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Combating Developer-Led Attacks on Smart Growth and Environmental Protection


The "Hammer to the Head" of Local Officials

For the last five years, the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) takings legislation that would make a federal court case out of every local land use dispute and, in the words of a NAHB lobbyist, "put a hammer to the heads" of local officials.  Working closely with organizations such as the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties and the International Municipal Lawyers Association, CRC has helped educate local officials around the country about the threat posed by this legislation.  Thus far, these efforts have paid off: the NAHB's bill has never come up for a vote on the merits before the U. S. Senate.

The American Planning Association's Growing Smart Project: 

The American Planning Association's Growing Smart Project is a federally-funded effort that responds to a universally-recognized need to revise outmoded planning statutes in many states. This critical effort was threatened, however, by developer-lobbyists, who successfully lobbied for insertion of extreme takings provisions into draft model code chapters. The NAHB spent large sums paying lobbyists to ensure that the APA listened to their views on every provision of the Growing Smart model code. The local government community did not have comparable resources to devote to the project and, as a result, their voices were not being heard.

CRC has successfully intervened into this process by assisting the International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA), a member of the Growing Smart Directorate. Concerns raised by IMLA, CRC, the Environmental Law Institute and others were the focus of two Directorate meetings at which the most obviously flawed portions of the model code have been deleted. With these dramatic changes, the Growing Smart model codes have emerged as a viable alternative to outmoded planning statutes.

Oregon Measure #7: The Monster that Might Eat Metro

Oregon is hailed nationwide as a leader in smart growth and effective land-use planning.  It was thus shocking in November 2000 to see Oregon voters approve Ballot Measure 7, a radical takings measure that would require compensation for any law or regulation that reduces property value.  If Measure 7 ever goes into effect, it will effectively repeal Oregon's innovative and powerful land use and environmental safeguards.  The passage of the measure shocked even the measure's proponents, who professed to be promoting the measure simply as a way of "starting a conversation" on property rights.

While Measure 7 was immediately challenged and invalidated in court, its passage should serve as a wake-up call to proponent of environmental protection throughout the country.  CRC has used passage of Measure 7 as a vehicle for educating local officials around the country about the threat posed by takings initiatives, and the steps necessary to defeat these measures where they arise.  For examples, CRC prepared and widely distributed a lengthy analysis comparing the successful efforts to defeat prior ballot measures in Washington and Arizona with the unsuccessful effort to defeat Measure 7.  CRC also organized a discussion on this topic attended by hundreds of municipal lawyers from around the country at the annual seminar of the International Municipal Lawyers Association.

To read an editorial about land rights in the Northwest by Douglas Kendall, CRC's Executive Director, click here.

Balancing the Scales at the American Bar Association

Finally, developer lawyers also recently worked to obtain American Bar Association (ABA) approval of reforms that would gut many smart growth initiatives.  Development interest control several important American Bar Association sections and these sections recently hosted a "retreat" designed to establish "consensus" on necessary reforms to takings law.  Remarkably, as documented by Timothy J. Dowling in a National Law Journal piece, not a single representative of the state and local government community was invited to contribute to this consensus.  CRC invited itself to this retreat on behalf of the local government community and, subsequently, has succeeded in derailing the developers' ABA initiative (to read the comments of Timothy J. Dowling, CRC's Chief Counsel, at the retreat, click here).  CRC rallied state and local government groups, environmental organizations and the planning community to oppose the developers' recommendation for changes to land use law and, in response to this opposition, the ABA shelved the developers' proposal indefinitely at a recent national meeting. Click here for the ABA Meeting minutes.


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