Line Level Defense of Property Rights
December 15, 2009
Since its inception, the Coalition for Property Rights has provided support to individual property owners facing individual threats to their property rights. In addition to our work to the defend the collective rights of all Florida property owners, CPR staff and volunteers attend community meetings and public hearings (land use, zoning, code enforcement, historical review board, etc…) in support of individual land owners.
It is at these local hearings where CPR witnesses the line level erosion of property rights. We witness the worst of human nature when boards of five to seven ordinary citizens forget the ideal of freedom and vote to strip other citizens of basic ownership rights.
Last week, at a local hearing, CPR supported homeowners in the City of Casselberry who have had the misfortune of owning a home next door to a City Commissioner who has been zealous in her vision to improve the aesthetic appeal of the city via the City’s code enforcement division. This couple has been subjected to several years of code enforcement scrutiny and multiple investigations of their property. Up to this hearing, all issues have been resolved or found not to be actual violations of city code.
In one instance, the couple’s backyard fire pit was viewed as offensive. However, the backyard fire pit was not found in violation of city code. A new regulation relative to backyard fire pits (to which the couple would now be subjected) was subsequently adopted. Officials claim the change had nothing whatsoever to do with the incident. (The timing of the new ordinance must have been pure coincidence!)
The proper limited role of code enforcement is to protect the public’s health and safety. Code enforcement should be focused on ensuring buildings are structurally sound and tenants live in safe, sanitary conditions.
However, code enforcement is only limited when municipal codes are limited. Today, most city codes must be published in multi-volume editions or e-published due to the cost of printing hundreds and hundreds of pages of new regulations.
Some elements of these new aesthetically oriented regulations unfairly penalize members of the working class.
For instance, this same evening, another Casselberry resident was found in violation of city code simply for parking his van in his backyard/sideyard. The vehicle was “non-compliant” because it had a Bright House Networks logo painted on its side. Under the city’s revised code, land owners in Casselbery can no longer park vehicles with larger logos in their own driveways or yards. One of the citizen board members mentioned during the debate (as to whether the van was physically parked in the backyard or sideyard) that if the van wasn’t found non-compliant due to the presence of the logo, it had an equally offensive ladder rack on top. Ladder racks are a vehicle accessory apparently also prohibited in Casselberry.
In applying regulations more appropriate to deed restricted communities where homeowners association standards are voluntarily sought out by home buyers, cities like Casselberry are waging an unspoken assault on the working class.
Many exceptional citizens drive logoed vehicles. Logos are applied to help promote the success of their businesses. Policies like this one are anti-business and clearly elitist by design, yet officials will rarely admit this fact.
If not, why is a Casselberry doctor driving to work in a sportscar is free to park his or primary vehicle openly in a private driveway and yet a cable installer not permitted this very same freedom and convenience?
Citizens are not only prohibited from parking their logoed vehicles on their private property in the evening, but this regulation applies to temporary parking as well. Citizens may be found in violation of the law and fined for parking their vehicle at their home during their lunch breaks.
At the hearing, the land owner with the Bright House van was found non-compliant and now faces a $500 per day fine for a repeat offense.
The couple CPR stood with that evening was also found non-compliant. They were forced to move a well-maintained RV which they have parked in their side yard since 2006. The board found that although the vehicle was technically parked behind one façade of their home, the revised city code requires recreational vehicles to be parked behind facades (plural). The Code Board also found them non-compliant with the city’s new recreational vehicle maximum length requirement, despite the fact the investigating officer had not taken a physical measurement of the vehicle’s length. The only evidence presented by the officer was his verbal testimony that he had called several RV dealerships and learned most three-axel RVs exceed 35 feet in length. The assistant City Attorney did not see any problem with the fact that no physical measurement was taken by the City and allowed the board to vote on the potential violation. The board found the landowners in violation on this count based solely on the officer’s verbal report.
These are two examples of the expanded role of government into the lives of ordinary citizens. Public policy is being shifted because small sets of politically-active citizens seem to believe every neighborhood in America should look like a Disney movie set.
In Casselberry, their municipal code targets the very working class citizens who built that city. In seeking to create more affluent-looking neighborhoods, they are ignoring the city’s rich history as a haven of affordability and individual freedom.
When applying government’s police power as a mechanism for imposing aethetic standards, there is a trade off. Personal freedom is being lost. Every rule and regulation created diminishes the freedoms citizens once enjoyed.
If you don’t believe this is true, just ask yourself what you would do if the government you fund suddenly told you could no longer park your private vehicle in your own private yard or driveway.
Property Rights in the News…
An Orlando Sentinel article, “Beach Replenishment Trampled Our Rights, Property Owners Claim” featured CPR commentary on the property rights case recently heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/volusia/os-beach-renourishment-supreme-court-20091201,0,919704,print.story
The Washington Times published an excellent commentary, “Erosion of Property Rights” by senior editorial writer Quin Hillyer discussing the six-prong assault on private property rights occurring at the national level. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/dec/10/erosion-of-ownership-rights/print/
Join or Renew Your Membership – Keep CPR in the Fight!
Join the Coalition for Property Rights or Renew Your Membership today online at www.proprights.com/contribute/ or by calling 407-481-2289 for more detailed information about individual and corporate membership options. CPR’s work is entirely supported by donations from freedom-loving Americans. Keep CPR in the Fight – Join Today!
Volunteer Opportunity – Thursday, December 17th
CPR is supporting two property owners with applications under review by the Orange County Planning & Zoning Commission on Thursday, December 17th. If you have time to attend a public hearing in support a fellow land owner, please call CPR at 407-481-2289 for additional details.
CPR Question of the Day: Are Property Rights Important to You?
Today CPR wants to hear directly from its readers. In 2-3 sentences, why property rights important to you?
Reader responses welcomed! firstname.lastname@example.org
Coalition for Property Rights
2878 S. Osceola Avenue
Orlando, FL 32806