyrgyzstan. I'll start today with an intro to the country and some preliminary thoughts.
Kyrgyzstan is a small Central Asian republic tucked in between China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan (map thanks to Nations Online Project). It has a long history at the crossroads of empire. From its position on the ancient Silk Road to the 19th Century "Great Game" to the Soviet Union to today, this little-known country has long had a strategic importance globally.
Kyrgyzstan has been independent since the USSR dissolved in 1991. It has a population of about 5.5 million. The majority is ethnic Kyrgyz, with a substantial Uzbek minority, as well as Russian and other groups. The population is majority Muslim but the government is secular. It has a capital city, Bishkek--where I've spent most of my time here--and a few other smaller cities, notably Osh in the southern region. Its geography is 90% mountainous, located in the Tien Shan Mountains and the Fergana Valley. This makes it a stunningly beautiful place, but it is poor in natural resources and its economy relies heavily on the agricultural areas. It is a poor country but has maintained a relatively democratic society, at least compared to other countries in the region; however it has had two revolutions and ethnic riots in the past several years. For more information on Kyrgyzstan see the State Department's Background Notes and the CIA World Factbook.
There are many potential land use issues in Kyrgyzstan. It has a long geostrategic history based on its location, terrain, and people. It has a capital city that was completely planned and built from scratch by the Soviets. It has a post-Soviet economy that is reflected in the maintenance of the city. It has some serious local governance issues. There is an urban-rural divide that impacts national politics. And there are of course land issues of environment, natural resources, and climate.
If you aren't familiar with this part of the world, the name may sound like a fictional place, but Kyrgyzstan is quite real and very interesting. If I have more land-use related observations from Bishkek, I'll try to share them here. In the meantime, Саламатсызбы!
Scottish "Frankenstein" Mummies and Land Rights
I probably should save this one for Halloween, but there's breaking news out of Scotland, where archaeologists have discovered a pair of 3,000-year-old mummified bodies . . . but it appears that there are more than two persons involved. From Yahoo News, 3,000-year-old ‘Frankenstein’ mummies discovered in Scotland:
Researchers say that a pair of 3,000-year-old mummified corpses that were recently discovered in Scotland are actually composed of body parts originating from six different people. . . .
National Geographic reports that isotopic dating and DNA experiments revealed the unusual pairing of body parts. The tests also revealed that the body parts were assembled and buried together more than 600 years after death, meaning that the assemblage was almost certainly deliberate.
Why would they spend centuries assembling these composite cadavers? It's not clear, but one of the researchers has a theory in land use law:
Meanwhile, fellow researcher and University of Sheffield professor Mike Parker Pearson tells LiveScience the parts could have been more specifically put together to show the connected lineage between families other time.
"Rights to land would have depended on ancestral claims, so perhaps having the ancestors around 'in the flesh' was their prehistoric equivalent of a legal document," Parker Pearson said.
"Merging different body parts of ancestors into a single person could represent the merging of different families and their lines of descent," Parker Pearson said. "Perhaps this was a prelude to building the row of houses in which numerous different families are likely to have lived."
A little morbid, a little amusing, and also a reminder that issues of land ownership aren't just historical, they might be prehistorical as well. Thanks to William Bozeman for the pointer.
July 10, 2012
CFP: Food Law at Maine
News of a great Colloquium being planned for next year at the University of Maine School of Law, via Sarah Schindler:
The Maine Law Review invites you to participate in its 2013 Food Law Colloquium. The Colloquium presents an opportunity for discussion and debate about the legal architecture of food systems in Maine, the United States, and beyond. To complement the Colloquium, the spring volume of the Review will be devoted to high-quality legal scholarship focusing on a wide range of food law topics.
The Maine Law Review seeks submissions of papers for oral presentation at the Colloquium and for publication in its Spring 2013 volume. We invite contributions in the form of articles or essays addressing any aspect of food law. Topics may include, but are not limited to: local food ordinances and states’ rights movements; the effects of the 2012 Farm Bill on small-scale agriculture; food safety and security; judicial responses to competing interests of seed patent owners and farmers; the challenges of securing financing for farmland conservation; administrative hurdles confronting the seafood industry; cooperatives and securities law; comparative analyses of food law frameworks; and emerging issues in food law. Although traditional, full-length papers are welcome, we principally seek shorter essays (roughly 8,000 to 15,000 words, including references) that will stimulate lively discussion at the Colloquium.
Draft abstracts and queries may be addressed to Aga Pinette, Editor-in-Chief, at firstname.lastname@example.org, no later than September 30, 2012. Please accompany submissions with a curriculum vitae, and indicate your willingness and availability to travel to Portland, Maine, to participate in the Colloquium in February or March 2013.