No Need for Need Assessments
December 7, 2009
When it comes to exercising private property rights, should it matter how many other citizens have exercised their rights in the exact same manner? The obvious answer is “No.” Every citizen and property owner should have the same freedom and exact same opportunity to use their land in the manner which they desire.
This fundamental issue of equal rights is a topic of debate in a discussion of whether or not the Department of Community Affairs should require counties and cities to conduct “need assessments” as part of their review and consideration of land use applications.
This empowers government bureaucrats to deny applications based upon what other property owners have built, or in many cases, simply received permission to build at some point in the future.
Need assessment requirements create a differential standard of review for property owners have and who have yet to apply for expanded future uses of their property. You could say it pits the interests of the “haves” vs. the “have yets.”
In the current economic climate, rather than supporting regulations or policies which openly discourage owners from exercising private property rights, officials might want to consider how to encourage landowners to exercise their property rights, as increased capital investment and job growth generally follow.
Need assessments can result in arbitrary or formalized caps on certain types of development. Often, these caps are designed to convey special competitive benefits to certain owners, at the expense of others. Several caps which currently exist in Florida law require owners seeking to build specific facilities to navigate an additional set of regulations in securing permissions to pursue their dreams. Medical facilities, nursing/elder care facilities, and law or medical schools are examples where owners are required to submit to “need assessment” reviews. Florida has several examples of new facilities (and the capital/jobs they represented) were delayed months or even years, due to legal fights surrounding their “certificates of need.” This restricts Florida’s economic potential.
Need assessments create unnecessary and costly burdens on property owners who are seeking simply to build their dreams. We can’t lose sight of the fact that individual dreams are the backbone of our state and national economy.
One landowner’s dream may be the exact same vision of another owner. This may pose direct competition, but competition is a good thing in any economy. It can stimulate efficiency and also result in reduced pricing for consumers.
Some government entities have similar arbitrary caps. One example where existing uses are considered in land use approvals is the unwritten, but practically enforced policy in some locations that landowners cannot seek additional commercial uses at an intersection or even apply for commercial zoning, if two or more of the other owners of corner parcels at that intersection use their land for commercial purposes.
Need assessments can benefit owners who have exercised their property rights at one point in time and negatively impacts owners seeking to exercise their rights at a later date.
Need assessments set up a differential standards of review. This represents unequal treatment under the law.
State and local law should support equal opportunity for individual landowners.
In the current economic climate, the danger of using any type of “need assessments” as a tool for reviewing or potentially denying land use applications, is that we may very well have pre-approved uses which exist only in concept. Owners with land already approved for 1000 new residential homes may no longer have the capital to move their once viable dream forward in today’s economy, or even during the next decade. Should this prior “on paper” approval, which is merely an arbitrary “permission slip” be used to deny another owner the current ability to move forward with a project which they do have the capital to pursue?
Denying this second owner his or her rights – on the basis of a desire to limit the volume of a specific use – could result in lost capital investment and lost jobs for Florida.
We must also keep in mind that no one can predict the future of land use demand in Florida. We can each estimate and guess-timate future needs, but the marketplace revolves around thousands and thousands of individual decisions.
A perfect example of why it is impossible for government planners to predict future market demand can be found in the personal computing industry. What if a planner or government official had had the power to deny Bill Gates or Steve Jobs the ability to pursue their dreams or vision of future market growth, based upon a government staff report containing an assessment or perception of future demand for personal computers at the time these brilliant entrepreneurs were dreaming big dreams? What if our national economy had been limited by a few pages of ink which showed demand existing for personal computers only among several hundred techies.
THE BOTTOM LINE: there is no genuine need for need assessments relative to land use applications in Florida. These assessments merely serve to increase government power and to decrease private property rights.
LAND OWNERS UNITED FOR CHANGE
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