Thursday, September 23, 2010

DOJ Report on RLUIPA at 10 Years

The Department of Justice this week issued a report on its decade of enforcement actions since the enactment of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).  From the press release:

RLUIPA protects places of worship and other religious uses of property from discrimination and unreasonably burdensome regulation in zoning and landmarking law, and also protects the religious freedom of persons confined to institutions such as prisons, mental health facilities and state-run nursing homes.   RLUIPA was enacted by both houses of Congress unanimously and signed into law on Sept. 22, 2000.   The law was a response to concerns that places of worship, particularly those of religious and ethnic minorities, were often discriminated against in zoning matters.

 

The report illustrates that in the 10 years since its enactment, RLUIPA has aided thousands of individuals and institutions from a wide range of faith traditions through Department of Justice lawsuits, private lawsuits, and successful efforts to achieve voluntary compliance.

More information can be found in the full Report on the Tenth Anniversary of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

Matt Festa

September 23, 2010 in Constitutional Law, Federal Government, First Amendment, Historic Preservation, RLUIPA, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Expanding Nature of Preservation

One of the interesting facts about historic resource preservation is that its boundaries are always growing.  But some communities have not embraced fully this facet of preservation, even as Modernist architecture matures and qualifies for official National Register listing on the federal level.  This is especially true in communties with rich stocks of 18th and 19th century architecture, where the preservation aesthetic tends to favor colonial, neo-colonial, and other revivalist styles.  New Canaan, Connecticut, only one hour north of New York City, is one community with a treasure trove of traditional as well as Modernist styles.  New Canaan, then, has felt this tension acutely, especially as property owners increase to subdivide large lots into smaller, developable parcels.

Many of New Canaan's modernist houses sit on these large lots.  Even though they make important statements about life in America at the time of their construction and teach important lessons about building form and architecture's relationship to function and nature, modernist houses fall--at the moment--outside of current mainstream style preferences.  Moreover, Modernist homes are usually modest in scale, and thus too small for a market that tends to prefer large, overscaled architecture of the post-Modernist sort.  Unless local preservation ordinances are calibrated to protect "newer" structures, as well as more traditional styles the public more typically associates with historic preservation, Modernist houses, such as those in New Canaan, will face increasing demolition pressure as demand for land outpaces a community's desire to preserve.  Click here to read more or see David Hay, Too New for New Canaan, Preservation 34 (Sept./Oct. 2010).

Will Cook, Charleston School of Law

September 8, 2010 in Architecture, Historic Preservation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Habdas on Polish Historical Immovables as Objects of Ownership

Magdalena Habdas (U. of Silesia Katowice) has posted My Home is My Castle--But is My Castle Truly Mine? Polish Historical Immovables as Objects of Ownership.  The abstract:

Cultural goods, in particular historical buildings and real estate, ‘demand’ a more complex understanding of ownership. Regardless of whether the owner is a private or a public entity, the need to protect these historical immovables in the interest of the society remains the same. There is no single category of owners, who will guarantee the proper protection and care of historical real estate. Private owners with no understanding of the limits of their right are just as undesirable as public owners (local authorities, the state), who have been known to utilize historical immovables for the benefit of their office, but without adequate protection or respect for the historical and artistic value. In all cases where ownership is affected by a public interest, the right is no longer purely private and therefore may be subject to restrictive regulation. However, common sense confirms that security of property and ownership is not in opposition to acknowledging a public element in these rights, particularly if their object is unique, as in the case of historical real estate.
Matt Festa

September 7, 2010 in Comparative Land Use, Historic Preservation, Property Rights, Property Theory, Real Estate Transactions, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fanizzo on Property Management Under the Antiquities Act

Kelly Y. Fanizzo (Temple) has posted Politics, Persuasion, and Enforcement: Property Management Under the Antiquities Act, from the 13th Annual US/ICOMOS International Symposium, Economic Benefits, Social Opportunities, and Challenges of Supporting Cultural Heritage for Sustainable Development, May 20-22, 2010 and adapted from her article Separation of Powers and Federal Land Management: Enforcing the Direction of the President under the Antiquities Act, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW, Volume 40, Issue 3.  The abstract:

Recognizing the tremendous loss to the nation that results from unchecked collecting and vandalism, Congress passed the Antiquities Act in 1906 to preserve threatened historic and scientific structures, ruins, and objects and protect against the loss of valuable scientific data. Granting considerable authority to the President, the Antiquities Act provides for the designation of national monuments through the withdrawal of public land. Over the past decades, numerous monument designations have raised questions about the limits of the President’s role in federal land management. But practical questions looming just beyond the President’s ability to designate a national monument only recently surfaced in a challenge to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) grazing policies in the Sonoran Desert National Monument. This case before the Arizona District Court focused on the BLM’s management of the national monument, and not the process of its designation. This challenge sparked a discussion on how the protective intent of a monument proclamation can be best achieved. It asked what is the President’s authority to manage a national monument and when can a third party sue to force an executive agency to comply with the monument proclamation’s terms. This paper argues that consistent judicial review of an agency’s management of a monument can help national monument designations maintain their protective purpose. In the context of the Antiquities Act and more broadly, using this challenge as a case study allows us to consider what teeth are left in this law, now on the books for over a hundred years, to protect significant historic and scientific resources.

Matt Festa

August 25, 2010 in Federal Government, Historic Preservation, History, Judicial Review, Politics, Scholarship, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Slide Show of Georgia Theater Rebuild

Previously I blogged about the historic Georgia Theater, almost destroyed by fire a year ago.  The Athens Banner-Herald now has a slide show showing reconstruction in the interior.  It's a pretty interesting pictorial history of the restoration of the building, which dates to the late 1800s.  The owner has struggled with financing and rebuilding, but there's so much sentiment to save the building that I think he'll ultimately be successful.  He's also got a great sense of humor - the marquee on the building currently reads "Men At Work."

Jamie Baker Roskie

August 19, 2010 in Georgia, Historic Preservation, Redevelopment | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Enough with Jane Jacobs Already?

Check out this really interesting piece from the Wall Street Journal: Enough With Jane Jacobs Already, by Andrew Manshel.  Manshel is with the nonprofit Greater Jamaica Development Corp.  He argues that while Jane Jacobs was right about many things, the enshrinement of her views in planning circles should be reassessed.  He says that now is the time, due to Mayor Bloomberg's Charter Revision Commission process.  Lots of interesting thoughts in this opinion piece, so it's hard to know what parts to highlight.    

Jacobs's book is generally regarded as a jeremiad in opposition to the large-scale planning of the '50s and '60s. She is celebrated as the individual who did the most to end that era's Robert Moses and Le Corbusier-inspired, automobile-centric view of urban life. In Jacobs's opinion, the ideal of city living was the West Village of Manhattan, with its short blocks, narrow streets and little shops. She praised the human-scale aspects of city life; the "eyes on the street" of the shopkeeper and the social cohesion promoted by "street corner mayors." In her view, large-scale planning was prone to failure.

Are you with Jacobs, or are you with Bob Moses and Le Corbusier??

Her views have now been broadly adopted and it is conventional wisdom in planning circles that participatory neighborhood planning is best, that preservation of old buildings is essential, and that in cities the car is bad. But Jacobs had a tendency toward sweeping conclusions based on anecdotal information, and some of them were overblown and/or oblivious to the facts. Perhaps most graphically, Jacobs predicted that the grand arts center planned for the Upper West Side of Manhattan would fail. But Lincoln Center turned out to be a great success—igniting the revitalization of the entire neighborhood.

More revealingly, the Greenwich Village she held out as a model for city life has become some of the highest-priced real estate in New York City—it's no longer the diverse, yeasty enclave she treasured. Ultimately, many of the policies she advocated blocked real-estate development—causing prices of existing housing stock to rise and pricing out all but the wealthiest residents.

Manshel calls for more attention to the ideas of William H. Whyte, who inspired Bryant Park and Houston's Discovery Green, among other projects.  Manshel isn't the first to challenge Jacobs' legacy recently: see Benjamin Schwarz's recent Atlantic piece.  What do you think about Manshel's critique of the citizen-participation focus?  Again, it's a quick and thought-provoking read, so check it out.  

 

Matt Festa

July 7, 2010 in Density, Development, Historic Preservation, Houston, Local Government, New York, Pedestrian, Planning, Politics, Redevelopment, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wiseman on Public Communities, Private Rules

Hannah J. Wiseman (Texas) has posted Public Communities, Private Rules, Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 98, No. 3 (2010).  The abstract:

As the American population grows, communities are seeking creative property tools to control individual land uses and create defined community aesthetics, or distinctive “built environments.” In the past, private covenants were the primary mechanism to address this sort of need. Public communities, however, have begun to implement covenant-type “private” rules through zoning overlays, which place unusually detailed restrictions on individual property uses and, in so doing, have created new forms of “rule-bound” communities. This Article will argue that all types of rule-bound communities are uniquely important because they respond to resident consumers’ heightened demand for a community aesthetic. It will also highlight their problems, however. Many community consumers are marginally familiar with private covenants and traditional zoning, but they are largely unaware of the relatively new zoning overlays used to form public rule-bound communities. Yet the rules in overlays are extensive, are applied to existing landowners, and are not easily modified to meet changing community needs over time. And covenants, despite offering a more traditional tool for aesthetic control, create their own problems of incomplete consumer notice and barriers to effective modification. This Article will analyze the impact of these problems, as well as a lack of responsiveness to ongoing consumer demands for the maintenance of desired rules, on rule-bound communities’ ability to meet consumer demands for a community aesthetic. It will conclude that rule-bound communities should provide better visual notice of rules and should implement processes that allow for residents to better influence the initial content of rules and how rules are perpetuated or changed.

Matt Festa

June 1, 2010 in Community Design, Conservation Easements, Historic Preservation, Homeowners Associations, Housing, Local Government, Scholarship, Servitudes | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Land Use Panel at Law & Society Association

This weekend is the always-excellent annual meeting of the Law & Society Association in Chicago.  I haven't scoured the program, but there is sure to be a plethora of interesting panels and events.  I do have firsthand knowledge, however, of one particular land-use panel that is guaranteed to present fascinating projects from interesting up-and-coming scholars.

Panel: Managing the American Dream: Land Use and the Politics of Growth after the Mortgage Crisis.  Fri., May 28, 12:30-2:15
Chair: James J. Kelly, Jr. (University of Baltimore)

The Effects of SmartGrowth on the Preservation of Historic Resources, William J. Cook (Charleston School of Law)

Debtors' Environmental Impact: Structured Finance and the Suburbanization of Open Space, Heather Hughes (American University)

Sustainability and the Practice of Community Development, James J. Kelly, Jr. (University of Baltimore)

The Artifice of Local Growth Politics: At-Large Elections, Ballot Box Zoning, and Judicial Review of Land Use Initiatives, Kenneth Stahl (Chapman University)

The abstract:

Land Use is one of the most interdisciplinary areas of legal theory and practice, yet in today's environment there are common issues facing land use planners. The goals of promoting growth, land development, and property ownership are in tension with emerging priorities such as growing “smart,” reducing sprawl, and sustainability. These issues expand across borders and regions yet remain intricately tied to local politics. The mortgage and financial crises have impacted the land use environment for governments, communities, and landowners. This panel explores contemporary land use challenges from the perspectives of local growth politics, sustainability and community development, smart growth and historic preservation, and the impact of policies promoting home ownership.

I had really hoped to be there for this panel, and I am very disappointed that I won't be able to make it.  But perhaps since Will, Jim, Ken, and (I hope) Heather are friends of the blog, perhaps we might be lucky enough to get a report, and we'd love to host more discussion of these forthcoming papers on the blog (hint, hint!).  At any rate, if you are going to LSA or will be in the Chicago area, I highly recommend that you attend.
Matt Festa

May 26, 2010 in Charleston, Chicago, Community Economic Development, Conferences, Environmental Law, Finance, Financial Crisis, Historic Preservation, Local Government, Politics, Scholarship, Smart Growth, Suburbs, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

2010 Endangered Places List

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has released its annual list of endangered places.  The list is varied and reflects the expanding nature of preservation.  For example, it includes Connecticut's Merritt Parkway and Virginia's Wilderness Battlefield, which may be the site of a Wal-Mart if litigaton by local residents fails.  Click here for a report by Brian Williams, and here for a link to the full list at the National Trust.

Will Cook, Charleston School of Law

May 20, 2010 in Historic Preservation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

National Preservation Month: Old is the New Green

Did you know that May is National Preservation Month?  The National Trust for Historic Preservation is sponsoring this campaign; their 2010 theme is "Old is the New Green."  From their website:

The theme for 2010’s National Preservation Month this May is Old is the New Green! We know that preservation is good for communities and good for the pocketbook, but in the face of our growing climate crisis, we can also say with confidence that preservation has a significant role to play in fostering development that is more environmentally and economically sustainable. By giving Preservation Month the theme of sustainability, we are hopeful communities and organizations across the country will help us spread the word that preservation is inherently green. When you reinvest in older and historic buildings, live in a historic home, or even become a member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation or your local preservation organization, you support a more sustainable world. Spread the word this May – Old is the New Green!  

Lots of interesting articles, stories, and resources at the website.  Happy Preservation Month!

Matt Festa

May 19, 2010 in Historic Preservation, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New Approaches to Urban Redevelopment

Saturday I attended a very interesting lecture by Ken Reardon, who is a planning professor at The University of Memphis and a founding member of the Memphis Regional Design Center (MRDC).  The lecture was part of an event called "Look at That!  Fresh Approaches for Urban Redevelopment in Athens."  The economy being what it is, many of our clients are looking for help with redevelopment, rather than combating sprawl, so I took the opportunity to attend this event, sponsored by the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation.

Reardon's lecture was very interesting.  First he had all the participants engage in a group dialogue about our vision for Athens' future.  Ideas included more urban agriculture, better downtown development, preservation of our small town character, and more affordable housing.

Then Reardon discussed how the MRDC has helped some of the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in Memphis, using team members from local design firms, University of Memphis, the Urban Land Institute, and other partners.  He declared himself most proud of a project that turned the largest outdoor drug market in Memphis into a farmers' market, which is truly a noteworthy accomplishment.  The center also played a key role in helping Memphis pass its new, form-based, Unified Development Code.  All the time he was talking, I was thinking, "We need that here!"  I'm planning to spend some time picking Reardon's brain over the next several months.

Jamie Baker Roskie

March 30, 2010 in Architecture, Community Design, Crime, Development, Downtown, Georgia, Historic Preservation, Housing, Sprawl, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bethlehem Steel Reborn

Like Chad Emerson, I've been blogging less of late, although not for the glamorous reason that I have a popular book out!  My excuses are more pedestrian - Spring Break (where I actually endeavored, mostly successfully, to take two and a half days off), recruitment for summer and fall clinic classes, and a 30 foot pile of dirt recently dumped in my neighborhood (more on that later).

Over Spring Break I visited Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Bethlehem is most famous for being the former home of Bethlehem Steel and for being the sister community of Allentown, Pennsylvania, which is the subject of a Billy Joel song.  As the song goes, "Well we're living here in Allentown...Where they're closing all the factories down..."

However, that was over 20 years ago - Bethlehem Steel stopped producing in 1995, and the site is being redeveloped.  The former plant is now the home of a Sands Casino and the Smithsonian's National Museum of Industrial History, as well as business incubator space and other industrial uses.  Also, a very cool website called Save Our Steel makes the case for retaining a historic industrial district on the site.  One woman feels so strongly about it she's had the Bethlehem Steel site tattooed on her back, which is much more artful than it sounds.  I'm wondering if Will Cook knows anyone else with a tattoo of their favorite historic site!

At any rate, Bethlehem is coming  back in its own way.  I'm attaching a photo of the Sands sign, which I took from a small Habitat for Humanity subdivision being built on a bluff overlooking the Bethlehem Steel site.  It's a community definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Jamie Baker Roskie

Sands 3

March 22, 2010 in Development, Historic Preservation, History, Housing, Industrial Regulation, Redevelopment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Developer Saves Landmark Hotel

One of Los Angeles's most famous mid-century modernist landmarks, the Century Plaza Hotel, has been saved from demolition after the building's owner, Next Century Associates, decided to preserve it.  Next Century had previously announced its intent to demolish Century Plaza and replace it with new condos and shops, but after preservation groups--led by the Los Angeles Conservancy and National Trust--argued to save it, Next Century went back to the drawing board.  (Century Plaza appeared on the National Trust's 2009 list of endangered landmarks.)  Although a portion of the hotel will still contain condos, the building's architecture will remain intact, along with its historic use.

Century Plaza's architect, Minoru Yamasaki, who designed the hotel in 1966, is more often recognized as the designer of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers.  Click here for a link to learn more about the preservation fight, including images of what Next Century originally planned to construct, and here to learn more about the result. 

Will Cook, Charleston School of Law

March 9, 2010 in Historic Preservation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Remembering the Alamo

Line Sand Today is the 174th anniversary of the fall of The Alamo on March 6, 1836 during the Texas Revolution.  As the story goes, the vastly outnumbered Texian forces under siege bought crucial time for the rest of the army by holding out for two weeks until succumbing to the Mexican army under General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.  Cries of "Remember the Alamo" supposedly motivated the Texians at the decisive Battle of San Jacinto.

It would be hard to exaggerate the importance of The Alamo to the founding narrative and historical memory of Texas.  Though it was once a Catholic mission, it is secular "sacred ground" to many Texans.  I know people who proposed to their spouses at the Alamo.  Yet the Alamo has also been seen as symbol of racial or ethnocentric overtones to the Texas Revolution.  The importance of the Alamo-as-land has played out in several land use controversies over the last two centuries.

An excellent book that reviews the history of both The Alamo and its place in cultural memory is Randy Roberts & James S. Olson, A Line in the Sand: The Alamo in Blood and Memory (2002).  The authors begin with the history of the Alamo itself and the battle, and then spend the remainder of the book talking about what happened to it both as a piece of land and as an icon.  Apparently it fell into disrepair (blight?) for decades after Texas independence as the city of San Antonio grew up around it (those who imagine it from the John Wayne movie, way out in the open, are often startled when they finally visit it in busy downtown San Antonio).  Then, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Alamo became increasingly the subject of myth-making.  This in turn inspired one of the early historic preservation efforts, through a private organization run by some of the most prominent women in Texas.  There was a dispute over whether the preservation should be as a private or a public landmark.  The book tells this interesting story plus relates a number of other controversies about the Alamo as a symbol of Anglo-American manifest destiny and as John Wayne's vision of the Alamo as a Cold War story.

The book's title invokes both the "line in the sand" supposedly drawn by Lt. Col. Travis when it became clear the Texians were doomed, and also as a metaphor for the cultural contests over the historical memory of the Alamo as symbol.  But the "sand" itself remains a hugely popular tourist site and public space in San Antonio. 

Matt Festa

March 6, 2010 in Books, Historic Preservation, History, Race, Scholarship, Texas | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Monuments and the West

For many of us in the South who live with monuments on nearly every street corner of one kind or another, the recent controversy over monument designations "out West" is surprising.  On the other hand, most people don't think of monuments being land.  (One South Carolina exception is the Congaree Swamp National Monument, a truly beautiful old-growth floodplain forest.)  Kirk Johnson has written an interesting article, "In the West, 'Monument' Is a Fighting Word," New York Times (Feb. 20, 2010), that captures this disconnect.  Click here for a link to his article.  Notwithstanding initial opposition in some western states to land monument designations a few decades ago, today most seek to capitalize on and promote access to these national treasures.

Will Cook, Charleston School of Law

February 25, 2010 in Historic Preservation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Charleston's New Preservation Plan Wins National Award

NR

The City of Charleston's new preservation plan received national recognition recently from the National Trust for Historic Preservation during its annual National Preservation Awards.  Created in partnership with the Historic Charleston Foundation, which hired San Francisco-based Page & Turnbull to assist in its fomulation and drafting, the new plan is innovative in that it goes beyond bricks and mortar to consider social, curltural, and economic issues.  The plan also offers tools for assessing the physical characteristics of individual neigborhoods, and includes strategies for addressing sprawl, gentrification, affordable housing, and disaster management.  For a link to a video summary of Charleston's new plan and more information about the award, click here.

Will Cook, Charleston School of Law

January 31, 2010 in Historic Preservation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Revised Landmarks Guide

Guide

In case readers missed it last year, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has published the fourth edition of its well-known Guide to New York City Landmarks (John Wiley & Sons).  This useful guide covers over 1,200 buildings, 90 historic districts, and four centuries of the Big Apple's history, including new research that even the most devoted students of NYC may not yet have encountered.  Although the guide is city-specific, it offers lessons on architectural history that communities across the country can appreciate.  The Guide makes clear that during an unprecedented period of development, the Landmarks Preservation Commission's efforts at identifying and highlighting iconic buildings provided a signficant counterpoint.  Learn more about these efforts by clicking here

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is the mayoral agency responsible for protecting and preserving New York City's architecturally, historically, and culturally significant buildings and sites.  Since its creation in 1965, the Landmarks Commission has granted landmark status to more than 25,000 individual buildings, including 1,215 individual landmarks, 110 interior landmarks, 10 scenic landmarks, and 92 historic districts in all five boroughs.  Under the City's landmarks law, considered the most powerful in the nation, the Commission must be comprised of at least three architects, a historian, a realtor, a planner or landscape architect, as well as a representative of each borough.

Will Cook, Charleston School of Law 

January 17, 2010 in Historic Preservation | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Cruise Ships & Land Use

Cruise 

The talk in Charleston these days--apart from Boeing's decision to build a new manufacuturing center nearby--focuses primarily on proposed plans to construct an upgraded terminal for cruise lines--specifically for Carnival, doubling the current number of cruises departing from the Holy City.  Even though Charleston boasts a seafaring past, the land use community's reception to the proposal has been mixed.  By way of example, for those who've visited Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, on a busy day when thousands of tourists pour from multiple muti-story cruise ships and overwhelm local infrastructure, similar developments in Charleston may not be such a good thing.  To this end, preservationists are weighing in, pro and con, on the proposed two-story system of shops, dining, and lodging planned for the area adjacent to the terminal.  Striking the right balance between tourism, economic diversity, quality of life for local residents, and preservation of historic resources is never easy, but public discussions on the topic suggest that local consensus may be reached.  Click here and here to learn more.  New York design firm Cooper Robertson & Partners, which has already designed several public buildings in historic Charleston (Visitors Center, Judicial Center, College of Charleston School of Education) has been selected to do the work. 

Will Cook, Charleston School of Law

January 17, 2010 in Aesthetic Regulation, Charleston, Community Design, Community Economic Development, Development, Downtown, Historic Preservation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 8, 2010

"Rest Stops R.I.P."

From the very eclectic website "Good" comes a story about the death of the American rest stop.  My husband found this story after we passed a closed rest stop on I-95 near Richmond, Virginia over the holidays. This is another Virginia budget-saver, along with banning cul de sacs.  Virginia, however, isn't the only state closing its rest stops.  If, like me, you're a sometime solo female traveler who enjoys a safe, warm place for a pit stop, this is not a happy trend.  Also, if you're a fan of the kitschy mid-century modern look of many of the rests stops, or a preservation advocate in general, the loss of these rest stops is worrisome.  Of course, we can always stop at Starbucks or McDonalds to use the loo and top up on caffinated beverages.  But, for me, rest stops are an integral part of the interstate highway system, and I mourn their loss a little.

Jamie Baker Roskie

Follow up - Another article, this time from The New York Times, about a political kerfuffle in Arizona over closed rest stops.

January 8, 2010 in Architecture, Historic Preservation, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Of (Tiger) Woods and Trees and Land Use

Ben Barros points us from Property Prof Blog to an article by Christopher Beam in Slate's "Explainer" feature titled Stopping by Woods: Tiger Woods' car crash caused $200 worth of damage to a tree.  How do you measure that?

According to the article, it turns out that there is some methodology for valuation of trees as property.  It involves a number of factors that you may not find surprising: size, age, species, repair/replacement costs, aesthetics, neighborhood context, contribution to the (literally) underlying real estate value.  There is even a professional Council of Tree and Landscape Appriasers, which publishes the Guide for Plant Appraisal (9th ed.) that instructs one in the methodology of the Replacement Cost Method and the Trunk Formula Method.

This makes eminent sense to anyone involved with land use or real estate.  Trees are a significant contribution to both the hard value of real estate and the more subjective aspects of land ownership or use (beauty, sentimentality, shade).  Both builders and buyers today place a great deal of significance on the contribution of trees to the overall value of any particular piece of land.  It is also a matter of public interest, and tree ordinances have, um, sprouted up in many cities in the U.S. as an intergral component of land use planning.

But all of this is built on the anthropocentric presumption that a tree is in fact a thing that can be reduced to property and "owned" by humans.  Would it be possible to have . . . a tree that owned itself?  Most of you property law experts out there would say no.  But one U.S. city says--yes!  And UGA Prof. Jamie Roskie knows exactly where this is:

Athens, Georgia, of course.  You may have heard of Athens' famous Tree That Owns Itself.  It is a popular tourist attraction, dating from sometime between 1820 and 1832, when Colonel W.H. Jackson executed a deed purportedly conveying ownership of his favorite tree to . . . itself:

I, W. H. Jackson, of the county of Clarke, of the one part, and the oak tree . . . of the county of Clarke, of the other part: Witnesseth, That the said W. H. Jackson for and in consideration of the great affection which he bears said tree, and his great desire to see it protected has conveyed, and by these presents do convey unto the said oak tree entire possession of itself and of all land within eight feet of it on all sides.

Here we are (apparently the current tree is the "son" of the original):

Tree Owns Itself
I wouldn't recommend trying to use any of your fancy human-based property law theory, what with your common law and your learned treatises and whatnot, to mess with the Tree That Owns Itself.  The alleged deed may be lost, and there may be rules about capacity and so forth, but as a point of civic pride most Athenians will agree that the Tree does own itself.  It is accorded self-"ownership" rights through longstanding (if perhaps winking) local custom.  The real property records and plat book do not show the Tree as part of any adjacent property (it's in the public right of way).  Furthermore, Ol' Reliable (i.e., Wikipedia) cites a 2006 statement by county Landscape Administrator Roger Cauthen to the effect that it is the official position of the Athens-Clarke County government that the Tree does, in fact, own itself.  At any rate, it's legally protected as a historic landmark tree

Anyway, it's a good thing Tiger Woods wasn't living nearby in Athens, or else one of Prof. Roskie's former students might have had the chance to represent the Tree (or perhaps the Tree's recognized caretaker Athens Junior Ladies Garden Club as next friend) on contingency.

Matt Festa

December 10, 2009 in Aesthetic Regulation, Georgia, Historic Preservation, Local Government, Property, Real Estate Transactions | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)