COMMUNITY RIGHTS COUNSEL OPPOSES H.R. 2372
September 15, 1999
Community Rights Counsel (CRC) stands with
the International Municipal Lawyers Association, the National
League of Cities, the National Association of Counties,
and many other organizations that represent the interests
of local communities in strongly opposing H.R. 2372, the
Private Property Rights Implementation Act of 1999.
As a non-profit, public interest law firm
that assists local governments in defending community protections,
CRC is uniquely positioned to assess the merits of H.R.
2372. The bill is designed to allow developers and others
to sidestep important land use procedures and sue local
communities in federal court far earlier in the land use
planning process. As a result, it would give developers
a significant new club in their negotiations with local
officials: the threat of early, expensive federal court
In many areas, developers and other landowners
already hold the upper hand in land-use disputes and run
roughshod over the concerns of neighboring property owners
and the community as a whole. H.R. 2372's one-size-fits-all
mandate would further shift the balance of power away from
local communities to developers and other landowners.
Key portions of the bill are plainly unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court's recent ruling in City of Monterey
v. Del Monte Dunes of Monterey reaffirms earlier holdings
that in local land use disputes no violation of the Takings
Clause of the Fifth Amendment occurs until the claimant
has been denied compensation in state court. By purporting
to allow takings claimants to bypass state courts, the bill
contravenes the Court's repeated interpretation of the Fifth
Amendment, creates the false promise of an immediate federal
forum, and will lead to litigation chaos once those portions
of the bill are invalidated.
By prohibiting federal courts from abstaining
in cases involving real property under our federal civil
rights statutes, the bill disrespects the role of state
courts in interpreting state law and unfairly creates special
rights for property owners unavailable to other constitutional
litigants. The bill also would send to the federal courts
the very cases those courts have repeatedly declared unfit
for judicial resolution.
If land use procedures need improvement in
particular communities, the solution is to reform those
laws at the local level, and many state and local governments
are doing just that through permit streamlining laws and
other reforms. But H.R. 2372's all-wisdom-resides-in-Washington
approach would hurt local communities across the country.
The bill improperly and needlessly federalize one of the
most quintessentially local issues that affect local communities
and should be rejected.