Property Rights Foundation of America®

from a speech by Walter H. Olsen, Sr., Flanders, N.Y.,
Proceedings of the Third Annual New York Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA, 1998)

Wetlands, Long Island Pine Barrens Takings
Walter H. Olsen, Sr.
President, Civil Property Rights Associates, Inc., Flanders

I realize time is short, so I'll try to be as brief as possible. I apologize, I feel humbled by the previous speakers.

I'm not a good public speaker, but I'll give it my best shot. I feel very strongly about what's going on and I have reason to. Certainly, the people who spoke before me simply echo what I've been experiencing for many, many years. My wife and I have been subjected to much the same treatment that the previous speakers have endured.

We purchased one and one half acres of waterfront resort business property in the town of Southampton on eastern Long Island. We purchased it because it specifically fit the needs that we felt we had at the time in order to establish a retirement plan for ourselves because we were self-employed all our lives. The felt that it would be a good project to build and then lease out and then take care of us in our later years when we wouldn't be able to do the physical work anymore.

Unfortunately, what has happened instead is that we have virtually exhausted any funds that we might have had to use for any retirement. We have fought for over eleven years and we are now closer today than we were eleven years ago, and the fight still continues.

When we began, the wetlands laws that affected us were basically tidal wetlands, which we knew going in. So we were willing to surrender approximately one-third of our property to tidal wetlands. After about three years in the process, it became evident to the town fathers and the powers-that-be that we would be capable of doing the project that we wanted to do, which was a small restaurant on the property, — that everything would fit on the property, we could meet the setback from wetlands and everything else. So they scratched their heads, I feel, and they said, How can we stop these people? And they came up with the idea that, Wait a minute, there's a fresh water wetlands on their property, also.

When we purchased the property, there was absolutely no evidence, there were no maps, by DEC or anyone else, that showed freshwater wetlands on the property. There were three sources of water coming off — from the town, from its state highway in front of the property, which was discharging water illegally onto our property and created a small puddle which existed maybe a week or two out of the year in the rainy season but then dried up. But they used that as a weapon against us to call about another third of the property freshwater wetlands.

So we re-drew our plans again and set back even further. But, of course, it was impossible to completely get out of the wetlands. There simply wasn't enough land left and they knew that. So they were able to deny our permits.

We sued the Town and we lost in court because the Town argued that because we still had 27 other uses that we could apply for in the Town of Southampton, we had not been denied the use of our property. You can imagine how old I'd be if I went through the 27 other uses if this application took ten years.

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