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Zoning and Building Codes - National

New information added on January 31, 2009

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Updates and News Briefs

"Why the Assault?" - Book Review By Jigs Gardner (PRFA, June 2008)
Government Pirates: The Assault on Private Property Rights And How We Can Fight It by Don Corace (Harper Collins, 288 pp., $14.95 paper)

"Impact Fees Are Becoming a Popular Tool of Tax-strapped Municipalities"
- News Brief, PRFA, Nov. 2007


12th Annual National Conference
on Private Property Rights
October 2008

Speeches from the Seventh Annual New York State Conference on Private Property Rights
October 18, 2003

"Manhattan Real Estate Investor Funds Property Rights Ballot Measures in Several States" - News Brief, PRFA, December 2006

"Speech to Watauga County Board of Commissioners" - By Madeline K. Carter, March 2006 (Printed by Permission)
This eloquent little speech confronts the commissioners of Watauga County, North Carolina, with using psychologically controlled Delphi Technique at community meetings to lock out the electorate from the constitutional process.

"Case Law Accumulates Implementing the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act" - PRFA News Brief, March 2005
Churches and synagogues are bucking zoning and eminent domain by using the new federal law known as RLUIPA to defend their right to build edifices for worship and religious education and to practice their religion in various locations.

 See Also
See Also

Defeating Zoning and Building Codes - New York

Smart Growth and Urban Sprawl

Citizens Strategies for Defending Private Property Rights

Samples of Techniques Used to Oppose Restrictive Land Use Laws:

"Dear Neighbor" Letter - By Carol W. LaGrasse, May 20, 2004
This letter was mailed to every household with a Stony Creek address or post office box a few days before the public hearing that the Town Board held about a proposed "Law to Regulate the Storage and Maintenance of Junk Motor Vehicles." As a result of the letter, the town hall was so packed that all seats were filled and people crowded around the back and sides of the room. Mostly new, more well-to-do people in this small town said that they wanted the law, but the vast majority of the people were offended. Many stated their opposition with eloquence.

"My Rules for You" - Poem by Carol W. LaGrasse, May 23,2004
Carol LaGrasse read this poem aloud at the public hearing held by the Stony Creek Town Board for their unwanted proposed "Junk" law designed to control unlicensed vehicles that the people keep for a multitude of reasons.

"Local Historic District Abolished in Monterey, Virginia" - By Leo M. Schwartz (Virginia Land Rights Coalition, January 15, 2003)
After a successful political battle led by property rights activists, the Monterey Town Council voted on December 19, 2002 to abolish the town's historic district, one of 200 local districts in Virginia. The spokesman for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources in Richmond, commented, "Our
department is not aware of any other local government in Virginia that has dissolved its historic district."

Essential Books & Publications
Essential Books
& Publications

  "How Subsidized Housing Keeps the Poor Down" Book review by Carol W. LaGrasse, April 9, 2005
Review of: America's Trillion-Dollar Housing Mistake-The Failure of American Housing Policy
By Howard Husock (Ivan R. Dee, Chicago 2003)

Additional Helpful Organizations
Additional Helpful

Utah Property Rights Association, Inc. is organized (January 2003)
Robert J. Fisher, executive director, announced the formation of the non-profit Utah Property Rights
Association based in Murray, Utah. They are organizing for zoning and planning hearings, as well as other important property rights issues. Robert Fisher extends a hearty welcome to new members.

Pacific Legal Foundation
(litigates important private property rights cases)
address & web site

(national organization of automobile hobbyists, also helps private property owners against zoning)
web site


Oregon Council of Motor Vehicle Associations
(organization of Oregon automobile hobbyists)

Additional Resources
Additional Resources

Positions on Property, Vol 3, No. 2 "New Crimes, New Power:
Zoning & Building Codes"

(PRFA, May 1996)

A Wake-Up Call—Organizing for Success, Proceedings of the Fifth Annual New York Conference on Private Property Rights, edited by Carol W. LaGrasse, Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc.
National leaders and experts reveal essentials about reaching your representative, exposing government to the light of day, effective media work, web outreach, cable television, the successful newsletter, keeping a group together, building coalitions, and fund-raising—all in the context of defending freedom.

Toilet planter
"Anderson Township Zoning Dispute: Toilet Planters are the new 'Look and Feel' of Anderson Township!" - Allen and Robin Sutton, May 2006
A toilet planter protest against the township zoning, which stopped their construction of a privacy fence that was needed because Anderson Township, Ohio, cut away their side and front lawns for new sidewalks.

Houston Property Rights Association

Essential Books & Publications
Essential Books
& Publications

James Bovard, Freedom in Chains (St. Martin's Press, 1999)

James Bovard, Lost Rights (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1994)

Bernard H. Siegan, Property and Freedom—The Constitution, The Courts, and land-Use Regulation (Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick 1997)

Bernard H. Siegan, Land Use Without Zoning - (Bartholdi & Lazarus, Houston, 1993)


In-Depth Information

  • Don Corace"Fight the Good Fight for Private Property Rights" - By Don Corace, Real Estate Developer and Author, Naples, Florida; Presented at Twelfth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA, Albany, N.Y., October 18, 2008)
    The assault on private property rights includes eminent domain abuse like that of Susette Kelo for private development, and regulatory takings where the property owner receives zero compensation. Ocie Mills of Florida was the first man to go to federal prison for a wetland violation, singled out by the Corps of Engineers because he spoke out. In Pompano Beach, Florida, two men who had all their permits to build a hotel were stopped with 31 years by their NIMBY neighbors who didn't want their ocean view obstructed. One brother, a millionaire, lost everything, and had a stroke. Join together, put on your gloves, and fight abuses of private property rights.
  • John S. Marwell"No-Growth Zoning" - By John S. Marwell, Esq., Shamberg Marwell Davis & Hollis, Mt. Kisco, New York, Twelfth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA, Albany, N.Y., October 18, 2008)
    The moratorium is the ultimate no-growth zoning tool, during which a town can institute new planning and zoning requirements, even after an applicant has filed for a permit. Ever-increasing impositions include no use of land said to be wetland, wetland setbacks, steep slopes, viewsheds, even exposed rock outcroppings. Now, "environmental subtractions" can remove these from density computations. Organizing and education to expose the junk science behind new rules is essential. The Vested Rights Bill in the New York State Legislature would protect property owners who have submitted applications from a moratorium and new rules.
  • Roman P. Storzer"The Rights of Religious Institutions Facing Zoning and Historic Preservation" - By Roman P. Storzer, Storzer & Greene, P.L.L.C. Washington, D.C.; Twelfth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA, Albany, N.Y., October 18, 2008)
    In no other area is there as much restriction on religious exercise, a First Amendment freedom, than in the land use context, with possibly the exception of prisoners. The federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, RLUIPA, targets landmarking and land use laws. Zoning boards no longer hold all the power. Churches, mosques and temples can go to court and get redress under a relatively strong standard of review.
  • Randal O'Toole"Free Market Solutions to Urban Problems" - By Randal O'Toole, Bandon, Oregon, Director - American Dream Coalition of the Independence Institute, Senior Fellow - Cato Institute, and Senior Economist - Thoreau Institute; Twelfth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA, Albany, N.Y., October 18, 2008)
    States like Oregon that have "growth management" laws require that an urban growth boundary be drawn around cities, to stop growth beyond the boundary and "densify" development within the boundary. This has driven up housing costs and been a big factor in the housing bubble. Along with imposing the urban growth boundary, cities build light rail lines to reduce automobile use and thereby reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, which is thought to be a primary cause of global warming. But light rail is not effective either in attracting riders or reducing carbon dioxide. Efficient cars are better at reducing emissions per passenger mile and cheaper.
  • Lolita Buckner Inniss"The Façade of New Urbanism & the Form-Based Code" - By Lolita Buckner Inniss, J.D., L.L.M., Associate Professor of Law, Cleveland-Marshall School of Law, Cleveland State University, Cleveland Ohio, Twelfth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA, Albany, N.Y., October 18, 2008)
    Form-based code, a tool of New Urbanism, is not doing what advocates claim. It tries to create by design what was spontaneous over a century. The "collaborative" charette process, ostensibly based on the "community," is monopolized by a small strand of people, the elite. New Urbanism tries to recreate old urbanism, but old cities like New York existed as a great range of neighborhood characters experienced by different groups of people. Old urban centers were based on wealth and inherently exclusionary. Zoning originated to protect wealthy urban interests. Zoning contributes to the decline of cities by excluding industrial workplaces from areas where workers live.
  • "A Social License to Operate in Alaska" - Edited by Kelley Hegarty, M.C.P., Kelley Hegarty & Associates, LLC, Alaska Community & Regional Planning Consultants, Posted by permission of the Alaska Miners Association from the 2008 Alaska Miners Association Handbook and Service Directory.
    "No matter how compelling the mineralization, no exploration company will be granted the permits needed to move into the development phase of a large mine project in Alaska without first having earned their social license to operate by neighboring communities." The lessons in this treatise, which grew from international experience, are applicable not solely to mining, but also to commercial and industrial developments in rural, and even urban, communities. Learning the landownership patterns, listening conscientiously to local concerns, and achieving balance are some of the important aspects of the social license to operate.
  • Carol W. LaGrasse"Plan to Win" - By Carol W. LaGrasse (Property Rights Foundation of America® Position Brief, April 2008)
    You are faced with a challenging situation. In order to defend private property rights, you must plan to win. Victory can only come with a multi-front approach. First, describe your goal. Next, objectively list all tactics that your could employ to reach that goal. Finally select the tactics that appear feasible, make a tentative plan, and go to work.
  • "Tell Your Story" - By Carol W. LaGrasse (Property Rights Foundation of America Research Form, February 2008)
    Have you been snared by local officials after you made an application for a site plan, subdivision, or building permit? Did they add new regulations that weren't in place when you submitted your application? Please tell your story on this form, which will help illustrate the failure of the current land use and environmental review law, and may help change the law.
  • Greathouse geodesic dome"Building Code Enforcement Socks Owner of Low-cost Home" - By Carol W. LaGrasse, PRFA, March 2008
    The neat geodesic dome house that David Greathouse built near Craig, Colorado, was innovative and low-cost, a possible inspiration for construction of inexpensive houses. But that was immaterial to building code enforcement. His small-scale geodesic dome house was torn down in July 2007 and Mr. Greathouse moved to New Mexico, where he constructed a new dome house using his salvaged framework, in an area without "benefit" of code.
  • Raymond Keating"Small Business and Private Property Rights" - By Raymond J. Keating, Chief Economist, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, Washington, D.C. and Columnist, Newsday, Long Island, New York; Eleventh Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA, Albany, N.Y., October 13, 2007)
    Local zoning often is a tool of special interests to force small businesses to give up. Government uses its power of eminent domain for economic development for well-financed entities at the expense of small business. During the past 100 years, government has lost respect for private property owners when developing sports stadiums, which used to fit around private property. In addition, it should be more recognized that intellectual private property rights protect the interests of small businesses, not just "big pharma."
  • Roger Pilon, Ph. D., J. D."The Supreme Court's Protection of Private Property Rights: The Founders' Dream, the Owner's Nightmare" - By Roger Pilon, J.D., Ph.D., Vice President for Legal Affairs and Director, Center for Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute, Eleventh Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA, Albany, N.Y., October 13, 2007)
    Roger Pilon presents an overview of private property rights, beginning with first principles, including a discussion of the history of the founding documents, followed by the police power and eminent domain power; then four scenarios of government restrictionsgovernment actions that reduce the value of private property, regulation to stop nuisance, regulatory takings, and full eminent domain; and finally the four categories of eminent domain: transfer to the public, transfer to a private owner for public utilities and the like, condemnation for blight reduction, and transfer to another private party for economic development. Highlights of court rulings illustrate how the Progressive Era led to today's regulatory state.
  • "Flying High without PILOTs: Town of Brookline's Use of a Ground Lease to Thwart Property Tax Exemption for a Charitable Non-profit" - By Arshag A. Mazmanian, Esq. , October 1, 2007
    The Town of Brookline, Massachusetts, granted a re-zoning to accommodate a non-conforming structure proposed by a non-profit, while the Town concurrently acquired the property for ground-leaseback to a developer so that this entity could collect then rent on the sublet ground lease to the non-profit. The portion of the rent equivalent to the real estate taxes that would have been paid if the land were both owned and occupied by a non-charitable entity is paid by the developer to the Town. The Town thereby evades the situation of receiving minimal revenue through PILOTs (payment in lieu of taxes), at most, by a tax-exempt property owner.
  • "Rules of Engagement"-By Carol W. LaGrasse, President, Property Rights Foundation of America. Speech to the Ninth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA, Albany, N.Y., October 22, 2005)
    "First of all, fight to win. Set your goals. Speak your issue clearly to be heard by the government and by those who can follow you," begins Carol LaGrasse's short, to-the-point summary of the basic, essential rules for grassroots success in defending private property rights at every level.
  • Bill Moshofsky"Regulatory Taking Compensation—The Successful Oregon Measure 37 Referendum" - By Bill Moshofsky, President, Oregonians in Action, Tigard, Oregon; Speech to the Ninth Annual Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA, Albany, N.Y. October 22, 2005)
    The Oregon Measure 37 referendum created a solution to the "regulatory overkill" that besets Oregon's property owners, under arguably the strictest land use planning regulations in the country, excessive wetlands, endangered species and forest practice regulation. Oregonians in Action is still fighting against government's attempt to nullify the law.
  • "Property Rights, Trails, & Open Space Preservation" - By Carol W. LaGrasse, Speech to the Comprehensive Planning Advisory Committee, Town of Ballston, June 22, 2005
    Private property rights were fundamental to the founders and protected other rights, but a brief chronology shows that U.S. Supreme Court rulings dealing with zoning and open space have both eroded and protected these rights. Trails threaten private property owners with liability and other problems, but reversionary title is protected.
  • "Maui Church Settles Zoning Dispute" - By Carol W. LaGrasse (PRFA, December 2004)
    The U.S. Justice Department had joined the Hale O Kaula church case in Wailuku, Maui, to enforce the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. The settlement left the law unsettled. Maui County paid $700,000 to the church, but restricted the building, congregation size, and hours of operation.
  • Henry St. John FitzGerald"Inverse Condemnation—The Rationale for Compensation for Regulatory Takings" - By Henry St. John FitzGerald, Attorney at Law, Arlington, Virginia; Speech to the Eighth Annual Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA, Albany, N.Y. October 23, 2004)
    The Constitution is the biggest bulwark to protect our rights, including private property rights. Government keeps trying to expand its power, and important cases hold its power in check. The cases protecting property owners from regulatory takings began in 1922 with Pennsylvania Coal. "Inverse condemnation" is when so many land rights have been taken away that a Fifth Amendment Taking occurs.
  • "Allodial Title—An E-mail Exchange" - by Carol W. LaGrasse (PRFA, November 18 2003)
    A straightforward response to an urgent inquiry from a web site visitor imagining that he can protect his property by filing an allodial deed. People are told that they can avoid building restrictions and real estate taxes.
  • "The Wall of Cars" — By Carol W. LaGrasse (PRFA, May 2002)
    Junkyard owner Gene Crandall stacks cars four high for one-quarter mile along his property line, to comply with the Town of Mentz's order to build a fence.

One-quarter mile stack of cars to comply with town fence order

Click to see large photo
Photo by
Kennard Walter, used by permission

William Vojnar

William Vojnar
Photo by
Peter J. LaGrasse
  • "Supreme Court Rejects 'Categorical' Compensation for Temporary Taking" — By Carol W. LaGrasse (PRFA, April 27, 2002)
    Justice Stevens writes that the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency took only a "temporal slice" of the property interest by imposing lengthy building moratoria. No compensation to landowners is required. The troublesome ruling broadly affirmed the justice of central planning, but left open room for "ad hoc" appeals for compensation for temporary takings.
  • "How Zoning was Defeated in Wetmore Township" - Featuring recollections by Andy Rakiecki (Reprinted from New York Property Rights Clearinghouse, Vol. 6, No. 1, Spring 2002)
    Local citizens defending the rural lifestyle in a Pennsylvania town in the area of the Allegheny National Forest used a townwide referendum to get their anti-zoning message across, 399-47.

Maggie and Andy Rakiecki

Maggie and Andy Rakiecki

  • "Long Warwick Zoning Battle Ends" — By Carol W. LaGrasse (PRFA, February 2002)
    Farmers give a little in dispute with urban emigres. Town drops key parts of farm preservation plan, including "Purchase of Development Rights" and "Open Space" zoning.
  • Death by Zoning - by Jack Down, President of Citizens Against Repressive Zoning (C.A.R.Z.) (February 4, 2002)
    Jack Down's moving summary of the roster
    of people killed in recent years because of zoning enforcement.
  • "Farmers Have Private Property Rights—What Does This Mean?" - Carol W. LaGrasse, speech sponsored by "Local," Warwick, N.Y., (PRFA, October 29, 2001)
    This speech, at the invitation of local farmers and landowners, addresses the combined threat of zoning farmland as "Open Space" while pressuring farmers to sell conservation easements, or PDR's (Purchase of Development Rights), to preserve the character of the remaining farmland that suburbanites moving into the area enjoy.
  • "Sustaining a Local Property Rights Group" - Barry Klein, President Houston Property Rights Association, Reprinted from Proceedings of the Fifth Annual New York Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA 2000)
    Sustaining the property rights association that leads the battle to keep zoning out of Houston involves a sophisticated, thorough knowledge of urban affairs; weekly meetings hosting worthwhile speakers; a regular newsletter; political organizing; and the sustenance of volunteers and funding.
  • "Questions Historic District" - By Carol W. LaGrasse, PRFA, Letter to Editor published in Freeman's Journal, Cooperstown, N.Y., May 7, 1999
    Once a building is placed on the National Historic Register, either individually or as part of a Historic District, the state's Environmental Quality Review Act, SEQRA, mandates that every state and local agency take into account the historic preservation of the building when the agency receives an application for the permit.
  • Thomas A. Miller"Organizing Against Excessive Zoning" - Thomas A. Miller, Founding Member, Allegany Citizens Rights Committee, Allegany, N.Y., from Proceedings of the Third Annual New York Conference on Private Property Rights (1998)
  • Gary Vegliante"Founding A New Municipality" - Gary Vegliante, Mayor, Village of Westhampton Dunes, N.Y.. from Proceedings of the Third Annual New York Conference on Private Property Rights (1998)
  • "Preservation Group Straps Massachusetts Farm Couple" — By Carol W. LaGrasse (Reprinted from the New York Property Rights Clearinghouse, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Spring-Summer 1997, PRFA)
    Bankruptcy court appeal may be the final chapter for Marie and Joseph Hill, an elderly couple who are being evicted from their scenic dairy farm in South Dartmouth on Buzzard's Bay, after losing a battle with a local preservation group, FORM.

The front of the Hill Dairy Farm.

Hill Farm
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