Tuesday, April 8, 2014

McLaughlin on Perpetual Conservation Easements in the 21st Century

Nancy McLaughlin (Utah) has posted Perpetual Conservation Easements in the 21st Century: What Have We Learned and Where Should We Go from Here?, 2013 Utah L. Rev. 687.  Here's the abstract:

The public is investing billions of dollars in conservation easements, which now protect an estimated 40 million acres throughout the United States. But all is not well. Uncertainties in the law and abusive practices threaten to undermine public confidence in and the effectiveness of conservation easements as a land protection tool. This short article is part of a series of articles published in the law review discussing conservation easements, with a focus on what we have learned thus far and where we should go from here. This article sets the stage by describing the dramatic growth in the use of conservation easements, the various laws that impact easement creation and administration, a timeline of important legal and policy developments, and the recent surprising lack of certainty and consensus regarding what it means to protect land “in perpetuity” or “forever” with a conservation easement. The article concludes by discussing how the perpetuity issue might be productively resolved.
 
Jim K.

April 8, 2014 in Agriculture, Conservation Easements, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Historic Preservation, Scholarship, Servitudes | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Will the generous tax deductions for conservation easements stick around?

Potential tax deductions are one of the driving forces behind creation of conservation easements. The exact contours of the tax deduction (how much can you deduct and over how many years can you stretch your donation) has varied over the years. For the past several years, the deductions have been particularly generous.

Under standard law, individuals can deduct the value of the donated property up to 30 percent of their adjusted gross income, and any excess value can be carried forward for 5 years. But in 2006, Congress passed the enhanced landowner incentive. It allows deductions up 50 percent of donors’ adjusted gross income and over a 15-year carry-forward period. That incentive ended this past December. The consistent support of this tax deduction by Congress led many to people the enhanced version would be extended without struggle.

Perhaps not. The most recent tax-extension proposal from the Senate Finance Committee does not extend the enhanced tax deduction for conservation easements. Russ Shay at the Land Trust Alliance has hypothesized that the bill drafters may want to change the nature of the deduction, but are still likely to keep the enhanced deduction available to some extent. In particular, this might appear an attractive opportunity to remove deductions for conservation easements over golf courses, something both parties (and the IRS) have indicated their support for. Others suggest that a better approach would be to craft legislation making the enhanced deduction permanent so it does not require periodic extensions.

April 2, 2014 in Conservation Easements, Federal Government, Historic Preservation, Land Trust, Servitudes | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Is a Right-of-Way an Easement?

Turning old railroad lines into parks and bike paths seems like a great idea. When it results in things like NYC's Highline Park who can complain, but not everyone is happy about these rail to trail projects. In fact, it is the subject of a case currently pending before the Supreme Court. (This is not a case under the Rails-to-Trails Act but implicated perhaps thousands of miles of trails that came from rails).

Marvin Brandt is upset about the bike trail built by the Forest Service on an abandoned railway through his land. Brandt argues that the when the railroad abandoned the government-issued right-of-way, the feds did not have the right to create a new right-of-way in the form of the trail.

The tricky issue here is determining what exactly a railroad right-of-way is. When I hear the term ROW, I envision an easement. But as we all know there are some things out there that sound like easements but aren’t actually easements. The government argues here that these railroad ROWs were not easements in the traditional sense. However, nor were they fee simple strips of land given to the railroad. Instead they are some third category of property law that no one can quite figure out how to define. A surface defeasible fee subject to a reverter perhaps? Let’s break it down.

If it’s an easement: The federal government gives the railroad an easement through public land. The common law rules of easements apply. This means that when the railroad abandons the track in the 1980s (or whenever it was), the easement is extinguished and full unencumbered fee simple title goes back to the underlying landowner. This particular parcel is no longer federal land because the Forest Service swapped it with the Brandt family. Traditional run of the mill easement law tells us that the Brandt family (owner of the servient estate) should have this land with no dominant easement holder left around to bug them (or ride bikes through their property). This is what Brandt’s attorney argues. Not argued, but hinted at by Justice Sotomayor is that the easement holder was really the US and it temporarily transferred its easement rights to the railroad. Now that the railroad is done, it can keep using the easement for similar (transportation) uses through the Forest Service bike trail.

If it was a patent (i.e., fee simple absolute): The federal government gave the railroad a strip of land and the railroad owned that strip (or spaghetti noodle as the court seemed to like envisioning it). This would mean that the railroad owns the land for any purpose and once it stops using the railroad tracks for trains, it could use them for something else or it could sell them to the underlying landowner (or lose ownership via adverse possession if it stands by and does nothing while the forest service or underlying landowner makes use of the land). No one actually argues that the railroad had an unrestricted fee simple though. Instead, it might be that they had a type of defeasible fee (starting to give you flashbacks of your 1L property class yet?). That’s right, the railroad had a fee interest subject to the possibility of reverter. That is, the federal government had a reversionary interest and would get the land back if the railroad stopped using it for railroad purposes.

Now of course, it is not as simple as just reading over the grant to the railroad and figuring out what it said. Instead, we have several wrinkles. For example, there is an 1922 Act (postdating the grant to the railroad) explaining that when the railroad stops using the land for railroad purposes and it reverts to the feds, the feds should first use the land for roads and streets, then consider giving to municipalities, and if that doesn’t pan out give the land to neighboring landowners. There is a more recent statute adjusting that order of priority, but these statutes sure make it sound like the US had a reversionary interest. Of course, Justice Scalia pointed out that he doesn’t care very much about how a subsequent Congress interpreted the railroad’s property right. He is only interest in looking at the 1875 Act enabling grants of ROWs the railroad to try and figure out the property right.

There are some cases muddying the water including a 1942 case interpreting the 1875 Act, concluding that the railroad in question there had not gotten subsurface rights and instead had gotten something akin to an easement.  

There is also the tricky part of the land conveyance to the Brandts. The Forest Service swapped some land with Brandt’s father back in 1976. While the land conveyance noted the railroad’s ROW, it did not mention any reversionary interest. Leading the Brandts (quite reasonably) to believe that the ROW was just a standard run of the mill easement. Can an underlying federal law be in trouble where the forest service neglected to mention it in a land conveyance? Perhaps Brandt’s property lawyer should have researched more and tried to determine what was really going on…

The oral argument in this case is fun for land geeks, especially those of us who teach or study property and/or federal lands. The Court seemed particularly interested in figuring out how much lands the feds own and how much has been converted to other uses -- and what the implications of allowing such reversions would be. Several justices pushed the parties to try and explain how many acres or how many landowners were at stake. No one dared to put forth an estimate. I actually laughed out loud when the justices were shocked that the federal government didn’t keep good track of its land holdings and dispersals. They are so cute sometimes.

 

January 23, 2014 in Caselaw, Constitutional Law, Federal Government, Property, Servitudes, Supreme Court, Takings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Professor's Corner on Koontz

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

Passcode: 5577419753

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:

http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/11-1447_4e46.pdf

Please join us Wednesday for this great program!

Matt Festa

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)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Blumm & Erickson on Wild Lands Policy in the Twenty-First Century

Michael C. Blumm (Lewis & Clark) and Andrew B. Erickson (Lewis & Clark) have posted Wild Lands Policy in the Twenty-First Century: What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been.  The abstract:

The protection of federally owned wild lands, including but not limited to designated wilderness areas, has long been a cardinal element of the American character. For a variety of reasons, designating wild lands for protection under the Wilderness Act has proved difficult, increasingly so in recent years. Thus, attention has focused on undesignated wild lands, that is, unroaded areas managed by the principal federal land managers, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). These areas can benefit from a kind of de facto protected status if they are Forest Service areas that have been inventoried for wilderness suitability and not released to multiple use or are wilderness study areas managed by BLM. In the last two decades, considerable controversy has surrounded roadless areas in both national forests and BLM lands because protecting their wild land characteristics may foreclose development, such as oil and gas leasing or timber harvesting. Recently, the courts have settled longstanding litigation by upholding roadless rule protection in the national forests. But BLM wild land protection has remained more unsettled, as Congress recently rejected a Wild Lands Policy adopted by the Obama Administration. Despite this political setback, current policy is to survey and consider wild lands in all BLM land plans and project approvals. This promised consideration, however, leaves the fate of such lands in the hands of local BLM officials and to the political vicissitudes of future administrations. 

This article traces the evolution of federal wild lands policy from its beginnings in the 1920s to the enactment of the Wilderness Act in 1964 and the Federal Land Management and Policy Act in 1976 to the longstanding dispute over the Forest Service's roadless rule to the present controversy over BLM wild lands policy. We maintain that, pending congressional decisions on wilderness status, the best way to protect wild lands in the 21st century is through administrative rule, as in the case of national forest lands. Such protection, however, will require at least acquiescence from Congress, which has not been evident in the case of BLM lands in recent years.

Matt Festa

June 11, 2013 in Environmental Law, Federal Government, History, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Ruhl on Ecosystem Services and Federal Public Lands

J.B. Ruhl (Vanderbilt) has posted Ecosystem Services and Federal Public Lands: Start-Up Policy Questions and Research Needs, Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum, 2010.  The abstract: 

This Essay, based on a presentation at Duke Law School’s 2009 symposium, Next Generation Conservation: The Government's Role in Emerging Ecosystem Service Markets, briefly examines the emerging policy front of ecosystem services and federal public lands and proposes a set of key policy questions, research needs, and options for building on what policy work has been done to date. Part I outlines the basic context for thinking about the role federal public lands might play in the management of ecosystem services and why it is worth considering using the ecosystem services concept in public land policy. Part II proposes several key research paths that must be addressed before federal lands can be effectively managed for ecosystem service flows. Part III bears down on the different roles federal lands might play in promoting or participating in markets for ecosystem services.

Matt Festa

June 10, 2013 in Environmental Law, Federal Government, Scholarship, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day & Land Use

The U.S. tradition of Memorial Day has a long and complex relationship with land, history, and memory.  This post has some thoughts on the subject from last year.

Today was Memorial Day in the US.  There are lots of land use issues that we can associate with Memorial Day, which, stripped to its essence, is designed as a day to remember the military members who died in service to the nation.  There is the obvious land use issue of cemeteries, and the related legal and cultural norms governing how we memorialize the dead (check out any of the interesting blogposts or scholarship by Al Brophy and Tanya Marsh on cemeteries).  It gets even more relevant when we start talking about government-owned national or veterans' cemeteries, and the attendant controversies about First Amendment and other issues.  [The photo is from last year's Memorial Day ceremony at Houston National Cemetery, which my daughter attended to honor fallen Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Sauer Medlicott.]  Of course, there are always land use and local government issues involved with things like parades and public ceremonies, and in many communities there are specific rules that govern the "summer season" informally commenced on Memorial Day weekend.

Check out the whole post for some info about a couple of little-known and interesting events from the early history of Memorial Day and land use, including what may be the first Memorial Day celebration, by African-Americans in Charleston on the former planters' racecourse, and a U.S. Supreme Court case about eminent domain for historic preservation on Gettysburg National Battlefied.

We hope you had a safe and happy Memorial Day.

Matt Festa

May 27, 2013 in Eminent Domain, Federal Government, Historic Preservation, History, Property, Race, Scholarship, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Furman Center report on Housing & Superstorm Sandy

The NYU Furman Center has issued a timely report called Sandy's Effects on Housing in New York City.  From the announcement by Vicki Been and Ingrid Gould Ellen:

We are pleased to share with you our latest fact brief: Sandy's Effects on Housing in New York City (PDF) Our report is the first independent, comprehensive analysis of the Superstorm's impact on housing in New York City.

 

The study revealed some surprising insights into the impacts of the Superstorm Sandy. It found that low-income renters were disproportionately impacted by the storm's surge; over half of the victims were renters, 61 percent of whom make less than $60,000 per year, instead of middle-class homeowners. It also exposed the age of the housing stock affected by the surge; 82% of the properties hit by Sandy were built before 1980, before the latest flood maps and building standards were established.

 

The report also summarizes newly available information about the characteristics of properties in the area in New York City flooded by Sandy's storm surge, as well as demographic characteristics of households that have registered to receive assistance from FEMA. The study was released in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, who provided a similar analysis on Long Island and New Jersey.

 

The press release (PDF) and report (PDF) are now available online.

 

Lots of interesting maps and data in this report, which should be of interest to anyone researching law, land, housing, and disaster planning

 

Matt Festa

March 7, 2013 in Affordable Housing, Beaches, Coastal Regulation, Community Economic Development, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Housing, Local Government, New York, Property, Redevelopment, Scholarship, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission Report

I am just finished streaming the press conference for the release of the Bipartisan Policy Center's Housing Commision Report.  Led by its Co-Chairs, Sens. George Mitchell, Mel Martinez and Kit Bond, as well as former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, the Commission is offering a far-reaching set of recommendations regarding the housing finance system, public subsidy for affordable housing development and preservation (particularly in rural areas) and promotion of housing counseling as a vital resource.  Even if the Executive Summary is too long for you, I would encourage you to check out a two-page article available on Politico authored by the four co-chairs.   

Jim K.

February 25, 2013 in Affordable Housing, Federal Government, HUD, Mortgage Crisis, Mortgages | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Serkin on The State's Constitutional Obligations to Property Owners

Christopher Serkin (Brooklyn) has posted Affirmative Constitutional Commitments: The State's Obligations to Property OwnersBrigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference Journal, Forthcoming. The abstract:

This Essay, prepared for the 2012 Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference, argues that social obligation theories in property generate previously unrecognized obligations on the State. Leading property scholars, like Hanoch Dagan, Greg Alexander, and Eduardo Peñalver, have argued that the institution of property contains affirmative duties to the community as well as negative rights. This Essay argues that those affirmative duties are two-way streets, and that moral bases for social obligations also generate reciprocal obligations on the State to protect property owners. The social obligation theories rely upon a dynamic not static vision of property rights. The community’s needs change, the conditions of ownership change, and the appropriate allocation of benefits and burdens within a society changes over time. Therefore, a legal obligation that is justified and permissible at the time it is enacted because it is consistent with moral obligations may become impermissible over time, even if the content of the legal obligation does not change. At the extreme, the State’s failure to respond to certain kinds of changes in the world can lead to a regulatory taking.

An interesting and important take on some of the implications of progressive property theory.  Especially interesting is Serkin's appreciation for the changing social notions of property over time, and how that challenges static notions of property rights and obligations.

Matt Festa

February 20, 2013 in Conferences, Constitutional Law, Federal Government, History, Property, Property Rights, Property Theory, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Missouri Law Conference on Promoting Sustainable Energy through Tax Policy

The University of Missouri School of Law is hosting a Symposium on February 22, 2013, called Promoting Sustainable Energy through Tax Policy.  Sponsored by the Journal of Environmental and Sustainability Law and the Missouri Tax Law Society, the event will be introduced by Mizzou profs Michelle Arnopol Cecil and our own guest blogger Troy Rule, and features panels with Alexandra Klass (Minnesota), Steve Gaw (The Wind Coalition), Felix Mormann (Miami), Roberta Mann (Oregon), Robert Peroni (Texas), with a keynote by David Weisbach (Chicago).  Here's the info and link:

Renewable energy and sustainable development are valuable means of combatting climate change and of reducing the nation’s reliance on foreign energy sources. Recognizing the importance of sustainable energy, state and federal policymakers have employed aggressive tax incentive programs to stimulate unprecedented growth in wind energy, solar energy, biomass, green building, and related industries in recent years. Unfortunately, shortfalls in many state budgets and growing concerns about the national debt are now creating pressure for governments to extinguish these tax programs — a move that could bring progress in the nation’s fledgling sustainable energy sector to a grinding halt.

This year’s Journal of Environmental and Sustainability Law symposium is being sponsored jointly with the University of Missouri Tax Law Society. The symposium explores questions about the long-term role of tax policy as a tool for promoting renewable energy and sustainability in the United States.

Cost and Registration

The symposium is free and open to the public.
Registration is suggested by Friday, February 15.

To register, please contact:
Journal of Environmental and Sustainability Law
University of Missouri School of Law
12E Hulston Hall
Columbia, MO 65211
[email protected]

More Information on 2013 JESL Symposium

Matt Festa

February 13, 2013 in Clean Energy, Climate, Conferences, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Local Government, Oil & Gas, Politics, Scholarship, State Government, Wind Energy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Craig on Treating Offshore Submerged Lands as Public Lands

Robin Kundis Craig (Utah) has posted Treating Offshore Submerged Lands as Public Lands: An Historical Perspective, forthcoming in Public Land & Resources Review (2013).  The abstract:

When President Harry Truman proclaimed federal control over the United States’s continental shelf in 1945, he did so primarily to secure the energy resources — oil and gas — embedded in those submerged lands. Nevertheless, the mineral wealth of the continental shelf spurred two critical legal battles over their control and disposition: First, whether the federal government had any interest in the first three miles of continental shelf; and second, if so, whether the federal government had authority to regulate the continental shelf under traditional federal public land laws, such as the Minerals Leasing Act. Congress’s reactions to federal courts’ resolutions of these questions, embodied in 1953 in the Submerged Lands Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, continue to provide the foundations for state and federal management of the nation’s continental shelf and its energy resources.

Nevertheless, the Outer Continental Shelf’s status as federal public lands remains ambiguous. This
Article takes an historical approach to assessing that issue, reviewing the traditional definition of federal “public lands” and the historical context of the public lands issues that arose for the Outer Continental Shelf. It concludes that the Outer Continental Shelf, from a natural resources perspective, qualifies as the newest of the federal public lands, but it also acknowledges that — unlike for many other public lands — federal statutes repeatedly and consistently exclude the states from gaining ownership of those submerged lands.

Matt Festa

January 1, 2013 in Environmental Law, Federal Government, History, Oil & Gas, Property, Scholarship, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Adler on Merrill on "Fear of Fracking"

Yesterday, Case Western Reserve University School of Law hosted a symposium called The Law and Policy of Hydraulic Fracturing: Addressing the Issues of the Natural Gas Boom.  As Steve noted on Property Prof, Professor Thomas Merrill (Columbia) was slated to give the keynote.  Case Western's Jonathan Adler was part of the event, and he posted an extensive commentary on Merrill's remarks over on the Volokh Conspiracy.  Looks like it was a fascinating talk with lots of observations on how to deal with the potential environmental impacts of fracking, and a perhaps counterintuitive suggestion on the possible upside of the gas boom with respect to climate change.  But here, I'll focus on some of Merrill's observations on why fracking developed in the U.S., because it may have a lot to do with property law and land use regulation.  As Adler describes:

Why did fracking arise in the United States? Contrary to some analysts, Professor Merrill does not believe it is attributable to federally funded research and development. . . .

Professor Merrill also doubts industry structure has much to do with fracking’s rise either. . . .

A more likely factor is the way U.S. law treats subsurface rights. The U.S. is something of an outlier in that subsurface minerals are the property of the landowner, and not the government. This results in decentralized ownership and control over subsurface rights facilitates experimentation and innovation in figuring out how to exploit and manage subsurface resources.

Further decentralization, and experimentation, results from the federalist regulatory structure. Different states have different regulatory approaches than others, creating opportunities for further innovation and the opportunity for jurisdictions to learn from one another. The existence of a few jurisdictions that will allow a new technology to be tried provides a laboratory from which others may learn, whereas under a more centralized regulatory structure such innovation is unlikely to get off the ground.

The existence of a relatively open infrastructure network – a pipeline system that is subject to common-carrier rules – also plays a role in facilitating entry into the market. These factors have a common theme: decentralization. Taken together, Merrill suggests, they are the most likely source of fracking’s rise in the United States.

Looks like another fascinating event, with participation from a number of land use, environmental, and energy scholars on the subsequent panels.  I look forward to the symposium isse in the Case Western Law Review. 

Matt Festa

November 17, 2012 in Clean Energy, Climate, Comparative Land Use, Conferences, Environmental Law, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Lectures, Oil & Gas, Property, Property Rights, Scholarship, Water | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Johnson on the Economic Crisis, Homeownership, and Race

Marcia Johnson (Texas Southern) has posted Will the Current Economic Crisis Fuel a Return to Racial Policies that Deny Homeownership Opportunity and Wealth to African Americans?, published in The Modern American, Volume 6, Issue 1, Spring 2010.  From the introduction:

Perhaps the greatest threat to the continued realization of the American dream is the latest economic crisis rooted in the sub-prime mortgage collapse.12 Some blame the CRA of 1977 for creating a market that they claim provided housing loans to noncreditworthy borrowers – particularly African American families – in the low and moderate income range.13 However, this charge is without direct factual support as the post-CRA period saw a decline in homeownership for African Americans but a mild increase for White homeowners.14 Illegal and fraudulent practices in property appraisals and income reporting directed program benefi ts away from those the program was meant to aid. . . .

This paper is written to examine the potential effect of the market collapse on our nation’s homeownership policies. Part I reviews America’s historical housing and homeownership policies. Part II considers the expansion of homeownership opportunities to historically non-participating communities, particularly the African American community. Part III reviews the culprits of the economic crash of 2008 and explains why sub-prime borrowers often get blamed. Part IV examines solutions to maintain America’s pro-homeownership policy, and Part V concludes that America’s homeownership policy should continue to be vigorously pursued with a goal of including African Americans who have long been excluded by government policies and sanctions from building wealth and thereby stabilizing their communities.

Matt Festa

October 19, 2012 in Federal Government, History, Housing, Houston, Race, Real Estate Transactions, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hirokawa on Euclid to Federal Environmental Law in Northern Ohio

Keith Hirokawa (Albany) has posted From Euclid to the Development of Federal Environmental Law: The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio and the Regulation of Physical Space, forthcoming in Justice and Legal Change on the Shores of Lake Erie: A History of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Paul Finkelman and Roberta Alexander, eds., (2012, Ohio University Press).  The abstract:

In 1969, the Cuyahoga River burned. Although it was not the first time that the River was in need of assistance, it was the 1969 fire that helped to compel a radical transformation in the way that we interact with the environment. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio was not called upon to adjudicate the liabilities resulting from this pivotal event. But in the years preceding the Cuyahoga fire, the district court was asked to navigate conflicting jurisprudential approaches to the use of land, air, and water. This chapter explores a handful of these cases in order to illustrate the nation's struggle over suspicious conceptions of economic advantage and fairness, flexible distinctions of private and public property, and evolving ideas of nature and health. The chapter begins with the 1924 decision in Ambler Realty Corporation v. Village of Euclid, which remains the most famous challenge to the constitutionality of zoning regulations. It then turns to the 1930 decision in Swetland v. Curtiss Airports Corporation, where the district court addressed the inevitable limitations in property rights above land following the advancement of powered human flight. Finally, it considers an opinion released on the eve of the Cuyahoga River fire, when the court was asked to choose between saving a town and protecting railroad operations in Biechelle v. Norfolk Western Railway Company. Although the district court's decisions in these controversies do not bear the indelible character that we often attribute to law, the federal district courts for the Northern District of Ohio contributed to a legal framework in which the fire could occur and, perhaps more significantly, in which the fire could be perceived as an important event.

It's true that Northern Ohio has been at the forefront of the development of modern land use law!  Land use and legal history are more connected than might be apparent.  The entire volume looks worth reading.

Matt Festa

October 16, 2012 in Environmental Law, Federal Government, History, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Proposed Final Settlement in Baltimore Fair Housing Case

The Baltimore Sun reported this past weekend on the proposed final settlement in Thompson v. HUD, a fair housing case that dates to 1995. 

The case arose when the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland sued HUD, saying that it demolished old public housing high-rises where mostly African-Americans lived — only to move the residents to equally segregated housing and poor conditions in other parts of the city.

Attorneys for the residents said Friday that the government in effect “perpetually locked” African-American families in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, violating federal civil right laws. The settlement, which would cover all claims in the case, was filed in conjunction with Baltimore City and the Housing Authority of Baltimore City.

As the Legal Defense Fund, which worked with the ACLU on the case, notes in its press release, the court had ruled in 2005 “that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) violated the Fair Housing Act by unfairly concentrating African-American public housing residents in the most impoverished, segregated areas of Baltimore City.  Judge Garbis held that HUD must take a regional approach to promoting fair housing opportunities throughout the Baltimore Region.” 

The settlement requires HUD to allocated money towards expansion of the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program, which has been in place since a partial settlement in the 1990s.  The program has enabled over 1,800 families to move to neighborhoods in other parts of the city and to surrounding suburbs.  Under the settlement, the program will, among other things, fund vouchers and counseling over the next seven years for up to 2,600 additional families.

The case is particularly interesting given its regional approach to questions of housing and segregation.  Housing vouchers can be used throughout the region, enabling participants to voluntarily move to suburban areas with greater employment and educational opportunity.  The program provides extensive housing counseling and mobility assistance to aid families interested in moving to lower-poverty neighborhoods.  For more details, see this  2009 report discussing the progress of the program at that time. 

John Infranca

August 29, 2012 in Affordable Housing, Federal Government, Housing, HUD, Local Government, Race, Suburbs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Stern on Property's Constitution

James Y. Stern (Virginia) has posted Property's Constitution, forthcoming in the California Law Review.  The abstract:

Long-standing disagreements over the meaning of property as a matter of legal theory present a
special problem in constitutional law. The Due Process and Takings Clauses set forth individual rights that can only be asserted if “property” is at stake. Yet the leading cases interpreting constitutional property doctrines have never managed to articulate a coherent general view of property and in some instances reach opposite conclusions about its meaning. Most notably, government benefits are considered “property” for purposes of due process but not takings doctrines, a conflict the cases acknowledge but do not attempt to explain.

This Article offers a way to bring order to the confused treatment of property in constitutional law. It shows how a single definition of property can be adopted for all of the major constitutional property doctrines without the calamitous results that many seem to fear. It begins by arguing that property is best understood as the right to have some measure of legal control over the way a particular item is used, control that comes at the expense of all other people. It then argues that legal rights are a kind of private property and that, while courts and commentators are correct that legal entitlements to government benefits — so-called “new property” — should receive constitutional protection, they mistakenly believe the property at issue is the good that a recipient has a right to receive, rather than the legal right to receive it. The Article proceeds to show that legal rights are the only kind of things whose existence government can altogether extinguish and therefore that ownership of legal rights is the only kind of property right government can terminate without conferring equivalent property rights on others. The Article further argues that while due process protection should be read to apply whenever a person is denied an asserted property right (a deprivation), takings protection should only come into play when property rights are transferred from one party to another (a taking). Combining these observations, the Article concludes that termination not only of “new property” rights but also of old-fashioned in personam legal rights should trigger due process but not takings protection. This analysis provides theoretical coherence to constitutional doctrine that has thus far been lacking and it sheds light on the essential characteristics of property rights as a general matter, helping theoreticians understand more clearly the core structures of property law.

Matt Festa

August 24, 2012 in Constitutional Law, Federal Government, Property, Property Rights, Property Theory, Scholarship, Takings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bauer on Age-Restricted Communities and Civil Rights Laws & Regulation

Mark D. Bauer (Stetson) has posted ‘Peter Pan’ as Public Policy: Should Fifty-Five-Plus Age-Restricted Communities Continue to Be Exempt from Civil Rights Laws and Substantive Federal Regulation?  The abstract:

Although millions of Americans live in 55-plus age-restricted housing, little research has been done to determine whether these communities benefit their residents, or the nation as a whole. This is particularly ironic because these communities exist in contravention to anti-discrimination laws by virtue of a specific exemption granted to real estate developers by an Act of Congress. Ordinarily age discrimination is prohibited by the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Successful lobbying by special interest groups carved out an exemption for 55-plus housing.

The original exemption required developers to offer elders special services and facilities in these communities in return for the exemption. Over time, those requirements were eliminated and now the only requirement is that these communities exclude families and children.

While lifestyles focused on golf and tennis may be attractive to younger retirees, older Americans often find themselves in communities bereft of the services and facilities they need for basic life activities and safety. The very nature of these communities result in elders left with depreciating homes, and many are without the financial means to retrofit their 55-plus home or to move into a community better adapted for their needs. This Article explores a popular form of “senior housing” that is unsuitable for most older Americans.

Matt Festa

August 19, 2012 in Community Design, Constitutional Law, Development, Federal Government, History, Homeowners Associations, Housing, HUD, Real Estate Transactions, Scholarship, Sun Belt | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Krakoff & Rosser book on Tribes, Land, & the Environment

Sarah Krakoff (Colorado) and Ezra Rosser (American U) have posted Tribes, Land, and the Environment (Introduction), the intro to their new book TRIBES, LAND, AND THE ENVIRONMENT, Sarah Krakoff & Ezra Rosser eds., Published by Ashgate, ISBN 978-1-4094-2062-0, 2012.  The abstract:

About the book: Legal and environmental concerns related to Indian law and tribal lands remain an understudied branch of both indigenous law and environmental law. Native American tribes have a far more complex relationship with the environment than is captured by the stereotype of Indians as environmental stewards. Meaningful tribal sovereignty requires that non-Indians recognize the right of Indians to determine their own relationship to the land and the environment. But tribes do not exist in a vacuum: in fact they are deeply affected by off-reservation activities and, similarly, tribal choices often have effects on nearby communities. This book brings together diverse essays by leading Indian law scholars across the disciplines of indigenous and environmental law. The chapters reveal the difficulties encountered by Native American tribes in attempts to establish their own environmental standards within federal Indian law and environmental law structures. Gleaning new insights from a focus on tribal land and property law, the collection studies the practice of tribal sovereignty as experienced by Indians and non-Indians, with an emphasis on the development and regulatory challenges these tribes face in the wake of climate change. This volume will advance the reader's knowledge and understanding of these challenging issues.

Prof. Rosser also sends along the links to the Ashgate publisher's page and to the Table of Contents.  There are a lot of land use issues involved here and it's definitely a book worth checking out.  Contributions include essays by the two editors and our own Jessica Owley, among other thoughtful writers.

Matt Festa

August 12, 2012 in Books, Environmental Law, Federal Government, History, Property, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bronin & Byrne Casebook on Historic Preservation Law

Bronin byrne HPSara C. Bronin (Connecticut) and J. Peter Byrne (Georgetown) recently published a new casebook called Historic Preservation Law, Foundation Press 2012.  HP is quickly becoming a central part of land use planning, as the authors make clear in this excerpt from the Preface:

This book was written for anyone interested in the increasingly important area of historic preservation law.  With this book, we hope to advance and encourage the teaching of preservation law, shape the way the field is conceived, and create a practical resource that will be consulted by attorneys and other preservation professionals. 

Our approach to the subject is reasonably straightforward.  We present the most significant legal issues in preservation and place them in a contemporary context, identifying contested questions and areas of reform.  The format of the book is traditional: edited leading cases with notes that provide explanation, extension, and issues for discussion.  Given the interdisciplinary nature of the field, we belive that the legal issues can only be understood in light of historical, aesthetic, political, and administrative issues that make up the larger realm of preservation.  Accordingly, we provide secondary materials, both legal and non-legal.

Because we focus on preservation of buildings and sites, we present preservation as part of land use or urban development law.  Thus, we provide extensive treatment of local preservation law, which regulates private property, as well as relevant issues in real estate finance and project development.  We also provide comprehensive treatment of federal law, including the National Historical Preservation Act and related statutes.  In addition, we explore federal laws that address preservation vis-a-vis cultural property issues, particularly regarding Native American and archaelogical sites.  Preservation has also generated important and interesting constitutional questions related to takings, religious freedoms, and free speech rights, which we address.

This is the first, or at least the most recent, major casebook on the law of historic preservation that I know of.  Professors Bronin and Byrne, who are also accomplished scholars in the land use field generally, have provided us a major contribution with this book, which looks to be *the* significant text in HP law.  Land use scholars and professionals should definitely have this one on their shelves.

Matt Festa

August 9, 2012 in Constitutional Law, Development, Federal Government, Historic Preservation, History, Local Government, Property, Real Estate Transactions, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)