Friday, July 19, 2013
Well looks like we are about half-way through the summer (depending on the schools schedules in your family). Instead of embarking on a new project this summer, I have committed myself to finish up several projects that have been lingering. One project that is oh so close to completion is a book chapter I wrote for a Cambridge University Press book that Keith Hirokawa is editing.The book is entitled Environmental Law and Contrasting Ideas of Nature: A Constructivist Approach and I think should hit bookshelves before the end of the year. Keith asked me to tackle the subject of nature versus perpetuity, with a particular emphasis on property law. I easily agreed because the topic seemed a natural one for me, but then I had trouble with it. My thesis was: perpetual static property rules make little sense in a changing world. Perfect! The problem was that Keith wanted something longer than a sentence.
As I delved deeper into these issues (and I would be hard pressed to label my approach "constructivist"), I became intrigued with thinking about why we have perpetual static tools. Now, I don't mean how they have evolved. I have written mind-numbingly boring fascinating articles about that in the past. Instead, I was intrigued with what it is about us as individuals that crafts our approach to land conservation the way that we do. In this research, I became intrigued by a few different pschological concepts. In very simple terms, we are not good at thinking about the future. First, when problems and issues are too big, our brains simplify them to make them digestible (or sometimes we just ignore them). Second, when making projections about future conditions, we tend to be overly optimistic. Layer these traits onto a policy for long-term land conservation in an era of increasing landscape changes and you start to see why we have problems. Although the chapter considers other subjects (including how current property laws fail to mesh with lessons from conservation biology), the brief psychology discussion was the most fun for me. Makes me pretty durn thankful that I work at an interdisciplinary school like Buffalo where I could just knock on the door of the psychologist (Chuck Ewing) whose office is next door to mine.
Interested in checking out the book chapter? You can find it here and the formal abstract is below. Interested in seeing what else appears in this book? A few other chapters have been popping up on SSRN as well including ones by Mike Burger, Jonathan Rosenbloom, Robin Kundis Craig, Tony Arnold, and Irus Braverman.
Property Constructs and Nature's Challenge to Perpetuity
Conservation biology and ecology (as well as our eyes and ears) tell us that nature is in a constant state of flux. Yet, models of land conservation focus on preserving the present state of land in perpetuity. Legal concepts that center on the status quo turn a blind eye to the fact that nature is ever-changing. This conflict is illustrated by examining both traditional property servitudes and conservation easements. These restrictions on private land often explicitly state that they are preserving today’s landscape in perpetuity. This chapter explores the inherent conflict between the changing natural world and rigid legal structures, detailing the struggles of applying principles like resiliency thinking and adaptive management to property tools for conservation. It also explores why this disconnect occurs including some discussion of environmental psychology
- Jessie Owley
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Amy Hardberger (St. Mary's) has posted World's Worst Game of Telephone: Attempting to Understand the Conversation between Texas's Legislature and Courts on Groundwater, forthcoming in the Texas Environmental Law Review. The abstract:
Groundwater is a critical component of Texas water resources. Currently, groundwater accounts for 60% of all water withdrawn in the state. Historically, the largest groundwater user was the agricultural sector; however, Texas cities are also increasingly reliant on these water sources. State water demands are projected to increase 22% in the next fifty years. Many of these demands will be in the groundwater sector. In addition to increasing demand, periodic and sometimes severe droughts challenge an already stressed system. Texas’s ability to provide sufficient resources depends in large part on their effective management.
This paper evaluates the Day decision through the lens of past court decisions and legislation in an effort to understand why the court ruled as it did. Part II introduces Texas’s groundwater resources, current uses of that water, and present concerns regarding sustainability. Part III chronicles the line of cases that established capture as the common law rule in Texas. Part IV traces the history of groundwater legislation after courts established rule of capture. This legislation created a regulatory overlay on the common law rule of capture through localized groundwater conservation districts and the statewide planning process. Part V describes the process through which the Edwards Aquifer Authority came into existence and why it is different from other groundwater districts in the state in that its strict pumping cap immediately raised property rights concerns. Part VI explains how groundwater litigation shifted from right of capture limitations to questions of when ownership vests. This change was a product of increased pressure on groundwater resources caused by additional regulations and growing population demands.
Finally, Part VII presents three hypotheses regarding why the court came to its decision in the Day case despite the case law history. The first theory is that delineation of property interests is an issue reserved for courts’ authority. Another alternative is that the holding in Day was a result of a statewide shift towards the protection of private property rights above other concerns. The final proposed alternative is that the Day holding was actually an effort to define the property right in such a way as to encourage more regulation or at least limit takings claims through the expansive of correlative rights to groundwater.
Interesting and important--Texas is a huge state with a growing economy and population and an energy boom, and water is going to be a critical issue in the immediate and long-term future.
July 17, 2013 in Caselaw, Environmentalism, Local Government, Oil & Gas, Planning, Property Rights, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability, Texas, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
This month's ABA Real Property "Professors' Corner" teleconference will focus on Koontz, the end-of-Term exactions that is one of the most significant Supreme Court property-rights cases in recent years. (Jessie Owley has discussed it here, and Tim Mulvaney and others have weighed in around the net). This Professor's Corner session should be a good one with several leading scholars participating. Here's the announcement:
Professors’ Corner: Wednesday, July 10, 2013: Koontz v. St. John’s River Water Management District: A Significant Victory for Property Rights?
Professors’ Corner is a monthly free teleconference sponsored by the ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section's Legal Education and Uniform Laws Group. Each month’s call features a panel of law professors who discuss recent cases or issues of interest to real estate practitioners and scholars. Members of the AALS Property Section are invited to participate in the call (as well as to join and become involved in the ABA Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section).
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
12:30 p.m. Eastern time (11:30 a.m. Central, 9:30 a.m. Pacific). Call is ONE HOUR in length.
Call-in number: 866-646-6488
This program will feature a roundtable discussion breaking down the Supreme Court’s important June 25 decision in Koontz v. St. John’s River Water Management District. If “monetary exactions” have always seemed a little untamed to you, you’re not alone. The 5-4 decision in Koontz leaves a lot of room for analysis, and this month’s panel is prepared to guide you through it by parsing the decision and the dissent. Our distinguished panel will include Professor Jonathan H. Adler, who is the Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Business Law and Regulation at Case Western Reserve University School of Law; John D. Echeverria, Professor of Law at Vermont Law School; and David L. Callies, who is the Benjamin A. Kudo Professor of Law at the University of Hawai’i.
For those that haven’t already seen it, here’s a link to the opinion:
Please join us Wednesday for this great program!
July 9, 2013 in Caselaw, Conferences, Conservation Easements, Constitutional Law, Environmental Law, Federal Government, Property Rights, Scholarship, Supreme Court, Sustainability, Takings, Wetlands | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Brian Lee (Brooklyn) has posted Just Undercompensation: The Idiosyncratic Premium in Eminent Domain, 113 Colum. L. Rev. 593 (2013). Lee presents an interesting challenge to recent scholarship recognizing "confiscation of the uncompensated increment" to use Lee Fennell's terminology. The article does not reject above-market compensation altogether but instead criticizes premium approaches for redistributing wealth to the already well-off. Here's the abstract:
When the government exercises its power of eminent domain to take private property, the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that the property's owners receive "just compensation," which the Supreme Court has defined as equal to the property’s fair market value. Today, a well-established consensus exists on three basic propositions about this fair market value standard. First, the standard systematically undercompensates owners of taken property, because market prices do not reflect owners' personal valuations of particular pieces of property. Second, this undercompensation is unfair to those owners. And third, an appropriate way to rectify this problem is to add fixed-percentage bonuses to the amount of compensation paid. Several states have recently enacted laws requiring such bonuses, and prominent academics have endorsed their adoption. This Article, however, argues that all three of these widely accepted propositions are false. First, examining the economics of market-price formation reveals that fair market value includes compensation for more subjective value than previously recognized. Second, much of what market value leaves uncompensated should not, in fairness, receive compensation. Third, although justice may require paying compensation above fair market value in certain situations, this Article argues that the solution favored by academics and recent state legislation is itself unjust, undermining the civic and moral equality of rich and poor property owners by relatively overcompensating the rich while undercompensating the poor for losses which have equal value to rich and poor alike. The Article concludes by showing how an alternative approach can avoid these fairness problems.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Carol Zeiner (St. Thomas) has posted A Therapeutic Jurisprudence Analysis of the Use of Eminent Domain to Create a Leasehold, forthcoming in the Utah Law Review (2013). The abstract:
Therapeutic jurisprudence provides an excellent tool to analyze and guide the development of the law on the use of eminent domain to create leaseholds. The objective of these takings is for the condemnor to become a tenant under a “lease,” rather than the fee simple owner.
I am perhaps the only scholar who has written extensively on the topic of takings to create a leasehold. In a previous work, I provided an exhaustive analysis of the conclusion that government can use eminent domain to create a leasehold. That work went on to conclude that there are circumstances in which government should use eminent domain to create a leasehold, but that difficult problems can arise in such takings. They necessitate refinements in arriving at just compensation.
That work also concluded that there is at least one situation in which government should not be allowed to use eminent domain to create a leasehold. I labeled such takings Kelo-type takings, wherein the government uses its power of eminent domain with the objective of creating a leasehold that it will then transfer to a private party for private use. My argument that the use of such Kelo-type takings to create leaseholds should not be allowed was based primarily on public policy considerations. I concluded that the problems arising from takings that create private leaseholds are much worse than those encountered in situations such as Kelo, in which government acquires a fee simple from the condemnee and then makes a transfer to a private party, because the form disrupts the social contract between government and the people.
Any such conclusion demands reexamination on theoretical grounds, which is done in this Article. In order to re-examine the question, it formally extends the jurisprudential philosophy of therapeutic justice to eminent domain in general and specifically to takings to create leaseholds. The principles underlying therapeutic jurisprudence, as well as the illuminating insights derived from its application, confirm the prior conclusion.
Monday, June 10, 2013
Margaret F. Brinig (Notre Dame) and Nicole Stelle Garnett (Notre Dame) have posted A Room of One's Own? Accessory Dwelling Unit Reforms and Local Parochialism, forthcoming in The Urban Lawyer (2013). The abstract:
Over the past decade, a number of state and local governments have amended land use regulations to permit the accessory dwelling units (“ADUs”) on single-family lots. Measured by raw numbers of reforms, the campaign to secure legal reforms permitting ADUs appears to be a tremendous success. The question remains, however, whether these reforms overcome the well-documented land-use parochialism that has, for decades, represented a primary obstacle to increasing the supply of affordable housing. In order to understand more about their actual effects, this Article examines ADU reforms in a context which ought to predict a minimal level of local parochialism. In 2002, California enacted state-wide legislation mandating that local governments either amend their zoning laws to permit ADUs in single-family zones or accept the imposition of a state-dictated regulatory regime. We carefully examined the zoning law of all California cities with populations over 50,000 people (150 total cities) to determine how local governments actually implemented ADU reforms “on the ground” after the state legislation was enacted. Our analysis suggests that the seeming success story masks hidden local regulatory barriers. Local governments have responded to local political pressures by delaying the enactment of ADU legislation (and, in a few cases, simply refusing to do so despite the state mandate), imposing burdensome procedural requirements that are contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of the state-law requirement that ADUs be permitted “as of right,” requiring multiple off-street parking spaces, and imposing substantive and procedural design requirements. Taken together, these details likely dramatically suppress the value of ADUs as a means of increasing affordable housing.
This looks really interesting. Here in Houston we have a significant number of ADUs--so-called "granny flats" because--stop me if you've heard this before--Houston has no zoning to make it illegal, as this article shows it has been in single-family residentail neighborhoods around the country. These ADUs provide an important supply of affordable "inside-the-Loop" (i.e. central city area) housing.
June 10, 2013 in Affordable Housing, California, History, Housing, Houston, Local Government, Planning, Politics, Property, Property Rights, Scholarship, State Government, Subdivision Regulations, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Mark Edwards (William Mitchell) has posted The Paradoxes of Restitution, forthcoming in the West Virginia Law Review. The abstract:
Restitution following mass dispossession is often considered both ideal and impossible. Why? This article identifies two previously unnamed paradoxes that undermine the possibility of restitution.
First, both dispossession and restitution depend on the social construction of rights-worthiness. Over time, people once considered unworthy of property rights ‘become’ worthy of them. However, time also corrodes the practicality and moral weight of restitution claims. By the time the dispossessed ‘become’ worthy of property rights, restitution claims are no longer practically or morally viable. This is the time-unworthiness paradox.
Second, restitution claims are undermined by the concept of collective responsibility. People are sometimes dispossessed because collective responsibility is unjustly imposed on them for wrongs committed by a few members of a group. But restitution may require the dispossession of innocent current occupiers of land – thus imposing a type of collective responsibility on them. Therefore, restitution can be seen as committing the very wrong it purports to right. This is the collective responsibility paradox.
Both paradoxes can be overcome, but only if we recognize the rights-worthiness of others before time fatally corrodes the viability of restitution. We must also draw a careful distinction between the imposition of collective rights-unworthiness, which results in the mass dispossession of others, and the voluntary acceptance of collective responsibility, which results in the restitution of others.
After developing these ideas, the article examines them in the context of a particularly difficult and intractable case of dispossession and restitution. It draws upon interviews with restitution claimants whose stories reveal the paradoxes of restitution.
Here's another recently-posted paper from Stephanie Stern (Chicago-Kent): Protecting Property Through Politics: State Legislative Checks and Judicial Takings, forthcoming in the Minnesota Law Review. The abstract:
In the 2010 Supreme Court case Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, a plurality of the Court launched judicial takings in political and scholarly debate and laid the groundwork for expanding the Fifth Amendment to encompass court decisions. This Article explores a neglected institution in the debate over judicial takings — state legislatures. In the comparatively rare instances when state courts overreach, state legislatures can revise state court decisions and restore private property rights. Through case studies of state legislative checks of judicial activism, I examine the comparative institutional advantages, and the potential gaps, of situating primary responsibility for state court revision in state legislatures. In view of takings federalism and the costs of judicial takings, I contend that the existing balance of state legislative checks and state court restraint works well enough to police against state court property activism.
May 18, 2013 in Caselaw, Constitutional Law, Eminent Domain, Judicial Review, Politics, Property Rights, Property Theory, Scholarship, State Government, Supreme Court, Takings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Lee Fennell (Chicago) has posted Crowdsourcing Land Use, 78 Brook. L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2013). In it she looks ahead to the possibilities for emerging information technology to provide platforms for sharing data about land use impacts and preferences as well as landowner intentions. The last of these involves a proposal for the creation of publicly facilitated options markets in land use rights, an idea she previously outlined in her 2011 piece Property and Precaution (Journal of Tort Law, 2011). Here's the abstract for the Crowdsourcing article:
Land use conflicts arise from information shortfalls, and avoiding them requires obtaining and using information. Yet traditional forms of land use control operate in relative ignorance about landowner intentions, about preferences for patterns of land use that do not presently exist, and, more fundamentally, about land use impacts as they are experienced on the ground. Because information is expensive to gather and use, this ignorance may be rational. New technological and theoretical advances, however, offer powerful ways to harness and deploy information that lies dispersed in the hands of the public. In this symposium essay, I assess the prospects for an increased role for crowdsourcing in managing land use, as well as the limits on this approach. Governments must do more than elicit, aggregate, coordinate, and channel the preferences, intentions, and experiences of current and potential land users; they must also set normative side constraints, manage agendas, and construct appropriately scaled platforms for compiling and using information.
Monday, March 25, 2013
Marc Poirier (Seton Hall) has posted Brazilian Regularization of Title in Light of Moradia, Compared to the United States’ Understandings of Homeownership and Homelessness, __ U. Miami Inter-Am. L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming). Here's the abstract:
This Essay considers the cultural resonances of regularization of title (regularização) for homeownership in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. It compares those resonances to the cultural meaning of homeownership in the United States. Brazil’s approach is informed by an understanding of moradia, a right to dwell someplace, that is a far cry from its typical English translation as a right to housing. Brazil also draws on constitutional provisions and a long Latin American tradition concerning the social function of property, as well as a general theoretical understanding of the right to the city and of cidadania, a certain kind of citizenship. All of these frames construct homeownership as a gateway to interconnection and full participation in the life of the city. This is distinctly different from the individualistic cast of the prevailing understanding of homeownership in the United States, as personal success and the achievement of wealth, status, and a private castle.
The Essay also considers the standard United States construction of homelessness, which again tends to frame the issue in terms of individual responsibility or blame or of the role of institutional structures as they affect individuals, and typically fails to recognize the effect of having no property on relationships and interconnectedness and ultimately citizenship. The Essay advances five reason for the differences between Brazilian and United States understandings of homeownership. These include very different histories concerning the distribution of public lands; the absence in United States property jurisprudence of anything like the notion of a social function of property; the physical invisibility of informal communities in the United States; United States jurisprudence’s rejection of vague, aspirational human rights claims as law; and an insistence in United States jurisprudence on legal monism and an abstract, universalizing account of property ownership that valorizes one-size-fits-all law rather than case-by-case accounts of how land and dwellings are managed by various local communities.
Finally, the Essay observes a recent groundswell of United States scholarship that debunks “A own Blackacre” as an adequate account of the ownership of land and homes, insisting on a more race- and class-informed account as to both the history of homeownership and possible solutions for providing secure dwelling for the poor. The Essay recommends a convergence of studies of informal communities worldwide with a more nuanced, race- and class-informed understanding of homeownership.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Namita Wahi has posted Land Acquisition, Development, and the Constitution, Seminar Magazine, Feb. 2013. The abstract:
In this article,
I argue that the debates surrounding the adoption of a fundamental right to
property in the Constitution were centred around the somewhat paradoxical desire
to achieve a liberal democratic legal order which guaranteed the rights to
liberty, equality and property, while simultaneously embarking on a
transformation of the economic and social order considered imperative to prevent
a revolution. This transformation was pegged on a development strategy involving
a move from a feudal agrarian to a capital intensive industrial society. A major
component of this transformative agenda was land reform, involving zamindari
abolition abolition and redistribution of land among the peasants. Equally
important, however, was state planned industrial growth and encouragement of
growth of private industry.
The article goes on to assess the history of land acquisition laws in this country against this backdrop. In particular, it analyses the key features of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, including the major problems with its implementation. It then analyses the proposed Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, with a view to determining the extent to which the bill addresses the problems with the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. Finally, the article describes the special constitutional provisions for the Scheduled Areas as contained in the Fifth and Sixth Schedules and analyses to what extent the LARR bill is compliant with existing constitutional guarantees.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Brian Sawers (Maryland) has posted Keeping Up with the Joneses: Making Sure Your History Is Just as Wrong as Everyone Else's, forthcoming in Michigan Law Review First Impressions, Vol. 111, p. 21 (2013). The abstract:
Both the majority and concurring opinions in United States v. Jones are wrong about the state of the law in 1791. Landowners in America had no right to exclude others from unfenced land. Whether a Fourth Amendment search requires a trespass or the violation of a reasonable expectation of privacy, government can explore open land without a search warrant.
In the United States, landowners did not have a right of action against people who entered open land without permission. No eighteenth-century case shows a remedy for mere entry. Vermont and Pennsylvania constitutionally guaranteed a right to hunt on open land. In several other states, statutes regulating hunting implied a public right to hunt on (and, by implication, enter) unfenced land.
Dave Owen (Maine) has posted Taking Groundwater. The abstract:
In February, 2012, in a case called Edwards Aquifer Authority v. Day, the Texas Supreme Court held that landowners hold property rights to the groundwater beneath their land, and that a regulatory restriction on groundwater use could constitute a taking of private property. The decision provoked strong reactions, both positive and negative, throughout the world of water law, for it signaled the possibility of severe restrictions on governmental ability to regulate groundwater use.
This Article considers the deeper issue that confronted the Texas Supreme Court, and that has confronted other courts across the country: how should the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, and parallel clauses of state constitutions, apply to groundwater use regulation? Initially, this Article explains why this issue is exceedingly and increasingly important. It then reviews all of the groundwater/takings decisions from federal and state courts in the United States. Finally, the Article considers the implications of foundational property theories for the application of takings doctrine to groundwater use.
The analysis supports two key conclusions. First, it undermines arguments against treating water rights as “constitutional property” — that is, property protected by federal and state takings clauses. Proponents of those arguments generally assert that treating water rights as property has uneven support from prior caselaw and that such treatment will be prevent sensible governance. A review of groundwater caselaw demonstrates that the former assertion runs counter to the weight of authority, and that the fears underlying the latter argument are overstated. Second, and more importantly, the analysis undermines arguments for granting groundwater use rights heightened protection against regulatory takings. Recently, litigants and commentators skeptical of government regulatory authority have widely advanced those arguments. But they find no support in past groundwater/takings caselaw, and no property theory justifies adopting such an approach.
An important issue, and a reminder that state supreme courts continue to play a crucial role in shaping modern property law.
March 7, 2013 in Caselaw, Constitutional Law, Environmental Law, Property, Property Rights, Scholarship, State Government, Sustainability, Takings, Texas, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Friday, February 22, 2013
Steven J. Eagle (George Mason) has posted "Economic Impact" in Regualtory Takings Law, forthcoming in the West-Northwest Journal of Environmental Law & Policy. The abstract:
In Penn Central Transportation Co. v. City of New York the Supreme Court stated that the existence of a regulatory taking would be determined through “essentially ad hoc, factual inquiries,” and that one of three factors of “particular significance” was the economic impact of the regulation on the claimant. This article examines the conceptual problem whereby the Fifth Amendment requires compensation for the taking of property and not a fraction of its owner’s worth. The fact that economic impact of stringent regulations is greater when parcels are smaller has led to a complex “parcel as a whole” test that conflates impact with another Penn Central test, owner’s expectations. Furthermore, application of the impact test to parcels held as investment property might vitiate the temporary taking. The Federal Circuit’s recent abandonment of its prior “return on equity” approach is emblematic of this problem.
Measuring the economic impact upon owners also is complex where government condemns part of an owner’s parcel, leading to difficulties in computing severance damages. Broad assertions that “offsetting benefits” conferred upon property owners by government actions reduce the impact of regulations also requires clarification.
The article concludes that unresolved issues and complexities in adjudicating the “economic impact of the regulation on the claimant” test provide an additional reason why the conceptually incoherent Penn Central doctrine must be replaced.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Thousands of religious monuments have been donated to cities and towns. Under Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, local, state, and federal governments now have greater freedom to accept religious monuments, symbols, and objects donated to them for permanent display in public spaces without violating the Free Speech Clause. Now that governments may embrace religious monuments and symbols as their own speech, the obvious question arises whether governments violate the Establishment Clause by permanently displaying a religiously significant object.
Fearing an Establishment Clause violation, some governmental bodies have privatized religious objects and the land beneath them by selling or transferring the objects and land to private parties. Some transactions have included restrictive covenants that require the buyer to maintain the religious object or reversionary clauses that allow the government to reclaim the land. Others have sold or transferred the religious object without soliciting bids from other buyers.
This article provides an in-depth analysis of five cases in which governmental bodies resorted to privatizing public land to avoid violating the Establishment Clause. Drawing from Establishment Clause jurisprudence involving religious displays, this article utilizes the Lemon and Endorsement tests as analytical tools for resolving the constitutionality of land dispositions involving religious displays.
This article considers the purported secular government purposes for selling or transferring land to private parties. The government has sought to justify these land dispositions as a means to provide memorials that honor veterans or promote civic-mindedness, to preserve the religious object in order to avoid showing disrespect to religion, and to avoid violating the Establishment Clause. I argue that these purported government purposes are secondary to a religious interest because there are other alternatives to achieve the government’s purposes.
I also examine the effects of these land dispositions on the reasonable observer. The Herculean efforts exerted by the government to save the religious monument send a message of government endorsement of religion. Restrictive covenants that require the private owner to maintain the religious monument and reversionary clauses that allow the government to reclaim the monument and underlying land perpetuate state action and excessively entangle the government.
I conclude that the best measure to avoid the Establishment Clause is to simply remove the religious object. Removing the religious object will protect the dilution of sacred religious symbols through their secularization and will provide greater inclusiveness in public spaces for religious minorities and nonbelievers.
An original and helpful analysis of an issue that I think has been relatively neglected over the last couple of years, particularly since the Summum case came out-- the interplay between private land use rights and the religion clauses always tends to highlight some of the salient fault lines in many communities.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Christopher Serkin (Brooklyn) has posted Affirmative Constitutional Commitments: The State's Obligations to Property Owners, Brigham-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.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
A Virginia Homeowner's Assocation appears to have gone bankrupt due to litigation over its attempts to enforce its rules against a four-inch violation by a couple's Obama yard sign during the 2008 election. After four years, skyrocketing assessments, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, the bankrupt HOA is considering selling off the central common area. From the Washington Post, Feud over sign could force Fairfax's Olde Belhaven to sell square.
Such HOA disputes are as suburban as cul-de-sacs and two-car garages, but few metastasize into legal battles that spend years in the courts, break legal ground and bankrupt the HOA.
Most damaging of all, though, was a move probably unprecedented in area neighborhood feuds: The common area that is the literal and metaphoric heart of Olde Belhaven was put up for sale last year to settle its debts. It appeared that “the square,” as some called the neighborhood, would no longer have a square.
“It destroyed our community,” Maria Farran said.
The litigation ranged from a challenge to the HOA's power to fine the owners, and a retaliation claim. It made some new law:
In 2010, a county judge sided with the Farrans on the fining issue. The case set a Virginia precedent that HOAs cannot claim powers, such as fining, that are not specifically laid out in their covenants.
You can read the whole article for a great description of the legal issues and the story. As HOAs trend toward more extensive sets of rules, and as not everyone buys in, you can probably finds examples of similar (if not quite so expensive) conflicts in communities around the country. And one thing that's common to both public and private regulation: when individual property rights clash with collective restrictions regarding people's homes, passions run high--even (especially?) when the stakes are as low as four inches on a political yard sign.
Thanks to Helen Jenkins for the pointer.
February 12, 2013 in Common Interest Communities, Constitutional Law, First Amendment, Homeowners Associations, Politics, Property Rights, State Government, Subdivision Regulations, Suburbs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Friday, February 1, 2013
I am on the lookout for interesting scholarship that might make appropriate extra-credit reading for my Land Use Planning students. Just in time for the aesthetic regulation and First Amendment sections of the course, I found that Jim Smith (Georgia) has recently posted The Law of Yards, 33 Ecology. Q 203 (2006). Here's the abstract:
Property law regimes have a significant impact on the ability of individuals to engage in freedom of expression. Some property rules advance freedom of expression, and other rules retard freedom of expression. This Article examines the inhibiting effects on expression of public land use regulations. The focus is on two types of aesthetic regulations: (1) landscape regulations, including weed ordinances, that regulate yards; and (2) architectural regulations that regulate the exterior appearance of houses. Such regulations sometimes go too far in curtailing a homeowner's freedom of expression. Property owners' expressive conduct should be recognized as “symbolic speech” under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court developed the symbolic speech doctrine in contexts other than land use, but the rationale for the doctrine supports its extension to aesthetically based land use regulations. The clearest case of protected speech is a homeowner's conduct that conveys a political message, such as a yard display that protests a decision made by a local government. Other conduct, however, that is nonpolitical in nature can convey a particularized message, and thus can merit First Amendment protection. Examples are a homeowner's decision to plant natural landscaping, motivated by ecological concerns, or to install a nativity scene at Christmas. A regulation that restricts an owner's protected speech is unconstitutional unless the government proves both that the regulation is narrowly tailored and that it protects a substantial public interest. If the public interest is solely based on the protection of aesthetic values, ordinarily it is not substantial enough to justify the restriction on speech. The government must come up with a plausible justification other than aesthetics to prevail. When the justification consists of an interest in addition to aesthetics, the balancing rules developed by the Supreme Court for symbolic speech should apply. If the regulation restricts expressive conduct, it may survive scrutiny only if it protects the community from conduct that causes significant economic or other non-aesthetic harm, while minimizing infringement on expression.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
For those of you interested in conservation easements (particularly historic façade easements), you may have been following the Scheidelman saga.The next installment is now out.
In Scheidelman v. Comissioner, T.C. Memo. 2010-151 [Scheidelman I], the landowner sought a deduction for a façade easement burdening her Brooklyn brownstone. The Tax Court disqualified an appraisal because it viewed the method of calculating the easement’s value inadequate. Appraisals must include the method of valuation used as well as the specific basis for the valuation. The appraiser applied a percentage to the fair market value of the property before conveyance of the conservation easement. The Tax Court found that the appraiser had insufficiently explained the method (i.e., the percentage approach) and basis of the valuation (i.e., the specific data used).
The landowner appealed to the Second Circuit. The Second Circuit [Scheidelman II, 682 F.3d 189 (2d Cir. 2012)] reversed the Tax Court, saying that the shortcomings of the approach should not disqualify the appraisal.
On remand [Scheidelman III, T.C. Memo. 2013-18 ], the Tax Court accepted the Second Circuit's assessment that the appraisal was “qualified” but still thought it was crappy was not credible. You can check out the case if you want to delve into the nitty gritty of appraisal methods. The most problematic issue appeared to be the fact that the appraisal just picked a number between 10 and 12% of the fair market value of the home when trying to determine the value of the conservation easement. The appraiser's reasoned that those are the numbers that courts and the IRS seem to like instead of actually looking at the property and making an assessment.
I am enamored of this case though because in the end the Tax Court said no tax deduction is warranted. The evidence demonstrates that façade easements actually increase the value of homes in this area. Additionally, the landowner herself admitted that she was seeking a tax deduction for something she would have done anyway. Here is my favorite quote from the landowner:
"Well, I was primarily interested in preserving my house itself in light of the dramatic development that was occurring in and around Fort Greene during those years and still is. I was also intrigued by the tax benefit of preserving the facade which I had intended to do anyway. …I also wanted to benefit tax wise. I didn't know how much I would benefit, but I wanted to benefit from what I was already intended to be committed to doing."
I have been disturbed fascinated by conservation easement tax deductions that pay owners not to do things they never planned on doing. In understand that there can be some value to the conservation easements becuase perhaps future landowners would have other desires, but it is hard for me to reconcile that worth with the high value of tax deductions current landowners receive. I am glad to see the IRS and Tax Court calling these landowners out. Maybe if a landowner seeks to claim a tax decuction for a conservation easement and we see that the conservation easement increased the value of their land, they should have to pay that difference to the treasury.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Here's a story out of Arizona, where apparently a historic Frank Lloyd Wright house was under dispute. From the New York Times story by Fernanda Santos and Michael Kimmelman:
The conservancy and other organizations petitioned the city in June to consider giving the house landmark status, after they learned of the former owners’ plans to split the lot to build the new homes. Three local government bodies approved the landmark designation, but the Council, which has the final say, postponed its vote twice, in part to give the parties more time to strike some type of compromise. There was also uncertainty over how some of its members would vote, given the homeowners’ lack of consent for the landmark process.
“If ever there was a case to balance private property rights versus the public good, to save something historically important to the cultural legacy of the city, this was it,” Larry Woodin, the president of the conservancy, said in an interview.
Seems like a good result here, while communities across the nation continue to struggle with how to strike that balance.
January 2, 2013 in Aesthetic Regulation, Architecture, Historic Preservation, History, Homeowners Associations, Housing, Local Government, Planning, Property Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)