Patricia Callahan- Washington Times
4/3/02 - Scant attention has been paid
to legislation currently working its way through Congress that would
institute a $250 million grant program to federalize no-growth
(euphemistically called "smart growth") regulations
nationwide. The result would be devastating for small property
investors, both urban and rural.
"The Community Character Act"
— Senate Bill 975, House Bill 1433 — would require local governments
to implement land management plans using model "smart growth"
statutes provided in a 2,000-page "Legislative Guidebook"
developed during the Clinton Administration by the American Planning
Association, a no-growth trade organization, with almost $2 million in
HUD grant money.
Despite giving lip service to the idea
that land use planning is rightfully a state and local government
function, the CCA undeniably represents a top-down approach to land use
management. The legislation will use our tax dollars to create a
multitude of jobs for APA members, who will be free to promote their
no-growth agenda nationwide.
Re. Steve Chabot, Ohio Republican, is so
concerned about the CCA that his House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee
on the Constitution recently held an oversight hearing on the guidebook
"and its potential impact on property rights and small business,
including minority-owned businesses."
AMA's Stuart Meck, the guidebook's primary
author, told the subcommittee that in 1994, when the project began, the
AMA sent out memos to 150 groups. It would be interesting to see that
list, since those who have the most at risk were completely shut out of
the development process. Career environmental groups were consulted, but
property rights associations didn't even know about the guidebook until
a few months ago. No black or other minority associations were
consulted, according to Harry Alford, president and CEO of the National
Black Chamber of Commerce, who told the House subcommittee that the CCA
would be devastating for minority businesses.
On March 6, 2002, the Senate Environment
and Public Works Committee, chaired by Sen. James Jeffords, Vermont
Independent, also held a hearing on the CCA. When AASPO heard about the
hearing, we immediately called and requested to testify. We were totally
rebuffed, and were told that the National Multi-Housing Council and
several other trade associations had been invited to testify.
Unfortunately, the National Multi-Housing
Council supports the CCA, as does the National Association of Realtors.
The only trade organization that testified in opposition is the National
Association of Home Builders.
The only other person whom Mr. Jeffords
allowed to speak against the CCA was David Sampson, the Commerce
Department's assistant secretary of economic development — the very
agency that would administer the "smart growth" grants under
the Senate bill.
Mr. Sampson said the Bush administration
does not support the legislation, calling it "a centralized
approach to land use planning." Instead, he called for locally
devised plans that are "market-based." Although he gave
several examples, it is questionable whether the good senators
understand what "market-based" means.
All in all, the Senate hearing was like
watching a horror movie. Seeing the issues threaded throughout, such as
"pedestrian-oriented," creating statutes to preserve
"vistas and views," and "affordable housing," makes
it quite clear that this is just the tip of the iceberg. This type of
regulation invariably makes life so miserable for small property owners
that they eventually give up. The result is abandoned buildings that
give the city justification to come in and bulldoze the area, clearing
the way for big developers to come in and put up high-density
high-rises. Some would call this the "unintended consequence"
of "smart growth." Others believe this is exactly the intent.
Land use involves tough issues, fought out
on the local level. It is an exercise in democracy which can at times
become very contentious. The intervention of the federal government in
land use matters, whether directly or through a funding mechanism, will
allow ideologues to exercise undue influence in the process — and
thereby disenfranchise local private property owners. The
"Community Character Act" must be defeated in order to save
the individual characters of our communities.
F. Patricia Callahan, an attorney, is the
founder and president of the American Association of Small Property
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