Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Even though the media is obsessed with the 2012 elections, it is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, and as land use folks well know, a lot of important law is made at the state and local level during off-year elections. Today in Texas there are ten state constitutional amendments on the ballot for voter approval, generated by the 2011 legislative session (Texas' legislature still meets only bienially--one of four remaining states to do so, and the only major state).
I'm generally not a fan of constant new constitutional amendments, for two reasons, one structural and one democratic. First, many state constitutions--like Texas'--are already bloated. I printed it out once--all 80,806 words of it (sorry environmental profs)--and I make the point in class by comparing the massive document to a pocket U.S. Constitution. In general, I don't think that most mundane policy issues should be entrenched in fundamental law. On the other hand, this structural critique can be countered somewhat by the argument that while the federal constitution enables the Congress to do a certain range of things, state legislatures already have plenary power, so state constitutions largely exist to limit the legislature--and then they need to be amended often to adjust those limits. But still . . . 80,806 words?
My second beef with the practice of placing a slew of state constitutional amendments is has more to do with the theory of state and local elections, and I don't like it for the same reason I'm skeptical of the overuse of initiative and referendum. What could be more democratic than letting the people vote, you ask? The problem is informational. I usually ask my upper-level state & local government students--a sample of pretty well educated and informed voters--which way they voted on certain amendments or referenda from prior years. Almost universally I get two responses; either (a) no recollection whatsoever; or, occasionally, (b) they voted with their gut based on a cursory reading of the ballot text in the voting booth. And if they remember which way they voted, it was usually "yes" because the text sounded like "good things," or "no" because the text sounded like "spending more money."
There in turn at least two reasons why even smart voters end up voting with their gut on these important measures. First, the ballot language is usually vague and fuzzy, and often is quite different from the actual text of the law that will go on the books. I don't think this is usually done to confuse the voters, I think it's the opposite intent--but regardless, the ballot language in my experience is usually so general that it fails to communicate what the proposal is really about. Another major reason, of course, is that with a few exceptions, these items don't get very much media exposure. So most Texans probably know a lot more about, e.g., the latest in sexual harrassment allegations against national candidates, than they do about the 10 items they are probably going to add to the state constitution today. The info is out there, but it's up to the individual voter to burn some calories and go find and read information such as the analysis by the Texas Legislative Council.
Now in class, we talk about whatever amendments and referenda are on the ballot, and it's a lot of fun. Students do class presentations, we have guest speakers, and so on. And it often turns out that a lot of these state constitutional amendments (and local referenda) are substantively about land use--from eminent domain to land sales, zoning, conservation, and more (which was going to be the original point of this post, before I got off on my rant). So I do my part to create a group of 40 or 50 educated voters.
But if that's what it takes, is democracy really served by putting all this stuff on the ballot, and in such a vague manner? I find more and more that people in general really do care about land use in their communities and their region. A lot. Yet in the cases where they actually have a say in the matter, it gets translated so poorly that most votes actually cast are probably not informed ones. So it's the people behind the scenes in and around legislative bodies that end up making all the rules.
November 8, 2011 in Constitutional Law, Eminent Domain, Environmentalism, History, Local Government, Politics, Property Rights, State Government, Texas, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Monday, November 7, 2011
John R. Nolon (Pace) has posted Land Use for Energy Conservation and Sustainable Development: A New Path Toward Climate Change Mitigation. The abstract:
Land use tools and techniques have impressive potential to reduce energy consumption, improve the economy, and mitigate climate change. This article explores the little understood influence of local land use decision-making on energy conservation and sustainable development and how it can mitigate climate change if properly assisted by the federal and state governments. The construction and use of buildings combined with extensive vehicular travel throughout the nation’s human settlements consume large amounts of energy, and much of that consumption is highly inefficient. By enforcing and enhancing energy codes, encouraging the use of combined heat and power and district energy systems, properly orienting and commissioning buildings, incorporating renewable energy resources, and promoting transit and other methods of reducing vehicle miles travelled, local land use law’s potential to achieve energy conservation and sustainable development can be unlocked. These techniques can be organized at the neighborhood level and aggregated by adopting local Energy Conservation Zoning Districts in neighborhoods where significant energy conservation can be achieved. The article proposes federal and state policies, combining features of both the Coastal Zone Management Act and the Enterprise Zone initiative, that can facilitate local land use initiatives that will shape human settlements and control the built environment as a new path toward energy efficiency and climate change mitigation.
In the footnotes, Prof. Nolon notes that this is part of a trilogy:
FN.1. This article is one of three that examine how local land use law that can be used as an effective strategy to mitigate climate change. See John R. Nolon, The Land Use Stabilization Wedge Strategy: Shifting Gound to Mitigate Climate Change, 34 WM. & MARY ENVTL. L. & POL’Y REV. 1 (2009) [hereinafter Land Use Stablization Wedge] and John R. Nolon, Mitigating Climate Change through Biological Sequestration: Open Space Law Redux, 31 STAN. ENVTL. L.J. (forthcoming Winter 2011) [hereinafter Open Space Law Redux].
This is a great set of articles for anyone interested in the subject from one of the leaders in land use and local environmental law.
November 7, 2011 in Climate, Coastal Regulation, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Green Building, Local Government, Planning, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Friday, November 4, 2011
As the cleanup in Joplin continues, another potentially deadly hazard has been uncovered, dangerously high levels of lead. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, “In tests of 43 properties, 18 showed high levels of lead, prompting the city’s mayor to ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for help in testing for, and cleaning up, the element.”
For more than 100 years, beginning in the mid-19th century, Jasper County was at the worldwide forefront of lead and zinc mining. The area included town names like Leadville Hollow and Minersville.
According to Dan Pekarek, director of the Joplin Health Department, a waste product from lead mining called “chat” was dumped in several spots around the city of Joplin, and simply covered with soil. Those sites we likely exposed when the F-5 tornado ripped through the city.
Additionally, in an interview with the Joplin Globe, Pekarek said “Chat was pretty readily available around here, and they used it. It was used as fill for voids around footings and foundations, and to level out crawl spaces.”
As if the poor folks in Joplin haven't been through enough! According to this news release the EPA is offering to enter a cooperative agreement with the city to test for and remediate the lead contamination.
Jamie Baker Roskie
Thursday, November 3, 2011
From the "You Must Hear This" Dept., we have a really interesting NPR report this morning on attempts by some citizens of the town of Dryden, NY to zone out hydraulic fracturing ("hydrofracking") as a means of removing oil and gas from local shale deposits. The report features commentary on crucial state preemption issues by Eduardo Peñalver (Cornell).
I think siting of hydraulic fracturing operations is a terrific subject for discussion in a Land Use, Environmental or Property law class. I even used a hydraulic fracturing hypothetical on my Property final last Spring to test on inquiry notice and reciprocal servitudes. Focusing on public rather than private land use regulation, this story frames the state and local government issues nicely. Enjoy.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Ashira Ostrow (Hofstra) has posted Land Law Federalism, 61 Emory L.J. ___ (forthcoming 2012). A must-read, this foundational work explores the theoretical framework for appropriate federal intervention in the state/local-dominated area of land use regulation. Here's the abstract:
In modern society, capital, information and resources pass seamlessly across increasingly porous jurisdictional boundaries; land does not. Perhaps because of its immobility, the dominant descriptive and normative account of land use law is premised upon local control. Yet, land exhibits a unique duality. Each parcel is at once absolutely fixed in location but inextricably linked to a complex array of interconnected systems, natural and man-made. Ecosystems spanning vast geographic areas sustain human life; interstate highways, railways and airports physically connect remote areas; networks of buildings, homes, offices and factories, create communities and provide the physical context in which most human interaction takes place.
Given the traditional commitment to localism, scholars and policymakers often reflexively dismiss the potential for an increased federal role in land use law. Yet, modern land use law already involves a significant federal dimension resulting, in part, from the enactment of federal statutes that have varying degrees of preemptive effect on local authority. Moreover, this Article maintains that federal intervention in land use law is warranted where the cumulative impact of local land use decisions interferes with national regulatory objectives (such as developing nationwide energy or telecommunications infrastructure).
Finally, this Article advances an interjurisdictional framework for federal land law that harnesses (a) the capacity of the federal government, with its distance from local politics and economic pressures, to coordinate land use on a national scale and (b) the capacity of local officials, who have detailed knowledge of the land and are politically accountable to the local community, to implement land use policies.
October 11, 2011 in Climate, Development, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Globalism, Green Building, Inclusionary Zoning, Local Government, NIMBY, Planning, Scholarship, Smart Growth, Sprawl, Subdivision Regulations, Sustainability, Transportation, Wetlands, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Friday, October 7, 2011
Anthony B. Schutz (Nebraska) has posted Toward a More Multi-Functional Rural Landscape: Community Approaches to Rural Land Stewardship, forthcoming in the Fordham Environmental Law Journal. The abstract:
This Article how farms and ranches can adapt to meet consumer demand for outdoor activities like hunting, wildlife viewing, hiking, or simply enjoying the solace of spending time in rural places. These places hold breathtaking landscapes, but they are often privately owned, relatively inaccessible to the general public, and have not been managed to produce the ecosystem services that support these activities, despite strong evidence of consumer demand. Historically, farms and ranches have been managed for a single dominant use, undertaken wholly upon an individual’s landholdings. Entering the emerging market for nature-based experiences requires that farms and ranches adapt from fragmented single-use businesses to multi-functional enterprises that cooperatively operate at larger spatial scales.
This Article explains how lawyers can help farmers and ranchers make such a move. It uses existing private law and Ostrom's principles of collective action to illustrate how these communities should be designed. It also offers some preliminary thoughts on possible areas for legal reform that would facilitate the development of these enterprises.
It also explores the relationships these enterprises have with the emerging local-food movement. As with traditional producers, the multi-functionality these institutions bring to individual farmers can be used as a diversification strategy for local-food producers. The income from these activities, in turn, helps stem the environmental consequences of using land for food production. In addition, the communities that may emerge within the foodshed and those that may emerge to support nature-based entrepreneurship are complimentary. Each may foster, and profit from, the sort of communitarian thinking that is necessary to the other, resulting in a more multi-functional and sustainable rural landscape.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Uma Outka (Kansa) and Richard C. Feiock (Florida State--Public Administration) have posted Local Promise for Climate Mitigation: An Empirical Assessment. The abstract:
This interdisciplinary work contributes empirical grounding to the growing literature in law and public policy on local governments and climate mitigation. Much of the recent scholarship presents an optimistic view of the potential in local climate action. Here, we refine the optimism for local governments’ impact with new performance data that probes local progress and capacity for climate governance. Our analysis – based on a new study measuring policy choice, implementation, and influences – calls into question a number of assumptions undergirding this scholarship. At the same time, it provides direction and support for targeted investment and research.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Jessica Owley (Buffalo), one of our excellent erstwhile guest bloggers, has posted The Enforceability of Exacted Conservation Easements, forthcoming in 36 Vermont Law Review (2011). The abstract:
The use of exacted conservation easements is widespread. Yet, the study of the implications of their use has been minimal. Conservation easements are nonpossessory interests in land restricting a landowner’s ability to use her land in an otherwise permissible way, with the goal of yielding a conservation benefit. Exacted conservation easements arise in permitting contexts where, in exchange for a government benefit, landowners either create conservation easements on their own property or arrange for conservation easements on other land.
To explore the concern associated with the enforceability of exacted conservation easements in a concrete way, this article examines exacted conservation easements in California, demonstrating that despite their frequent use in the state, their enforceability is uncertain. The three California statutes governing conservation easements limit the ability to exact conservation easements. California caselaw, although thin, indicates that courts may be willing to uphold exacted conservation easements even when they conflict with the state statutes. This examination of the California situation highlights California-specific concerns while providing a framework for examining exacted conservation easements in other states.
This article illustrates not only challenges of enforceability that arise with exacted conservation easements, but uncertainty in their fundamental validity and concerns about public accountability. This exploration illustrates that enforceability is not straightforward. This raises significant concerns about using exacted conservation easements to promote conservation goals, calling into question specifically the use of conservation easements as exactions.
October 4, 2011 in Conservation Easements, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Local Government, Property Rights, Scholarship, Servitudes, State Government, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I am saddened to hear news of the death of Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan who was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Maathai won the prize for founding the Green Belt movement, which empowered Kenyan women to plant more than 40 million trees. Although I haven't been to Kenya in 15 years, I follow events there closely. Having seen first hand the challenges women face in traditional Kenyan society - spending hours of their day walking for water, struggling for control over their lives and bodies - I have been so gratified to see Maathai's success over the years. She will be tremendously missed.
Jamie Baker Roskie
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Patricia E. Salkin (Albany) and Amy Lavine (Albany) have posted Regional Foodsheds: Are Our Local Zoning and Land Use Regulations Healthy?, Fordham Environmental Law Journal, Vol. XXII (2011). The abstract:
Governments at all levels have become increasingly interested in fostering healthy eating habits and sustainable agricultural production. Promoting access to locally grown produce is an important part of many policy goals seeking to address these concerns, and the concept of regional foodsheds has risen in popularity as one method to achieve these goals. Research indicates that community based food systems have the potential to address food security, public health, social justice, and ecological health. Food production and consumption patterns are influenced by a range of federal, state, and municipal policies, but meaningful change in regional food system policies is likely to start with state and local governments, which can take proactive measures to strengthen their regional foodsheds through a variety of land use planning and regulatory actions. This Article focuses on how existing land use plans and regulations can promote healthier and more sustainable communities through the foodshed movement. In particular, this Article discusses specific land use strategies that can be implemented in urban and suburban settings to facilitate local and regional food production and distribution that go beyond farmland preservation strategies and examine, among other things, smaller-scale community gardens, residential agricultural uses and farmers markets.
Friday, September 2, 2011
Keith H. Hirokawa (Albany) and Charles Gottlieb have posted Sustainable Habitat Restoration: Fish, Farms, and Ecosystem Services. The abstract:
The conversion of estuarine marshes and floodplains to agricultural uses through diking, draining, and filling has left little adequate salmon habitat and, as a result, has been a critical factor in the decline of salmon populations. Current efforts to restore salmon by reestablishing ecosystem functionality. In particular, it has become more common to include dam and dike breaches as feasible solutions. Of course, there is a cost involved in habitat restoration, even if it is not an obvious environmental cost.
This article examines the dialogue on salmon valuation by contrasting the historical view of salmon-as-commodity with insights from "ecosystem services." This emerging trend in ecological economics will play a critical role in justifying restoration projects and formulating sustainability strategies; ecosystem services valuation is showing that investments in natural capital can provide substantial returns. This article also provides a case study of the Smith Island Habitat Restoration Project in Snohomish County, Washington. Smith Island, which was converted to farmland a century ago, exhibits enormous potential value for habitat restoration and begs for an inclusive process that considers the voices for economic, human, and ecosystem well-being. The resolution of the Smith Island controversy provides an insightful example of how a sustainability framework can be useful in showing that restoration strategies can offer substantial benefits to other lands uses and interests.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Looks like as I write this on Saturday, Hurricane Irene has hit North Carolina and is poised to strike the Northeast tonight or tomorrow. It's not particularly strong (as hurricanes go) but it's incredibly wide, so a lot of people will be affected. I'm currently looking at a baseball game that was moved up a day for a doubleheader. Major hurricanes and their aftermaths bring all sorts of land use and other legal issues into focus (see, e.g., Robin Paul Malloy, ed., Law and Recovery from Disaster: Hurricane Katrina (Ashgate 2009).
But right now I'll just offer a few basic observations from experience living on the Gulf Coast. Growing up in New York I had no experience with hurricanes. Since living here I've been through the storm or the aftermath of Tropical Storm Allison and Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike.
The most important decision is whether to stay or go. On this question you should really trust the authorities. In 2005, Houston was the major evacuation center from New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina. Having volunteered to help with the 100,000+ refugees in person and being well tuned-in to the scenes of the destruction, suffering, and lawlessness in the aftermath, many Houstonians instinctively decided to evacuate several weeks later when Hurricane Rita bore down on the Southeast Texas coast. But the mass evacuation turned out to be miserable--or worse--for most. The entire state's highways were gridlocked, all the gas stations were sucked dry, and the majority of evacuees either spent 24+ hours on the road (in 100 degree heat) or got stranded.
Most local governments now have fairly sophisticated data on where storm surges (which are the most dangerous parts of hurricanes) are going to hit. During Hurricane Ike in 2008, the civil authorities did an outstanding job in communicating exactly which low-lying areas needed to evacuate, while the word of the day to everyone else was to "hunker down." This turned out to be quite effective. You can see that New York City has something similar with it's pre-planned hurricane zones and it's order as of this writing to evacuate Zone A. Ike devastated Galveston but loss of life was kept down and the 4+ million in Houston handled it much better than Rita.
If you rely on public transportation, prepare for it to be shut down. New York has already closed the subway. Don't plan to drive unless you have to. In fact, if you do "hunker down," get your hands on as much stuff as possible, particularly water, ice, batteries. Gas up and get cash now. Get some food that will last a week or more. Tie down or move indoors anything that could become a projectile. There are lots of hurricane-preparedness websites out there (even Louisianan James Carville has chimed in) so I won't repeat everything you'll find there. Prepare to be without electricity, internet, or cell phone service. If you have relatives or friends in the interior, it's a good idea to contact them now and ask them to serve as a "rally point" for communications or even to meet up with family in case power and communications go out for a while after the storm.
Bottom line, take it seriously. Don't assume that the danger is linked to the "cat" number--Allison was downgraded to a Tropical Storm before it hit Houston, and did more damage than any of the other hurricanes (just ask my friends at the University of Houston Law Center). But don't overreact by fleeing if you don't need to or without proper supplies. Go ahead and have that hurricane party, and bond with neighbors in the cleanup, but not until after you've done everything you can to prepare. Remember, it it turns out to be not as bad as you thought, that's a good thing. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Hopefully you'll all safely bid Goodnight Irene.
UPDATE: Looks like the storm has moved into New England towards Canada, and it turned out to be not as bad as anticipated. Great news. Some pundits will predictably complain that it was overhyped, but that's doing a disservice to everyone involved, and hopefully will not cause excessive underreaction next time. These are incredibly dangerous and destructive events, and once people start dying it's too late to change your mind and start taking it seriously. Better safe than sorry, and it doesn't hurt to have a dress rehearsal in an area of the country that doesn't have as much experience responding to this particular type of emergency.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Vermont Law professor and former Yale Forestry dean Gus Speth spent 48 hours in a DC jail over the weekend, protesting the plan for a 1,700 mile pipeline from Canada's tar sands to Texas.
According to this article from the Rutland Herald, Speth issued a statement from jail:
We the prisoners being held in the Central Cell Block of the D.C. Jail need company and encourage the continuation of the protests against the tar sands pipeline. … I've held numerous positions and public office in Washington but my current position feels like one of the most important.
There's a chance to join the Vermonters in their protest next week, if you're so inclined.
Thanks to Lora Lucero, land use prof at UNM for the tip on this story.
Jamie Baker Roskie
UPDATE: As it turns out, Lora herself was arrested Sunday as well...
Friday, August 12, 2011
John Echeverria (Vermont) sends along the announcement for the 14th annual Conference on Litigating Regulatory Takings Claims:
August 12, 2011 in Climate, Coastal Regulation, Conferences, Constitutional Law, Eminent Domain, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Judicial Review, Planning, Property Rights, Scholarship, Takings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Friday, August 5, 2011
The University of Georgia, Odum School of Ecology EcoFocus Film Festival is currently accepting submissions for their March 2012 Festival:
EcoFocus is a small festival that emphasizes environmental outreach and the potential of your film to inspire awareness and action among festival participants. For that reason, we select fewer films than the larger film festivals, but we work to maximize the impact of your film. EcoFocus is open to any genre or any style of film, and we welcome a variety of environmental subjects - climate, water, energy, agriculture/food systems, environmental restoration, green development and urban planning, biodiversity, advocacy, human impacts, lifestyle change, policy, natural resource scarcity, natural history, etc. We seek films that promote awareness, discussion, and inspiration among our audience members.
Find submission details at their website.
Jamie Baker Roskie
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Jonathan D. Rosenbloom (Drake)--our excellent recent guest blogger--has posted New Day at the Pool: State Preemption, Common Pool Resources, and Non-Place Based Municipal Collaborations. The abstract:
State preemption laws strictly limit local governments from regulating beyond their borders. Local governments, however, face a broad spectrum of challenges which cannot be confined to municipal borders. These challenges freely flow in and out of many local jurisdictions at the same time. The juxtaposition of limited local government authority and multi-jurisdictional local challenges has the potential to create inefficiencies and to discourage local governments from seeking innovative solutions to the challenges they face. In an attempt to help local governments avoid these inefficiencies, this article investigates whether municipal collaborations can help encourage local governments to address broad-based environmental, social, or economic challenges notwithstanding state preemption laws. The article draws on 2009 Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom’s work and applies it to previously unexplored questions of municipal collaboration. Guided by Ostrom’s research on place-based, individual private sector collaborations, this article envisions public sector municipal collaborations as forming around common challenges, regardless of geographical location. The article then proposes that non-place based municipal collaborations allow a reconceptualization of existing local government authority—rather than a drastic reallocation of authority from higher levels to the local level. The collaborations seek to capitalize on the power local governments already have without departing from existing legal paradigms. This reconceptualization has crucial implications for overcoming many of the multi-jurisdictional challenges faced by local governments.
The objective of the article is not to suggest one strategy over another or one level of government action over another, but rather to propose an additional forum for local governments to address pressing local problems. By changing the factors that motivate or discourage cities from working together, the article asserts that some multi-jurisdictional issues are best addressed through collaborations that are not confined by geography.
Robin Kundis Craig (Florida State) has posted Ocean Governance for the 21st Century: Making Marine Zoning Climate Change Adaptable, which relates to her forthcoming book, COMPARATIVE OCEAN GOVERNANCE: PLACED-BASED PROTECTIONS IN AN ERA OF CLIMATE CHANGE (forthcoming Edward Elgar Press 2012). The abstract:
The variety of anthropogenic stressors to the marine environment - including, increasingly, climate change - and their complex and synergistic impacts on ocean ecosystems testifies to the failure of existing governance regimes to protect these ecosystems and the services that they provide. Marine spatial planning has been widely hailed as a means of improving ocean governance through holistic ecosystem-based planning. However, that concept arose without reference to climate change, and hence it does not automatically account for the dynamic alterations in marine ecosystems that climate change is bringing.
This Article attempts to adapt marine spatial planning to climate change adaptation. In so doing, it explores three main topics. First, it examines how established marine protected areas can aid climate change adaptation. Second, the Article looks at how nations have incorporated climate change considerations into marine spatial planning to increase marine ecosystem resilience, focusing on the international leader in marine spatial planning: Australia. Finally, the Article explores how marine spatial planning could become flexible enough to adapt to the changes that climate change will bring to the world’s oceans, focusing on anticipatory zoning. Governments, of course, can establish marine zoning governance regimes in anticipation of climate change impacts, as has already occurred in the Arctic. However, drawing on work by Josh Eagle, Barton H. Thompson, and James Sanchirico, this Article argues that governments could also combine anticipatory zoning and closely regulated marine use rights bidding regimes to encourage potential future private users to make informed bets about the future productivity value of different parts of the ocean, potentially improving both our knowledge regarding climate change impacts on particular marine environments and ocean governance regimes for climate-sensitive areas.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
[This guest post is from Prof. Timothy Mulvaney (Texas Wesleyan), whom we've featured here before for his scholarship and commentary on judicial takings and on Severance v. Patterson--on which he hosted an excellent program in March. Here are his thoughts on the latest development in the case. Thanks!--Matt Festa]
The Land Use Prof Blog previously has included several entries on the long-running dispute regarding the Texas Open Beaches Act in the case of Severance v. Patterson (see here, here, here, here, and here). The case took yet another surprising turn last week when the plaintiff sold the last remaining property at issue in the suit.
At the filing of the complaint in 2006, the lawsuit involved three residential gulf-front properties owned by plaintiff Carol Severance. Following 2005’s Hurricane Rita, these properties ended up seaward of the vegetation line; after Rita, that is, Ms. Severance’s properties were composed almost entirely of dry sand beach. Ms. Severance challenged the State’s policy of removing homes that, due to erosion or coastal storms, now rest within the public’s “rolling” beach access easement.
In a 6-2 decision in November of 2010 on three certified questions from the Fifth Circuit, the Texas Supreme Court largely sided with Ms. Severance. The Court distinguished between (1) an easement destroyed by an avulsive event—which the majority held does not “roll” upland, such that the state must prove that a public easement across the “new” strip of beach adjacent to the post-Rita mean high water line has been established by custom, dedication, or prescription in each individual case, including Ms. Severance’s—and (2) an easement destroyed by imperceptible erosion—which the majority held does “roll” upland.
Yet in March of this year, the Court, at the request of the State and nearly two dozen amici, took the rather extraordinary step of deciding to re-hear the case. The Court ultimately conducted a second round of oral argument in April. Yet just last week, with the re-hearing decision pending, Ms. Severance sold the third and final property subject to the litigation (she had sold the other two properties several years earlier).
Upon receiving notice that Ms. Severance sold this last remaining property (notably, through a FEMA-funded buy-back program administered by the City of Galveston on the final day that she could avail herself of that option), the State immediately sent a letter to the Court suggesting that (1) the case is moot, and (2) the Court “should follow the established practice of vacating the latest opinion [the November 2010 opinion] before returning this matter to the Fifth Circuit.” Otherwise, said the State, the Court would be authorizing “a prevailing party to obtain through unilateral action what it was unable to accomplish in opposing a rehearing motion or a petition for review. … [the Court should not] permit an opinion to stand, by default, that was under active reconsideration.”
Counsel for Ms. Severance, David Breemer of the Pacific Legal Foundation, responded with a letter stating that the case is not moot because: (1) mootness cannot permit the state “to avoid a controversy over its property restrictions” by using those same controversial restrictions to force Ms. Severance to sell; (2) Ms. Severance owns another property in Galveston that was not included in her 2006 complaint but that is now subject to the State’s rolling easement policy; and (3) “there are ongoing personal and legal consequences to Severance” for which the Court can fashion a remedy.
In his letter, Mr. Breemer requested that the Court issue an expedited briefing schedule on the mootness issue. The Court obliged. The State filed its brief today, and Ms. Severance’s response is due next Tuesday. Stay tuned to the Land Use Prof Blog for updated information on Severance v. Patterson.
July 6, 2011 in Beaches, Caselaw, Coastal Regulation, Constitutional Law, Environmentalism, Politics, Property Rights, State Government, Takings, Texas, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Edward Ziegler (Denver) has posted Sustainable Urban Development and the Next American Landscape: Some Thoughts on Transportation, Regionalism, and Urban Planning Law Reform in the 21st Century, 43 Urb. Lawyer ___ (forthcoming 2011). Here's the abstract:
This article discusses sustainable development problems in the United States related to regional automobile-dependent sprawl and focuses on the need for devising and implementing growth strategies that provide people in the United States with affordable and sustainable housing and transportation options. The article provides a critical global perspective on the potential for creating sustainable neighborhoods of transit-oriented urban core areas within a metropolitan region and calls for the reform of the legal primacy in the United States of local zoning and urban planning controls which largely operate to require low density automobile-dependent living arrangements. The article crystallizes four major sustainable development points that highlight the need for developing integrated regional urban planning policies that support regional transit planning in the United States in the twenty-first century.
Metropolitan areas cannot resolve their challenges alone. Counties, cities, and suburbs operate within a national policy framework, and face challenges [bigger] than their own capacities. What’s needed is a new partnership between federal, state, local, and private-sector players to help metropolitan areas build on their economic strengths, foster a strong and diverse middle class, and grow in environmentally sustainable ways.
Monday, June 27, 2011
I haven't been able to blog as much as usual lately, and one of the reasons is that we just moved. It was a local move, but I'm sure you all know what a hassle moving is. But today, the move actually helped my blogging. It seems that the previous tenant failed to cancel his multiple newspaper subscriptions. I rarely read news on dead tree anymore, so I might not otherwise have seen this morning's front page New York Times Story by Elisabeth Rosenthal called: Across Europe, Irking Drivers is Urban Policy.
ZURICH — While American cities are synchronizing green lights to improve traffic flow and offering apps to help drivers find parking, many European cities are doing the opposite: creating environments openly hostile to cars. The methods vary, but the mission is clear — to make car use expensive and just plain miserable enough to tilt drivers toward more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.
Some cities have closed entire streets; some introduced stiff fees for driving into the city; many have reduced on-street parking drastically; bike lanes have replaced car lanes without offset for traffic; others have purposely added red lights to mess with drivers; Zurich's tram operators seem to have the ability to change the lights to their favor as they approach. (I'm trying to imagine how much a magic traffic-light-changing remote control clicker would fetch on e-bay.)
According to the story, and probably not inconsistent with what some of you may have observed, many of these European cities have dramatically improved in walkability, transit options, and quality of public space. How much the policies are related causally to the result isn't clear, but we can assume they've had an impact.
I'm not entirely sure what I think of all this. I'm a strong proponent of improving urban life by incentivizing higher density, mixed-use development and increasing pedestrian-oriented neighborhood viability and transit-oriented development. Love it. Still, I am hesitant to pursue these goals through policies that actually make things worse for some people on purpose. What do these policies do to affordable housing? How about people from lower socioeconomic strata that need to make their living from driving goods and services around the city? How do public shared bikes help women who don't cycle (and families with kids)? By all means, make mass transit better, faster, more economical. But purposely creating red-light patterns just to deliberately piss people off just concerns me a bit. It also would seem to thwart a number of smart-growth-friendly options that nonetheless rely on roads, such as bus rapid transit.
Admittedly I'm looking at this from the urban planning side more than the environmental side, but it seems the environmental benefits of these policies will be much more difficult to observe than the effect on quality of life; it's easy to see the quality of life in the very nice and improved transit-accessible mixed-use public spaces, but these types of policies would seem to generate a lot of external costs--on purpose. Maybe that's a tradeoff people are willing to make. But to acheive the same progressive land use goals, I still have a preference for a positive approach (e.g., incentivizing (or even just allowing) smart growth and new urbanism) rather than purposely making some aspects of urban life worse by degrading capabilites to make some people's lives "miserable."
June 27, 2011 in Affordable Housing, Comparative Land Use, Density, Downtown, Environmentalism, New Urbanism, Parking, Pedestrian, Planning, Politics, Smart Growth, Sprawl, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)