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 "Smart growth" is un-American

By Henry Lamb
web posted August 25, 2008

America's founders believed:

"The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the law of God…anarchy and tyranny commence." (John Adams, A Defence of the Constitution of the Government of the United States, 1797.)

The United Nations believes:

"Private land ownership is a principal instrument of accumulating wealth and therefore contributes to social injustice. Public control of land use is therefore indispensable."   (U.N. Conference on Human Settlements (HABTAT I), 1976.)

Houston County, Minnesota has rejected John Adams' belief and instead, adopted the United Nations belief as reflected in their Land Use Plan.

"Smart Growth" is the name given to the result of comprehensive planning that ignores the sanctity of private property by taking control of land use away from the property owner and placing it in the hands of government – as prescribed by the United Nations. John Adams was right; the result of government control of land use is nothing short of tyranny.

Item:  A young couple bought a home with a few acres of land.  The sale was completed and the deed recorded by county officials. Sometime later, county zoning officials notified the couple that they would have to tear down their home or buy sufficient adjacent land to comply with the county's one home per 40-acre requirement.

Item: A man owned acreage that included a stream.  The owner wanted to build a home on a bluff overlooking the stream.  The county zoning administrator denied the permit, because "fishermen won't want to look up on the hill and see a house."

Item: A widow wanted to sell a wooded parcel as a home site to provide money for her retirement.  The prospective buyer was told that a home could not be built on the property because it was too flat (prime farmland classification), even though the parcel was wooded and could not be farmed.

Item:   A landowner wanted to build a home using stone found on his own property.  County zoning officials denied the permit claiming that such a building would be "too permanent."

These are but a few of more than forty examples of government tyranny that ignores private property rights itemized in a letter to the officials of Houston County, Minnesota. 

Houston County is in the extreme southeast corner of Minnesota, bordered on the East by Wisconsin, and on the South by Iowa.  Fewer than 20,000 people live in the county that is essentially rural farmland.  Local residents see no need for such restrictive regulations on the use of their private property.

For two years, local property owners have tried to encourage county officials to be more reasonable in developing the county's Land Use Plan.  The letter of intent to sue claims that a petition containing more than 700 signatures, as well as the comments filed by the plan's opponents were not considered and that many of the official letters and comments had been "lost" or destroyed.

In a last ditch effort to stop what many see as tyranny of government, property owners turned to the Budd-Falen Law Offices of Cheyenne, Wyoming.  After reviewing dozens of individual cases, and the procedures used by the county, the notice of intent to sue lays out a compelling case of multiple violations of both the State and U.S. Constitutions.  Legitimate use of private property has been denied arbitrarily and capriciously, without due process and without just compensation, according to the intent notice.    

Nearly every community in America has been invaded by this same type of so-called "Smart Growth" policy.  Proponents of "Smart Growth" have taken over the planning profession and have won seats on local governing bodies.  These people claim to "respect" the notion of private property rights, and often include such language in the planning documents, but the actual policies put the lie to these claims.

What is the source of wisdom that declares no more than one structure may be constructed on 40 acres of land?  What is the source of wisdom that declares an "urban boundary zone" beyond which no water, sewer, electricity, or other services will be provided?  What is the source of wisdom that presumes to dictate where, and under what conditions, free people will live?  Why is this source of wisdom accepted as better, or more authoritative than the wisdom of free people exercising their right to use their own property as they see fit, in their own "pursuit of happiness?"

The source of this wisdom is sustainable development, a philosophy of social organization built upon the principle that government must manage the activities of people and the use of resources to insure environmental protection, and social and economic equity, for the current and future generations.

There is no room for America's founders in this philosophy.  There is no room for private property or individual freedom in this philosophy.  Wherever this cancerous philosophy spreads, tyranny follows. ESR

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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