Four egregious ways that land is being taken and placed in the public domain is through 1) “green” regulations, 2) conservation easements 3) land banks, and 4) eminent domain.
- “Green” regulations (the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the many Climate Change regulations, etc.) from the federal government, as well as state government, allow all levels of government to justify the infringement of private property rights in order to provide protection to the environment.
2) A conservation easement is a restriction placed on a piece of property to reduce usage of the resources (natural or man-made) associated with the parcel. The easement is either voluntarily sold or donated by the landowner, and constitutes a legally binding agreement that is usually permanent and theoretically protects land for future generations. There is an annual property inspection by the grantee, stewardship fees paid to the grantee by the landowner and the threat of a lawsuit against the landowner if violations occur. (1)
Land trusts, farm bureaus, soil & water conservation districts, sewer districts, state departments of natural resources (2), townships and county health departments (3) are all entities that facilitate and become parties to conservation easements (4). Land along water is often targeted. Federal and state budgets have money earmarked for these entities to purchase property from private landowners (3) or to pay landowners to give up many of their rights of land use through a conservation easement.
Conservation easements protect natural resources, wildlife habitat, farmland, and open spaces from development. When the current landowners give up their use and development rights, future owners are similarly limited. Typical limitations on improvements are: no sub-dividing, no buildings, no roads, no property use changes related to agriculture, no energy generation, no commercial recreation and only one or two houses. The land is worth less without the development rights, therefore its market value declines. This creates increased prices for other land in the area. When prices are higher less people can afford to buy the unencumbered property. Less people can afford to pay the increased property taxes.
Publicly-owned conservation easement property (e.g. parks) also generates no property tax revenue (5) and costs additional taxpayer money for maintenance.
In Ohio there are no property taxes levied on conservation easements (1). Farmland owners can also get income tax deductions for several years under a federal program. (6)
Schools and counties, which rely heavily on property tax to operate, must raise the property tax rates on private property owners who do not have conservation easements (7)
Perhaps the most egregious aspect of conservation easements is the reality that in most cases the land in a conservation easement is restricted from development forever. Those who are holders of conservation easements today, are stealing from future generations their ability to provide for their own needs, their own self-sufficiency, in whatever way might be required. No one can predict the needs of our citizens in 10, 100, 200 years from now, yet we are tying the hands of future generations making it impossible for them to use the resources above, on, and below these conservation easements.
It is important to note that without the existence of conservation easements there are still wildlife habitats, farmland, open spaces AND income and property tax generation. There is often talk about land ‘development pressure’ (6) and it’s assumed evil nature but there needs to be equal attention paid to ‘perpetual property tax hike pressure’ and reduced income generation opportunity. As more land is restricted by conservation easements, there is less land available for property tax generation (9) and private income generation.
(1)Lorain County Recorder File #2013-0467389, http://126.96.36.199/External/HTML5Viewer/ ImageViewer.aspx?bHideCartFunctions=False&bIsRefresh=False (2)http://www.ohiodnr.com/tabid/23157/default.aspx#FFY2014
(3) http://loraincountymedicalreservecorps.createsend1.com/t/ViewEmail/r/ 91B3DCFC4756DA1B2540EF23F30FEDED/4BEEB32CF946EF79D08BC3D516CA522B
(4)ORC 5301.69, http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/5301.69
(5)ORC 5709.08, http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/5709 (6)http://www.capitalpress.com/article/20131211/ARTICLE/131219975/1169 (7)http://washingtonexaminer.com/taxpayers-funding-huge-federal-land-grabs-that-may-harmenvironment/article/2529712
3) Land Banks KIRSTEN-HELP!
4) Eminent Domain involuntarily removes property from the citizen. Previous to 2005 the land taken from the private citizen and was destined to be used primarily for the building of roads and railroads. Today property that is being taken from a private citizen may actually end up in the hands of other private citizens-thanks to a 2005 Supreme Court ruling.
In 2005 in the Kelo v. City (LINK THIS) of New London Supreme Court Case the Supreme Court found that the transfer of land from one private owner to another private owner to further economic development is constitutional. The court held that the general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth qualified private redevelopment plans as permissible “public use”. For example, if a certain business could bring in taxes to the community and wishes to locate on a property that is not for sale, the government can take the land through eminent domain for the “greater good” of the community.
The term “greater good” today has a very broad definition. For example, the building of bike paths and sidewalks, can fall under the “greater good” category. The federal government is attempting to create a society that lives within the city/near work so the auto is unnecessary and the bicycle, walking, and mass transit are the primary modes of transportation. With that end in sight the federal government diverts funds from the Federal Highway Fund. (LINK THIS) This money is then funneled down to regional boards (in the form of grants), who in turn use it to entice local government to build sidewalks and bike paths adjacent to their road projects. These amenities widen the roadbed causing the taking of private property along the road bed. During the last ten years, a Constitutional right upon which our country was built; private property, is suddenly less important that a bike path.