January 15, 2011
Gypsy-Travellers & Land Use Direct Action
There was a fascinating piece on the radio in the UK this morning on the disputes between gypsy-travellers and settled communities (for a video see here) with direct action taken on both sides. This head-on collision over land use has arisen in the English village of Meriden where a group of gypsies attempted to construct a caravan site for 14 trailers on a field they own over a holiday weekend (giving them an additional day before local planning officers were open again). While these stealth tactics have previously been successful, this time gypsy-traveller ‘land activists’ were opposed by a human barricade of local residents who were determined not to let them build. Eight months later the gypsy-travellers continue to live on the site in their caravans (with sanitary facilities that were permitted to be constructed over the Summer) with both sides awaiting the outcome of an application for planning permission to construct hard standings and further infrastructure on the site.
These are longstanding disputes (gypsies were regulated as early as the Egyptians Act of 1530), with the nomadism and communal living at the heart of many gypsy and travelers’ lifestyles challenging a planning system based on sedentarism and individualism. Rights to camp or pitch caravans on open spaces have long been restricted with public provision made for gypsy-travellers on authorised sites, although there has been a widely acknowledged lack of provision. This situation has been condemned as ‘deplorable’ by the European Court of Human Rights with approximately one in four Gypsies and Travellers living in caravans without a legal place on which to park their home.
Disputes such as that at Meriden raise claims of unfairness, with arguments raging about whether ‘travelling’ or ‘settled’ communities are better treated by the planning system and why, if gypsies are traveling people, they need settled provision at all. The new Conservative-Liberal Democrat, responding to the concerns of their political supporters in the ‘Tory shires’, are about to introduce new rules on planning applications by gypsy-travellers to restrict their ability to apply for retrospective planning permission and to tackle the thorny issue of public provision of authorised sites. In the meantime, at today’s conference, no gypsy-travellers have apparently been invited to attend.
December 17, 2010
Fred Bosselman and David Callies famously characterize land-use in the United States as "a feudal system under which the entire pattern of land development [is] controlled by thousands of individual local governments, each seeking to maximize its tax base and minimize its social problems, and caring less about what happens to others."
Ouch. To teach this point, perhaps with less bite, my Property classes study Associated Home Builders of the Greater Eastbay Inc. v. City of Livermore. Can one municipality adopt zoning ordinances that incidentally harm a neighboring city? What legal standard ought to protect cities against such ordinances?
Our system that vests most land-use decisions in multiple local municipalities contrasts nicely with China's top-down approach. An article today in the People's Daily Online describes 12 Chinese cities punished by China's Ministry of Land and Resources for illegal land-use. Interestingly, China's Ministry of Land and Resources used satellite imagery to discover land-use illegalities and call out the offending city managers. My experience has been that students better internalize our system and its limitations when juxtaposed with varying other approaches - like China's.
December 10, 2010
Marijuana dispensaries are growing like weeds. The recent ABA article, "Up in Smoke," chronicles some of the chronic problems plaguing states that have legalized medical marijuana. This Blog has already noted Kansler and Salkin's article on zoning law and regulation of "dispensaries."
The fact that municipalities have regulatory power through zoning is part of the problem. Of the fourteen or so states that have legalized medical marijuana, none have a comprehensive regulatory scheme. California, for example, passed a very generalized statute, but local counties and municipalities are left with no guidance on the particulars. Vanderbilt Law Professor, Robert Mikos, posits that "no one has any idea how many medical dispensaries are out there [in California]." To reign in dispensaries, Los Angeles recently cut the number of allowed medical marijuana dispensaries to seventy.
Now that Arizona voters have approved (this past November) medical marijuana, the problem of uniformity and new zoning regulations again arises. Perhaps Justice O'Connor's justification for federalism -- that states serve as laboratories -- rings true for Arizona. In other words, Arizona may have learned from California's mistakes. A model ordinance from the League of Arizona Cities and Towns at least gives some guidance to Arizona municipalities as they struggle to implement the state's newest law.
April 11, 2010
Land Use, housing, and the Middle East
A couple of weeks ago, a land use issue became a flashpoint in the continuing discussion over Israel and Palestine. When Vice President Biden was visiting Israel, it was seen as an affront that the Jerusalem planning department announced the approval of a number of new housing units in disputed territory.
Then, when Mr. Netanyahu visited the White House, the press reported that his major prop was a "flowchart" purporting to show that the planning process in Jerusalem was outside of his control or knowledge. Apparently, he was rebuffed.
Now it's entirely possible that the announcement of the new housing starts was the result of internal Israeli politics. And it's never been a goal of the Land Use Prof Blog to wade into Middle East politics. But I can't help but feel a little sympathy with Mr. Netanyahu, if for no other reason than the fact that anyone who wants to build housing in the US must run a regulatory gauntlet so byzantine that the very idea of an explanatory flowchart would be most welcome.
What I really want to find out more about is, what is the process set forth in this flowchart? I have tried to do the research several times since this story came out, and I haven't been able to find this flowchart. I think that if a planning commission process flowchart is going to be a linchpin of global politics, we ought to at least be able to take a look at it! If you have access to the flowchart please let me know!!
All the same, I'm still intrigued that the leader of a major Western democracy would think to go to a meeting equipped with a land use planning flowchart. Just goes to show how significant these issues are!