Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Demolishing America …

   Whither goes the law of construction in a country where little is being built?  Perhaps it moves to the law of demolition.  Here are two interesting stories about the very literal disappearance of old industrial America: the disassembly of the huge former Ford plant adjacent to the Atlanta airport (being close to the world’s busiest airport, there are plans for development of the site) and the new work of Habitat for Humanity in demolishing vacant houses in declining industrial cities such as Saginaw, Mich.   
Foreclosure    When manufacturing leaves a factory for good, or people leave a town for good, there are solid reasons for having law mandate an orderly demolition. Crime, drugs, and fire often fill the voids of vacant buildings, as we have seen in neighborhoods blighted by a large number of foreclosed houses.  Perhaps commercial owners and banks should have an obligation to see that their properties do not become nuisance to the community.  There is precedent in laws such as the federal hazardous waste handling statute, which requires a disposal facility to have financial guarantees in case the facility has to close.  Perhaps governments should pay better attention to whether vacant commercial buildings might be reusable for schools or homeless shelters.  Transforming an economy is never easy, but land use law should see (under the law’s guiding principle) that it is accomplished with the interests of the community in mind …

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