Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Eric Freyfogle (Illinois) visited in South Africa last fall as a fellow in the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study. During that time, he began work on his recently posted essay, Private Ownership and Human Flourishing: A Critical Review. A number of us Land Use Prof bloggers had the opportunity to hear Eric present this interesting work this Spring at the Association for Law, Property and Society conference at the University of Minnesota. Here's the abstract:
This essay surveys the many, contradictory links between private ownership and human flourishing and assesses the moral implications of this complexity. It begins with and ultimately broadens claims made by leading South African scholars on the need to reconsider longstanding ways of thinking about property, particularly the “rights paradigm.” Private ownership in obvious ways benefits an owner. But as explained, the links between private rights and human flourishing are far greater, implicating not just owners but neighbors, surrounding communities, the landless, future generations, and other life forms. The recognition of private property rights can both expand and curtail human flourishing. As for human flourishing, it is equally complex in that it is affected by many factors going far beyond physical needs. Property rights are created by law and involve the use of state power to protect rights by curtailing the liberties of non-owners and others. The only sound moral justification of this use of coercive power — this use of state power to help owners control and dominate others — rests in the ways a well-designed property regime can foster the welfare of nearly everyone, owners and non-owners alike. Law thus should not vest an owner with any power that does not, on balance, promote widespread human flourishing. Inherited ways of thinking about private property cloud these realities and distort inquiries into property’s origins and moral and practical consequences. Much of this thought is best wiped away with discussion begun from a new place, from an express recognition of private property as an evolving, socially created, morally complex institution that can both promote and undercut human flourishing, an institution that must be carefully calibrated to maintain its moral legitimacy and maximize its social benefits.
Monday, July 29, 2013
Attorney (and periodic adjunct professor) James L. Olmsted has started a new blog about land trusts. He plans to post regularly about changes in the law, emerging scholarship, and chime in on different debates and discussions in the land trust world.
Now admittedly I learned about his blog because he posted something about my scholarship, but this is more than an Owley/Olmsted mutual admiration society. Jim has long written intersting work in this area and been a regular participant at land trust conferences and on the land trust listserve. I think this blog will be a fun source of news.
Also -- if you are interested in this area, one blog that you just have to be following is the Preservation Law Digest. It provides great summaries of new case law.
- Jessie Owley
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
I have been lucky enough to find myself in collaboration with Amy Morris of Aspen Environmental Group. We have been working on three papers about the renewable energy development, specifically the utility-scale solar projects in the California desert. As often seems to happen, our initial paper got too long and cumbersome and we ended up breaking it up. Two of the papers should be out this fall (depending on the pace of the student editors) and the first is available on SSRN in draft form.
This first piece, Green Siting for Green Energy, gives some broad strokes about solar energy siting and some of teh environmental tradeoffs. Particularly interested in the tradeoffs with agricultural lands, we'll have a whole separate paper on that topic some day soon. Hopefully this short piece (presented at George Washington last April) will whet your appetite.
One of the weirdest things about this article for me: we don't once use the phrase conservation easement. Although we do say conservation a lot and easement a few times. Just not together. We do talk about solar use easements though, which are nowhere near almost as exciting.
Amy Morris, Jessica Owley & Emily Capello, Green Siting for Green Energy, 4 J. Energy & Envt’l L. _ (forthcoming 2013).
energy development is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Solar energy projects can replace polluting fossil fuels, but because
they are land-intensive, solar projects also have environmental costs.
Large projects have the potential to provide hundreds of megawatts of
electricity, but could also disrupt huge expanses of undeveloped land.
Arrays of solar panels on commercial rooftops or capped landfills allow
beneficial reuse of developed sites, but these projects are typically
small-scale (less than 1 MW). This tension between renewable energy
development and protection of precious landscapes (particularly desert
landscapes) creates a conundrum for environmentalists.
This paper examines the tradeoffs involved in siting solar projects, with a particular focus on California. The unique ecosystems and biodiversity in the California desert have made the tradeoffs between environmental benefits and costs of solar projects especially apparent. We look at the current hurdles for “greener” siting of projects in disturbed and developed areas, including the obstacles to permitting distributed generation (DG) projects, smaller-scale projects that may be built on parking lots or rooftops. While both large and small scale renewables are necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there are many opportunities for greener renewable energy siting. Greener siting must proceed on two fronts. First, as large utility-scale solar facilities will be an important component of a sustainable energy future, we need to improve the environmental review and sustainability of those facilities while being wiser about where we locate such projects. Marginal agricultural land and abandoned mine lands can provide untapped opportunities. Second, distributed generation with solar photovoltaics located across the state will be vital. The key to greener siting of DG is fostering the expansion of renewable projects in disturbed areas, particularly contaminated sites and rooftops and parking lots. A challenge of DG is the number of actors, permits, and environmental review process required. Facilitation and coordination of these processes will speed the journey to a solar energy future.
I am not sure how many of you are readers of High Country News, but it is of course the go to source for news about the West (especially if you are interested in land use, conservation, or rural peoples). I get it in hard copy because even though you can get it electronically, it is hard to beat seeing their large format magazine with awesome images. An article by Ray Ring from the June 10th issue caught my eye and I thought might be interesting to some of you.
In Paradise at a Price, Ring examines how conservation goals collide with affordable housing. He uses Jackson, Wyoming to tell his tale but it is a story we have seen in many towns. Jackson has some special challenges because of its high percentage of publicly owned land, but we see similar patterns in several resort communities. The story is a simple one. Beautiful areas attract people. Beautiful areas with recreation opportunities in particular end up with communties dominated by fancy vacation homes and amenities for tourists. Real estate prices are high. But all those tourists and Californians with second homes still need goods and services. The problem is that employees of the stores, the ski resorts, the hotels, and the grocery stores can't afford to live in Jackson. This means we need afforable housing projects. Unfortunately, in areas like Jackson the affordable housing projects compete not only with other private residential development but also with conservation efforts.
This article was not about conservation easements, but its description of conservation easements in Jackson illuminated two somewhat conflicting concerns with conservation easements. I'll give you the facts and then explain my concerns.
- More than 97% of Teton County's land is public (owned by federal, state, or local government)
- This leaves only 78,000 acres of private land for development
- Much of this private land is covered by vacation homes for the wealthy
- 1964 local planning laws established overlay districts, protecting wildlife habitat and scenic views. This restricts development on 48,000 acres (leaving only 30,000 unrestricted acres).
- Conservation easements prevent development on 22,000 acres. Most (but not all) of the conservation easements are within the overlay districts
- 20,000 acres are too steep to build on (I think this may leave 10,000 unrestricted developable acres but I am not exactly sure what category these 20,000 acres fall into)
- Restrictions throughout the county limit things like building height (usually nothing over 2 stores) and include specific rules limiting construction near things like spawning areas and swan nests
Okay, so now my concerns. Note, there are many concerns here about affordable housing which are obviously just from looking at the facts above and are well explained in Ring's article, so let me just look to the conservation easement issue.
- Conservation easements are part of the problem on the affordable housing front. The restrictions on development puts up obstacles for people trying to build needed housing. Depending on your goals, you may be okay with that outcome but most of these conservation easements are ways for wealthy people to protect their views and open space (often with receiving attractive tax breaks). I know protecting these beautiful areas is important, but when we let private individuals make all the decisions about what to protect ... it makes me nervous.
- Conservation easements may not get you a lot of bang for your buck. The article states that most of the conservation easements in the community are in areas already protected by overlay districts. This makes me really curious about what type of compensation or development permit the landowners got in exchange for the conservation easements. What are they worth if land use was restricted without them. Admittedly, the conservation easements may have additional restrictions and will remain even if the County changes the contours and rules for the overlay districts. I don't have information about these individual conservation easements, and I am sure the Jackson Hole Land Trust would be pissed at perturbed by my claims but I have seen several examples from conservation easements I have dealt with directly where the landowner receives a large benefit for agreeing not to do something she never intended to do.
Just some food for thought
Friday, July 19, 2013
Hannah Wiseman (Florida State) has posted Urban Energy, published in the Fordham Urban Law Journal, (invited symposium), 2013. The abstract:
The twenty-first century has seen important changes in the U.S. energy system, and most share a common theme: In some regions of the country, energy infrastructure is now located near human populations. As has always been the case; fuel in the form of oil, gas, sunlight, wind, water, or other energy sources must be extracted wherever it happens to be found; and humans have little control over its location. Energy companies must move to the areas of highest resource abundance and find available surface space from which to capture these fuels. Compounding this challenge is the fact that some of our most abundant remaining energy sources exist in low concentrations and are widely distributed. Sunlight and wind require thousands of acres of technology installations to be efficiently captured, and unconventional oil and gas resources exist at low densities over wide areas in shales or tight sandstone formations. As we tap these sources in ever more numerous locations, energy bumps up against certain human population centers. The city of Fort Worth, Texas, for example, now hosts thousands of natural gas wells, and San Diego has more than 4,500 solar projects. Indeed, with the rise of the Smart Grid; every American consumer could become a small source of electricity; sending electricity back into the grid from a plug-in hybrid vehicle, a solar panel or small wind turbine, a fuel cell, or battery storage. As the extraction of fuels and generation of electricity (“energy production”) become integral parts of certain population centers; the law will have to adjust; responding to land use and environmental disputes, nuisance claims, enhanced demands on local electricity grids, and concerns about equity, in terms of unevenly distributed effects. This Essay explores these new themes in energy law; investigating how certain populated areas have begun to embrace their role as energy centers; by addressing conflicts ex ante, creating systems for permitting and dispute resolution that balance flexibility with predictability, and managing the tradeoff between land-based energy demands and other needs. It also briefly proposes broader lessonsfor improving energy law, based on the piecemeal approaches so far.
Very important analysis; Prof. Wiseman (a former guest-blogger here!) has provided some of the most interesting recent scholarship on the new energy boom and land use.
July 19, 2013 in Clean Energy, Environmental Law, NIMBY, Oil & Gas, Planning, Property Rights, Scholarship, Sustainability, Texas, Urbanism, Wind Energy, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Well looks like we are about half-way through the summer (depending on the schools schedules in your family). Instead of embarking on a new project this summer, I have committed myself to finish up several projects that have been lingering. One project that is oh so close to completion is a book chapter I wrote for a Cambridge University Press book that Keith Hirokawa is editing.The book is entitled Environmental Law and Contrasting Ideas of Nature: A Constructivist Approach and I think should hit bookshelves before the end of the year. Keith asked me to tackle the subject of nature versus perpetuity, with a particular emphasis on property law. I easily agreed because the topic seemed a natural one for me, but then I had trouble with it. My thesis was: perpetual static property rules make little sense in a changing world. Perfect! The problem was that Keith wanted something longer than a sentence.
As I delved deeper into these issues (and I would be hard pressed to label my approach "constructivist"), I became intrigued with thinking about why we have perpetual static tools. Now, I don't mean how they have evolved. I have written mind-numbingly boring fascinating articles about that in the past. Instead, I was intrigued with what it is about us as individuals that crafts our approach to land conservation the way that we do. In this research, I became intrigued by a few different pschological concepts. In very simple terms, we are not good at thinking about the future. First, when problems and issues are too big, our brains simplify them to make them digestible (or sometimes we just ignore them). Second, when making projections about future conditions, we tend to be overly optimistic. Layer these traits onto a policy for long-term land conservation in an era of increasing landscape changes and you start to see why we have problems. Although the chapter considers other subjects (including how current property laws fail to mesh with lessons from conservation biology), the brief psychology discussion was the most fun for me. Makes me pretty durn thankful that I work at an interdisciplinary school like Buffalo where I could just knock on the door of the psychologist (Chuck Ewing) whose office is next door to mine.
Interested in checking out the book chapter? You can find it here and the formal abstract is below. Interested in seeing what else appears in this book? A few other chapters have been popping up on SSRN as well including ones by Mike Burger, Jonathan Rosenbloom, Robin Kundis Craig, Tony Arnold, and Irus Braverman.
Property Constructs and Nature's Challenge to Perpetuity
Conservation biology and ecology (as well as our eyes and ears) tell us that nature is in a constant state of flux. Yet, models of land conservation focus on preserving the present state of land in perpetuity. Legal concepts that center on the status quo turn a blind eye to the fact that nature is ever-changing. This conflict is illustrated by examining both traditional property servitudes and conservation easements. These restrictions on private land often explicitly state that they are preserving today’s landscape in perpetuity. This chapter explores the inherent conflict between the changing natural world and rigid legal structures, detailing the struggles of applying principles like resiliency thinking and adaptive management to property tools for conservation. It also explores why this disconnect occurs including some discussion of environmental psychology
- Jessie Owley
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
This past weekend I was in Southern California for a family wedding, and we had the chance to go over to the Getty Museum. It is a spectacular place for many reasons including land use and architecture. Right now, and through July 21, the Getty is featuring an incredibly interesting exhibit called Overdrive: LA Constructs the Future, 1940-1990. It tells the story of how LA was the archetype for American land use and development in the postwar era through the end of the 20th Century.
Amy Hardberger (St. Mary's) has posted World's Worst Game of Telephone: Attempting to Understand the Conversation between Texas's Legislature and Courts on Groundwater, forthcoming in the Texas Environmental Law Review. The abstract:
Groundwater is a critical component of Texas water resources. Currently, groundwater accounts for 60% of all water withdrawn in the state. Historically, the largest groundwater user was the agricultural sector; however, Texas cities are also increasingly reliant on these water sources. State water demands are projected to increase 22% in the next fifty years. Many of these demands will be in the groundwater sector. In addition to increasing demand, periodic and sometimes severe droughts challenge an already stressed system. Texas’s ability to provide sufficient resources depends in large part on their effective management.
This paper evaluates the Day decision through the lens of past court decisions and legislation in an effort to understand why the court ruled as it did. Part II introduces Texas’s groundwater resources, current uses of that water, and present concerns regarding sustainability. Part III chronicles the line of cases that established capture as the common law rule in Texas. Part IV traces the history of groundwater legislation after courts established rule of capture. This legislation created a regulatory overlay on the common law rule of capture through localized groundwater conservation districts and the statewide planning process. Part V describes the process through which the Edwards Aquifer Authority came into existence and why it is different from other groundwater districts in the state in that its strict pumping cap immediately raised property rights concerns. Part VI explains how groundwater litigation shifted from right of capture limitations to questions of when ownership vests. This change was a product of increased pressure on groundwater resources caused by additional regulations and growing population demands.
Finally, Part VII presents three hypotheses regarding why the court came to its decision in the Day case despite the case law history. The first theory is that delineation of property interests is an issue reserved for courts’ authority. Another alternative is that the holding in Day was a result of a statewide shift towards the protection of private property rights above other concerns. The final proposed alternative is that the Day holding was actually an effort to define the property right in such a way as to encourage more regulation or at least limit takings claims through the expansive of correlative rights to groundwater.
Interesting and important--Texas is a huge state with a growing economy and population and an energy boom, and water is going to be a critical issue in the immediate and long-term future.
July 17, 2013 in Caselaw, Environmentalism, Local Government, Oil & Gas, Planning, Property Rights, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability, Texas, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Sarah Schindler (Maine) has posted Banning Lawns, forthcoming in the George Washington Law Review (2014). The abstract:
Recognizing their role in sustainability efforts, many local governments are enacting climate change plans, mandatory green building ordinances, and sustainable procurement policies. But thus far, local governments have largely ignored one of the most pervasive threats to sustainability — lawns. This Article examines the trend toward sustainability mandates by considering the implications of a ban on lawns, the single largest irrigated crop in the United States.
Green yards are deeply seated in the American ethos of the sanctity of the single-family home. However, this psychological attachment to lawns results in significant environmental harms: conventional turfgrass is a non-native monocrop that contributes to a loss of biodiversity and typically requires vast amounts of water, pesticides, and gas-powered mowing.
In this Article, I consider municipal authority to ban or substantially limit pre-existing lawns and mandate their replacement with native plantings or productive fruit- or vegetable-bearing plants. Although this proposal would no doubt prove politically contentious, local governments — especially those in drought-prone areas — might be forced to consider such a mandate in the future. Furthering this practical reality, I address the legitimate zoning, police power, and nuisance rationales for the passage of lawn bans, as well as the likely challenges they would face. I also consider more nuanced regulatory approaches that a municipality could use to limit lawns and their attendant environmental harms, including norm change, market-based mechanisms such as progressive block pricing for water, and incentivizing the removal of lawns.
Prof. Schindler has been working on this project and presented it at ALPS previously-- it will serve as a foundational article on the debate that is going to happen (whether or not you knew it) on the future of the American Lawn!
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Darren A. Plum (Flordia State) and Tetsuo Kobayashi (Florida State-Geography) have posted Green Building Geography Across the United States: Does Governmental Incentives or Economic Growth Stimulate Construction? The abstract:
As green building activity continues to rise across the country, some state governments decided to create incentives that would motivate developers to voluntarily pursue third party certification for their real estate projects in order to assist in meeting sustainability and environmental goals. Despite the growing number of studies in green buildings, the geography of green buildings and sustainable construction only includes a few studies, which emphasize the lack of green building research from the spatial perspective and their relevance to public policies. This study analyses spatial distributions of certified green buildings in relation to governmental incentives deemed necessary to further environmentally friendly public policies that embrace sustainable construction practices while applying a regression analysis over time to determine the impact of such a course of action in relation to economic growth. This study focuses on each of the six states that applied tax incentives. The regression analysis between the number of certified green buildings and Gross Domestic Product in each state shows positive correlation between the two indicating an economic growth is a significant factor to explain the growth in green buildings.
Edward J. Sullivan (Portland State) and Benjamin H. Clark (Independent) have posted A Timely, Orderly, and Efficient Arrangement of Public Facilities and Services--The Oregon Approach, 49 Willamette Law Review 411 (2013). The abstract:
The provision of public facilities and services is not an exciting planning topic because it deals with the details of supply, rather than the grander issues of economics, social equity and policy. Yet these details occupy an inordinate amount of time and attention by planners, elected officials, and other policy-makers, and account for a substantial share of unresolved issues in planning law.
This Article sets out the rise of infrastructure planning policy in Oregon under a statewide land use planning system that began in 1973.1 In Part I, we give a brief history and description of the structure of that system, followed by a discussion of the evolution of state infrastructure policy under Statewide Planning Goal 11, Public Facilities and Services, and its implementing rules. Following this background, this Article will examine the application of that policy, particularly with respect to the mechanics (Part II) and financing (Part III) of infrastructure planning and its role in the reinforcement of the separation of urban and rural uses (Part IV).
Oregon is one of the leading examples of the comprehensive approach to land use regulation, and any study of the state's approach--particularly one from lawyers who have been involved in the issues--will be a valuable additon to the literature in the field.
Pamela Ko (Sage Colleges) and Patricia Salkin (Touro College) have posted What Every Land Use Lawyer Should Know About the Emerging Use of Health Impact Assessment and Land Use Decision Making, New York Zoning and Planning Law Report, Vol. 16 No. 6 (May/June 2013). The abstract:
The field of Health Impact Assessment is relatively new to the United States, but already a number of state and local governments are incorporating these assessments into land use planning and decision making. In five years, the use of HIA in the U.S. has increased dramatically with more than 100 HIAs completed or in progress in the U.S. from 2007 to 2010. This article provides a brief overview of HIA in the United States, describes how it is being used in other states with respect to land use decision making, and examines how HIA is starting to be incorporated into traditional land use and environmental decision making in New York.
Add public health to the list that makes land use one of the most interdisciplinary fields of legal practice.
Monday, July 15, 2013
William A. Fischel (Dartmouth-Economics; Lincoln Institute of Land Policy) has posted Fiscal Zoning and Economists' Views of the Property Tax. The abstract:
Fiscal zoning is the practice of using local land-use regulation to preserve and possibly enhance the local property tax base. Economists agree that if localities can conduct "perfect zoning," which effectively makes all real estate development decisions subject to a review that balances its benefits and costs to the community, then the local property tax can be converted into a benefit tax and lacks the deadweight loss of taxation. This essay argues that American zoning is closer to this ideal than many other economists think. The practice is often difficult to detect because zoning serves several objectives besides fiscal prudence.
Anything by Fischel is a must-read!
Michael Burger (Roger Williams) has posted The Last, Last Frontier, a chapter in Environmental Law and Contrasting Ideas of Nature: A Constructivist Appproach (Keith Hirokawa ed., Cambridge University Press) 2013. The abstract:
Increased temperatures associated with global climate change are opening new Arctic territory to oil and gas exploration and clearing passage for new maritime shipping routes. These changes are provoking a diverse range of legal responses in the international arena, where nations are staking new territorial claims and seeking to revise understandings of the Law of the Sea, and in the domestic environmental and maritime laws of Arctic nations. While these events provide evidence of an international competition over natural resources, they also provide a case study in how environmental law and litigation construct and reify dominant ideas of nature. This book chapter examines the particular ways in which the storylines and tropes that constitute the "imaginary Arctic" factor into litigation surrounding Shell Oil's attempts to drill for oil and gas in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. The Shell litigation is exemplary because it pits a number of well-established storylines against each other: the Arctic as classical frontier, the Arctic as spiritualized frontier, the Arctic as neutral space, the Arctic as homeland, and the Arctic as part of the developing world.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
The next annual conference of the International Academic
Association on Planning, Law, and Property Rights will be hosted by the Center
for Urban and Regional Studies at the Technion University in Haifa, Israel,
from February 11 - 14, 2014.
Details and the call for papers can be found at: http://plpr2014.net.technion.ac.il/
Please don't hesitate to contact the chair of the host
committee, Rachelle Alterman (firstname.lastname@example.org),
if you have any questions.
I attended this conference in Portland, Oregon this past February and was impressed by the quality and quantity of law and planning faculty from around the world. I hope to attend again next year in Haifa, and highly recommend it to our readers.
Patricia Salkin (Dean, Touro) sends word that Touro Law Center is launching a new Institute for Land Use and Sustainable Development. This is great news. And they're looking for a Director! Here's the job description:
Interested applicants should send a letter and resume to:
Linda Baurle, Assistant Dean
Touro Law Center
225 Eastview Drive
Central Islip, NY 11722
We'll all be looking forward to the new Institute!
This month's ABA Real Property "Professors' Corner" teleconference will focus on Koontz, the end-of-Term exactions that is one of the most significant Supreme Court property-rights cases in recent years. (Jessie Owley has discussed it here, and Tim Mulvaney and others have weighed in around the net). This Professor's Corner session should be a good one with several leading scholars participating. Here's the announcement:
Professors’ Corner: Wednesday, July 10, 2013: Koontz v. St. John’s River Water Management District: A Significant Victory for Property Rights?
Professors’ Corner is a monthly free teleconference sponsored by the ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section's Legal Education and Uniform Laws Group. Each month’s call features a panel of law professors who discuss recent cases or issues of interest to real estate practitioners and scholars. Members of the AALS Property Section are invited to participate in the call (as well as to join and become involved in the ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section).
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
12:30 p.m. Eastern time (11:30 a.m. Central, 9:30 a.m. Pacific). Call is ONE HOUR in length.
Call-in number: 866-646-6488
This program will feature a roundtable discussion breaking down the Supreme Court’s important June 25 decision in Koontz v. St. John’s River Water Management District. If “monetary exactions” have always seemed a little untamed to you, you’re not alone. The 5-4 decision in Koontz leaves a lot of room for analysis, and this month’s panel is prepared to guide you through it by parsing the decision and the dissent. Our distinguished panel will include Professor Jonathan H. Adler, who is the Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Business Law and Regulation at Case Western Reserve University School of Law; John D. Echeverria, Professor of Law at Vermont Law School; and David L. Callies, who is the Benjamin A. Kudo Professor of Law at the University of Hawai’i.
For those that haven’t already seen it, here’s a link to the opinion:
Please join us Wednesday for this great program!
July 9, 2013 in Caselaw, Conferences, Conservation Easements, Constitutional Law, Environmental Law, Federal Government, Property Rights, Scholarship, Supreme Court, Sustainability, Takings, Wetlands | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
It's the lazy days of summer, and while Jessie is busy blogging about important things like Koontz, I am retreating to themed posts celebrating bad deeds. That's right. This is the first in what I hope will be an occasional series celebrating bad deeds and surveys of land. I use the term "bad" broadly, but mostly to mean those antiquated techniques of measurement that give our precision-obsessed culture giddy feelings of how far we've come in the land business. Feel free to send me any contenders you'd like to profile by e-mailing me at millers at uidaho dot edu.
Today's bad deed comes to us courtesy of my colleague here at Idaho Law, Associate Dean Lee Dillion, a fellow former dirt lawyer who has been digging into family history and came across this gem. This bad deed is a nineteenth century survey of family land in West Virginia. Fellow dirt lawyers will delight in the use of poplars, chestnuts, white oaks, and cucumber trees as landmarks for the survey and the measurement of land in "poles."
Click on the image below to access a larger copy of the survey. And thanks to Lee for sharing! More bad deeds (and surveys) to come as Land Use Prof Blog tries to contend for your attention against other formidable offerings of summer beach reading.
Monday, July 1, 2013
The past few weeks have been exciting ones for Supreme Court opinions. Busily finishing a book chapter, I did not have time to read Koontz carefully until Friday and of course by that time, I also had a stack of blog postings and news articles to peruse as well by then (Note to self: Post earlier next time so I don't have to read everyone else's posts first and try to avoid repeating them). As so much has already been said (and said better than I could), I am going to highlight the way the case could affect New York law (particularly conservation easements in NY). I get giddy anytime we here the Supreme Court mention conservation easements even when well they aren't really talking about conservation easements.
As we all know by now, there are two intriguing topics in Koontz.
(1) Timing. I like to think of this as when does a takings become a takings even if that is a bit inartfully said. On this point, I think both the majority and the dissent get it right. In thinking about the life of a permit and associated takings case, we generally see a landowner trying to get a permit to build on her property. In exchange for the permit, the permit-issuing agency requires something of the applicant. For example, let's say you want to build on your 10-acre property that is mostly wetlands. The local governement may allow you to build on 2 acres as long as you restrict building on the rest of the property with a conservation easement. Nollan tells us that the government's demand must have a significant nexus with the harm. For example, where the landowner converts wetlands, the exaction should be aboout protecting wetlands or the ecosystem services provided by wetlands. Dolan tells is that the government demand must be roughly proportional to the harm caused. If the property owner is converting 2-acres of wetland to dry land, you need to make sure the exaction compensates for those 2-acres -- requiring creation of a 100-acre wetland park would likely be considered disporportionate (unless you could show that those were some amazing super wetlands that were being destroyed). Okay, so far so good. This has been the established analysis for takings in the exaction context for some years now. This case now says, what if the governement tells the landowner that in return for developing 2-acres, she needs to protect 8 acres and the landowner thinks that is not proportional (i.e., violative of Dolan's rough proportionality rule).
Could our hypothetical landowner challenge this as a takings? Note, nothing has actually been taken at this point. She had not actually given over the 8 acres.
I actually think that Justice Alito gets it right (not sure I have ever written that phrase before) here when he says, yes. It simply doesn't make sense to go forward with the project and then seek compensation for the 8 acres. This is especially true in the context of exacted conservation easements because they are perpetual. What would we do afterward if a court held that the exaction was too much? It would be pretty hard to change the perpetual conservation easement at that point and compensation can be challenging to calculate. Although I agree with Alito on this principle though, I think Justice Kagan has a better read on the facts in Koontz. Here, it looked like the Water District (the permit agency) and the landowner were in negotiations over what type of exaction might be appropriate. Koontz made an offer. The Water District made a counteroffer, but said it was interested in further negotiations. Instead of more back and forth though, Koontz jumped straight to the lawsuit. I am not sure how to figure out at what point we would say that we have the final word from the agancy and its decision is ripe for review, but it doesn't seem like this should be it. The agency was still in discussions.
It also seems that Alito and Kagan both agree that Koontz doesn't get compensation here, as again nothing was actually taken. Does he get his permit issued though? That doesn't seem quite right to me either. It seems like we should go back to the agency to get another round of negotiations and a chance to impose a proper exaction.
(2) Definitional. Now, this is a question that has been intriguing me particularly since I moved to New York. What constistutes an exaction and therefore requires Nollan/Dolan analysis versus just run-o-the mill Penn Central style inquiry. I have had severeal conversations during my brief academic career on what constitutes an exaction (with Tim Mulvaney almost convincing me that requirements to paint your house a certain color should qualify). Logically, it makes sense that anything we are demanding of the landowner in exchange for a permit is an exaction. Thus, anything that is not the permit application fee or something already required by another law should qualify. Some courts and commentaters assert however that exactions are only interests in land. This has been an interesting issue in New York because of a case called Smith v. Town of Mendon from New York's highest court. In that case, the court confusingly held that a conservation restriction was not an exaction because it there was no public access but because it was bound by precedent the court acknowledged that you could have monetary exactions. In a short piece written between oral argument and the issuance of the opinion in Koontz (for the Environmental Law Section of the NY Bar Association), I discuss the meaning of exactions in New York and ponder the potential implications of Koontz on New York's rules. It seems hard to swallow New York's definition excluding conservation easements in light of this opinion, which seems to read exactions so broadly.
Overall, it is hard not to agree with commenters who believe this decision just makes things messier for courts and complicates land use planning. Tim Mulvaney has a great summary of course, with links to others chiming in.