Property Rights Foundation of America®

Speech from Proceedings of the Third Annual New York Conference
on Private Property Rights
(1998)

Tactical Advice for Car Owners and Land Owners
Jack Down, Ph.D.
C.A.R.Z. - Citizens Against Repressive Zoning, East Lansing, Michigan

Zoning is a difficult subject because it's such small potatoes, but it is our belief that in the aggregate it is one of the biggest rights takers in the whole country. Zoning is presumed (nasty legal term there, "presumption") to be legal. When you have to fight it, you go in with your money to fight your tax money and you are presumed to be wrong until you prove yourself right. Zoning takes real work to fight.

Our organization was originally formed because we were all car collectors. That's where we got the cute term, C.A.R.Z., meaning Citizens Against Repressive Zoning. I wish now, really, we hadn't done that, because we've grown now. We just finished helping a person in Michigan (I say "finished," because we finished because he left the state because he couldn't take any more fighting) who lost his children because he was a pioneer type who was building his own home, using his own wood to heat, had his own electrical system with a big windmill and his house, of all things, had 12-volt electricity and they said he had to have 120 volt. They came out and said we cannot let children grow up in this terrible environment and they took his kids, and they still have them.

The previous speaker said we should not be confrontational. I am accused all the time of being confrontational. I find it works!

We do try to be polite. Here is the way we handle our own township. I was cited for having a junk car. What was the junk car? Well, it happened to be on my rental property. One of my tenants had an eighteen-year-old kid who had found his car, a Grand Am. He bought it and drove it home. That shows that it wasn't too Bad. But he didn't have the money after he paid for it to buy a license. So he set it in his parking lot, which he paid for with his rent. Not another car sitting there — it was his own parking area. Turned the rear end of the car against the bank of land because Michigan doesn't require us to have a front license plate. I was cited and told to get rid of it as a junk car.

I immediately went through the Freedom of Information Act (and there is a Godsend if ever there was one) to my township and asked for a list of everybody who has been cited for every junk car since our new zoning enforcer. I love this title "enforcer."

I soon had 75 names. It cost me very little. Our township is really quite accommodating.

I wrote every one of those seventy-some people and said, Let's have a meeting. I went to the township and asked for the township hall. I got it rather quickly. I invited the zoning enforcer. I invited his boss and I invited the township supervisor. Nearly forty people got there that night.

By that time I had already asked the police to arrest the enforcer for trespass, because I could prove very easily he could not see that license plate from any place but on my property. Now, that happened. But they didn't do it. They refused. I was thinking about getting a writ of mandamus to force the official to do his job but after the meeting I figured we had really accomplished what we wanted to accomplish anyway. Now I know I have, because the enforcer has never been back, either to that property or my own property, where I have 15 automobiles which are all illegal and "junk" by their standards. I do keep most of them inside. But lately I've gotten more. I have a runover of five cars sitting in my driveway. But we are in the middle of five acres of woods and they can't see very well back there.

I tell you, I am confrontational. I have built five additions on my garage and house without a permit. I do it in the summer when the leaves are out.

Our organization now has dealt with every state in the Union. I used to think that Alaska must be nicer because we never had any problems from Alaska but the other day we got a man from Alaska. So now we've dealt with every state.

We have published some sixty bulletins. A list is in your folder. Basically, these are confrontational in most cases, although lots of times our bulletins say, "Here's what you can do to make the situation better." We do not want 27 junk cars, as someone the other day told us about, in all states of disrepair sitting on a half-acre lot. We agree with the government that says, "That's not right." We really do.

Our bulletins, however, tell you things to do, letters to write, how to get noticed, and certainly encourage people to do such things as go out and ask for an arrest warrant for somebody who comes into your property.

You'll find out if you ever get these bulletins that I use the city of Lansing, Michigan. I call it the "Great Gestapo." I did that in the newspaper now, and the newspaper has refused for the last six months to take any of my stuff.

Our enforcer learned his trade in the Great Gestapo. He came straight from Lansing. I invite them. The other day I made them mad enough to get me into court. I won because I was right. I am now suing them for a frivolous lawsuit. The next step is to sue them and be able to get all my witnesses on record to show how the city inspector lied when she made out the paper against me. Once we get all that down on paper, then the last suit is a civil rights suit in federal court.

That will be our approach. Its confrontational. But I have noticed the last several months that Lansing has been leaving me alone, too. Our bulletins tell other people how to do this.

I want to make one more comment. David Grossack could not come today. He put on a seminar in Chicago for our group last February. His whole approach is to help you pro se your own case. He has to have a retainer, but his retainer is in the low hundreds and not the low thousands. He will help you carry through, hopefully, to the success story, and our group will do all we can to help you get victory.

Thank you.

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