Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Property, Government, and Florida's Amendment 4

Spring semester begins this week at Stetson, where I am teaching both Real Property II and Local Government Law.  In looking over my course materials for these classes, I was reminded of something that often comes up in my own research – the close relationship between theories of property and theories of government.  For example, a liberal view of property that emphasizes individual rights and choices will clearly have implications about the role of government, the nature of government power, and where that power should reside.  Likewise, a more communitarian view of property often will lead to very different conclusions about these same questions.

A current political battle here in Florida over a proposed constitutional amendment provides a practical illustration.  Amendment 4, if enacted by the voters this coming November, would require that any local government desiring to adopt or amend a comprehensive land use plan first submit that plan or amendment to a voter referendum.  Proponents of the amendment argue that it is necessary to curb unplanned growth, preserve quality of life, and ensure that growth occurs in accordance with community consensus.  Opponents respond that the measure would harm individual property owners, slow down economic growth, and result in costly political campaigns and litigation.

This skirmish obviously raises questions about how property should be used and who should get to make that decision.  But, on a deeper level, it forces one to think about what property is, what functions it should serve, who should receive its benefits, and how it relates to individual and community identities.  Also at work are questions about the design of governmental institutions, the advantages and disadvantages of participatory democracy, and the provision of government services (such as land use regulation).  The way in which one answers the “property” questions will inevitably influence one’s answers to the “government” questions, and vice versa.

I’m a fan of showing students how theory works itself out practically in the “real-world,” and it’s always nice to see interesting examples close to home, especially when those examples cover multiple subject areas.

Mike Kent

P.S.  A big thanks to Ben for allowing me the opportunity to do some guest blogging here at PropertyProf.  I'm really looking forward to it!

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Mike Kent:

You have it wrong. Amendment 4 would make the referendum the FINAL step in the process of amending or rewriting a local Comp Plan.....The local citizens could then veto or approve what has come through the regular channels as now. One more step to give citizens the ability to protect their communities.

Posted by: Joyce Tarnow | Jan 20, 2010 7:55:05 AM

This amendment will slow down the ever increasing stream of changes to land use plans. The few proposed changes that pass through the plannig commissions (knowing that voters will have to approve of them) will have to be obviously beneficial to the community if they have any hope of getting voter approval. This will ease the unrelenting pressure by special interests on our elected commissioners.
I am not trying to demonize developers. I am simply acknowledging that the financial motive is primary for developers (it's what they do). The motives for voters are based on societal needs. Both must be considerd before land is committed for a particular use.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 9, 2010 3:51:40 PM

Joe: "The motives for voters are based on societal needs"

Too often (maybe most often) the motives for voters are parochial.

Posted by: Floridan | Apr 11, 2010 11:11:49 AM

"The motives for voters are based on societal needs" ??? No, actually, based on having sat through a number of public hearings on comprehensive plans,more often than not, the motives of all too many citizens are simply selfish. "Now that I have my house on a quarter acre lot looking out at your nice 100 acre pasture, you shouldn't be allowed to sell off 1 acre lots because that would ruin my view"

Of course one societal need in a growing economy is for more housing. hmm.

Posted by: greenbird | Aug 15, 2010 3:07:56 AM

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