Court fails at erosion control
April 26, 2002
If the U.S. Supreme Court won’t protect us from unreasonable government regulation, who will?
That has to be the question following the court’s amazingly wrong — yet wholly expected — decision to uphold the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s power to devalue property for little more reason than not knowing what to do next.
The 6-3 decision this week stems from a moratorium on building at Lake Tahoe between 1981 and 1984, when the TRPA was struggling to adopt land-use regulations.
We have no issue with the TRPA’s ability to set such regulations. We don’t quarrel with the reasonableness of stopping all construction while those regulations were being formulated.
The question at the heart of the case, though, was whether a government agency could do those things without compensating landowners for the damage the TRPA did to the value of their land.
It takes only one example to prove the point. Keith Klein, a plaintiff in the case and a former TRPA Governing Board member, who sold a piece of land on Upper Kingsbury for $35,000 that had been valued at $75,000.
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The court’s ruling ignored such obvious facts in favor of a theory that government processes are more important than individual property rights.
“A rule that required compensation for every delay in the use of property would render routine government processes prohibitively expensive or encourage hasty decision-making,” wrote Justice Paul Stevens. “Such an important change in the law should be the product of legislative rulemaking rather than adjudication.”
As we said, amazingly wrong.
Who does Justice Stevens think bears the cost of those “routine government processes?” In this case, it was 400 Lake Tahoe landowners.
Whose decision-making process does Justice Stevens think was affected by a 32-month building moratorium? In this case, 400 Lake Tahoe landowners and their families.
We’re all in favor of environmental protection for Lake Tahoe. The cost is high, but the cost of not regulating development around a fragile lake would be much higher in the long run. It would mean destruction of the lake as we know it.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s ruling offered up an even higher price. The erosion it caused is in our property rights.
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