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The Rise of Local Historic Districts, and Governmental Abuse of Individual Property Rights

I am always amazed how far we Americans have drifted away from our founding  

principles and passively give away our God given rights to our state and federal governments without even a whimper of protest. In my small Northeastern New Jersey borough of Closter an ordinance was passed in 2001 and updated a few times since then designating parts of the borough as an  historic district. The owners of homes in this district have to adhere to strict rules on the outside of their homes and are not allowed to change or alter their appearance. This was not a voluntary agreement between the owners and the Town Council or with the Boroughs historic commission nor was these restrictions just put on new owners who accepted such a restriction.  This ordinance applied to current owners who may have wanted to update/change their homes when they brought their home prior to the passing of the ordinance.

My town is not the only one in my state to pass such rules; the neighboring town of Oradell has just passed  a similar ordinance.  This also is not a New Jersey phenomenon it is happening all over the country. I am not opposed to reasonable zoning regulations. I in fact have served in the past on my local zoning board but to single out certain property owners who happen to own buildings that in opinion of some citizen or elected government committee is historic and thus enables them to strip owners of their fundamental property rights is against what our country stands for.

On the Federal Level extreme environmentalists also do the same. There are many cases in which a bureaucrat from the Department of the interior or EPA comes on private property determines that some endangered species inhabits the land or the property has a small stream, puddle or other “body “ of water  to abuse the “Clean Water Act” therefore seizing by stealth private property. The property owner still owns the property, has to pay taxes on it but is severely restricted on its use. The constitution is clear that the Federal Government has no right to essentially seize property without properly compensating the owner (5th Amendment).  Not only is this an infringement of personal property rights

by the federal government but a violation of state sovereignty.  By the strict application of the constitution’s original intent the federal government should only have control over

federal lands or if a particular use of a property affects another state. The founders never intended the federal government to interfere with internal state affairs or individual property rights.

Of course progressives say this is for the public good; it is for the good of society.

Well if the federal, state or local government feel such a compelling need there is a“constitutional” way for them to obtain the rights to the property, it’s called” Imminent Domain” . The government states it case in acquiring the property for public use and purchases it from the owner at fair market value.

The destruction of property rights which began 100 years again by the federal Government has now trickled down to the state and local level.  We have become  not property owners in classical sense of the word but become renters paying our “rent” in the form of “Property Taxes” to the state and local level. On the Federal Government level they can confiscate state lands without consent from the states. It’s time we return to the constitution and stop the abuse of individual property rights at all levels. Regulations on property should only be enacted when the use of a property affects adversely in a physical way third parties, neighbors or the community at large.

Personal Property rights should not be whittled away because of some ideal of preservation. If you feel a structure or space must be preserved then you as an individual or group have the right to buy that property. If your Local or State Government feels there is a public interest in preserving the property for public use then they can purchase it. The government or you  have no right to seize or impose your will by taking others property rights away.

Remember one day it could be your rights or property that the government may one day covet.

Just my opinion D.B.

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