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Property Rights is not just a Western problem
See Article Text | 11 September, 2001 | brityank

Posted on 09/10/2001 10:59:39 PM PDT by brityank

Property Rights is not just a Western problem

Over the past few weeks, we have been inundated with heartrending stories concerning the theft of Property Rights by various government agencies manned by unelected bureaucrats foisting their policy regulations with no valid constitutional basis. I believe it fair to say most of us are not only concerned, but getting damned angry in finding just how pervasive the usurpative practices are becoming in even the smallest of communities.

Back in the early Eighties, I bought a small agricultural holding with an old eight room house, a tri-level 20,000 sq.ft. post-and-beam barn, and a couple of smaller outbuildings on eight and a half acres in Upstate New York. We weren't rich, just wanted someplace to keep our couple of horses and brood of cats and dogs without paying through the nose for boarding fees, etc. In 1984 I got a notice from the State; they had identified a small half-acre area in the very back corner that was deemed as part of a 'wet-land area', and asked that I visit the Town Hall to sign an 'acknowledgment' of the deed restriction that was placed against the property. I didn't really pay much attention, other than to discuss it slightly with the tree-farmer behind me who wasn't too worried about it but was not signing anything anyway. Other neighbors had the same feelings, and like me, I suspect most were too concerned with daily life to worry other than object by refusing to sign. The Town Clerk was pretty nice, and didn't press the issue, other than to say that the restriction would be placed automatically upon sale but probably wouldn't mean much anyway.

By '92, my company was feeling the impact of the downturns in the technical fields, and several of our clients either downsized or outsourced. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, and having other contacts from my tenure I was asked to consider transferring to Boston, Phoenix, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, or Dallas. In '94, I sold out and moved to the Philly area, bought a small house in the 'burbs, and went back to sleep.

Last year I was back Upstate camping in the Finger Lakes, and stopped back at the old neighborhood. Nothing much seemed to have changed, except the Agway Coop was gone, and a lot of new city folk had relocated out there. My back-lot neighbor with the tree farm? He had sold out to a developer, and one of the reasons, among many others I'm sure, was that 'wet-land' designation. Seems he could not harvest about half of his stock without getting 'approvals' from some bureaucrats who had never had soil under their nails.

Hanging around here I have had my sleep broken. Jarbidge woke me up. Klamath made me concerned, but hey they (the policrats and bureaucrats) will do the right thing. CARA is making me angry. Here are a couple of notes with links that proves that it's not just the West that is in the crosshairs, but the North, South, and my area the East.

Bulldozed into Bankruptcy
Conservation Easement forces family to demolish their home ...

When Augustine Natale bought farmland in Chester County Pennsylvania in 1989, he did not recognize the significance of language that had been added 22 years earlier to an older deed to the same land. The language, which had been repeated in the deed just before his own deed, was what is technically known as a "conservation easement." The language said that the land could be used only for farming or nature conservation, and for small buildings related to those uses.

Nine years after he bought the land, this language destroyed his life's dream. In November 1998, the broken hearted, elderly man stood by while a bulldozer tore into his new farmhouse and ripped it down to rubble.

Even last year Mr. Natale did not seem to understand the simple, yet technical, language restricting, or encumbering, his deed. He telephoned the Property Rights Foundation of America in New York in a last-ditch hope for help to regain his lost home, but referred to his lawyer an inquiry about the language in the conservation easement.

It is no wonder that Mr. Natale did not know what he had bought when he acquired the 42 acre property. When the French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust, the land trust which holds the conservation easement, sued to stop the construction of the Natale farmhouse in 1989, the Chester County Court of Common Pleas ruled that the farmhouse was allowed under the restrictions. The judge ruled that the construction of the farmhouse "does not offend the easement definition of a "small building" incidental to farming use."

The judge emphasized that the burden of restricting a property owner's use of his land "is substantial," and that the "restriction must be specific and in words incapable of multiple interpretations."

Mr. Natale had saved for the farmhouse for fifteen years. With the court's clear ruling in his favor, he went ahead to build the Colonial house, which would house three generations of his family while they farmed the land.

But, while Mr. Natale built his house, the French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust appealed the decision. The ruling by the Chester County Court of Common Pleas was reversed. In 1995, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court dismissed Mr. Natale's appeal. All that remained was a drawn-out battle about the removal of the house, with the final demolition order given on November 23, 1998. The next day the house came down. Bob Williams of The Philadelphia Inquirer photographed one of the men in the Natale family with his arm around Mr. Natale's waist, while the Chester County Sheriff wrapped his arm around the aged man's broad, stooped shoulders as he turned away when the house came down.

During the 1960's, conservation easements were an exciting new tool for the protection of land from development. Questions about the future implications to property owners were not paramount in the intellectual land-use planning circles developing this new line of protection.

When the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws passed a Uniform Conservation Easement Act in New Orleans in 1981, representatives from some of the states raised important questions, but the model law was railroaded through intact. After the model law passed the highly respected body, it went on to be gradually incorporated into law in many states over the years. The law sets a framework for conservation easements by canceling the historic legal traditions that do not allow broad, negative encumbrances. It also establishes the powerful right of non-profit groups to sue to enforce conservation easements even if they are not parties to an easement.

Meanwhile, as the legal groundwork was being secured, the number of conservation easements also mounted. At the same time, a generation passed. Now, a harvest is being reaped as these easements are affecting subsequent owners. Many cases have gone to court in recent years.

During the 1990's, however, the drive to acquire conservation easements accelerated greatly, with land trusts and government acquiring encumbrances on extremely large rural blocks of land to protect forests, ranches, farms and nature. Some environmentalists want to tie up most of the land in entire regions, such as all of the State of Maine's unincorporated backcountry, with conservation easements.

Moreover, the terms of these new conservation easements are extremely broad, with resource protection superseding even forestry and agriculture, according to the technical language in the deeds. The actual language contradicts the statements of government and environmental groups, which claim that they intend to permanently promote these land-based industries.

If two judges could reach diametrically opposite conclusions on the meaning of the conservation easement encumbering Augustine Natale's property, then the potential for confusion and litigation over the hundreds of thousands of acres of conservation easements being accomplished with much more complex terms is virtually limitless. Conservation easements are devaluing the equity of land-based industries such as farms. Historic private property rights are being muddied. As this new generation of conservation easements comes home to roost, the tragedy of Augustine Natale will be repeated thousands of times. The American tradition of private property ownership and the freedom and prosperity based on private property ownership will be diminished.

For more information, visit
The Property Rights Foundation, Inc.
website at

Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc.

Reprinted from New York Property Rights Clearinghouse, Vol. 5, No. 1 (PRFA, Summer 2001)

One-Two Punch

Long Island Pine Barrens Owners Sue in Both State and Federal Courts

Small property owners trapped in the Long Island Pine Barrens Core Area have gotten to the heart of the law by bringing their complaints in a new lawsuit in state court on June 22. Led by Walter H. Olsen, Sr., the president of Civil Property Rights Associates, Inc., they are suing for a judgment that Environmental Conservation Law Article 57, which established the Long Island Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission, is an illegal delegation of power in violation of the Constitution and that the commission itself is an illegal and unconstitutional entity. Their 109-page petition argues that the zoning powers of the regional commission violate the local home rule powers of towns and villages under the State Constitution and that the map delineating the Core Area where no development is allowed was made illegally, because the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) failed to certify an aquifer recharge map required by statute to logically determine the boundaries of land needed to be preserved to protect the drinking water.

The list of defendants reads like a “who’s who” of the history of the Long Island Pine Barrens statute and the all-important regional zoning map that is tied to it. The lawsuit divulges an unsavory history of how “stakeholders” involved in politics, real estate, and well-connected environmental organizations created legislation and drew the zoning map boundaries of a roughly 50,000 acre Core Area for zero development to suit their own interests without public input or adherence to laws passed to protect the aquifer.

The lawsuit, served by attorneys James E. Morgan and Shiela Galvin of Delmar, digs into financial malfeasance of the Pine Barrens Commission, showing that it expended funds in a convoluted, unauthorized trail of expenditures through the Suffolk County Water Authority, rather than using the special fund required by law. The commission failed to buy a critical indemnification insurance policy that the law specifically directed it to get to protect itself in case landowners went to court. Furthermore, the lawsuit charges that it is illegal for the State Attorney General to represent the commission against landowners’ suits. In addition to these causes and their claims for damages because of the deprivation of their rights, the property owners ask the court to enjoin the State Comptroller from releasing funds to the commission until the State Legislature reconstitutes the entity in accord with the law and the constitution.

The complementary lawsuit in federal court is based primarily on three of the most important bulwarks of freedom, the right to equal protection of the law, the right of due process of law, and private property rights. But in arriving at the Long Island Pine Barrens law and the final map of the area where no development is allowed, most property owners were not given a chance to be involved in the process, and while most property owners lost their private property rights, certain individuals and businesses received special treatment.

On June 28, Gladys Gherardi and several members of Civil Property Rights Associates (CPRA) went to the U. S. District Court, Northern District of New York, in Albany to sue for compensation for the violation of these fundamental rights. In their federal lawsuit, which brings up causes of action that are complementary to those in state court, they emphasize that the government cannot create a sub-class of people.

The commercial property that Mrs. Gherardi owns in Manorville is located directly across Route 111 from land owned by developer Charles Mancini. Although both properties are equally situated with respect to the critical water recharge area for the “so-called” Pine Barrens Aquifer, as the plaintiffs refer to it, Mrs. Gherardi’s property ended up in the Core Area and Mr. Mancini’s property was cut out of the Core Area. The lawsuit reveals that he then built 350 houses with cesspools without having to go before the Long Island Pine Barrens Commission, even though the primary stated purpose of creating the Pine Barrens protection area was to protect the groundwater.

But the process that created the Pine Barrens Core Area produced an even more offensive class distinction. The Town of Riverhead used its statutory veto power over the boundary map to exempt the Grumman property, in which it had an economic interest, even though the land is in the heart of the Pine Barrens ground water recharge area. When the Suffolk County Gabreski Airport, where commercial development is being promoted, and the Brookhaven National Laboratories are also considered, government-controlled properties together comprise ten percent of the area in the Central Pine Barrens, but nearly all of it is cut out from the Core Area. In fact, municipalities control the bulk of the developable land exempt from Pine Barrens Commission control, which is actively marketed at prices that the plaintiffs can never obtain for their property.

The plaintiffs charge that the basis for the boundaries of the Core Area in the final map was a map presented by James LaRocca, the president of the Long Island Association, a prominent businessmen’s group. No one has admitted to being the author of that map, which increased the Core Area from 32,000 acres to 47,500 acres. The plaintiffs charge that the LaRocca map, with a few municipal inputs, provided the basis for the legislation and final plan without regard to aquifer recharge area bounds. The lawsuit charges that the mapping was not done by people with scientific expertise, but by people with economic interests in whether their land was included in the restrictive Core Area.

The lawsuit outlines the machinations that interested, well-connected parties went through to devalue the property in the Core Area. One of the towns up-zoned the lot sizes. According to the parallel lawsuit in state court, James Tripp, who was then at the Environmental Planning Lobby in Albany, worked through then DEC Deputy Commissioner Robert Bendick to bring up the idea of using “transferable development rights” (TDR’s) to keep the cost of compensation to property owners down. The federal lawsuit tells how the Pine Barrens credit system came in on an amendment to the Pine Barrens law. Henry Dittmer, the vice president of CPRA, who is one of the plaintiffs, owns land that is situated much like the Grumman property, but his only option is to sell his land to the Clearinghouse for Pine Barrens Credits. However, the “credits” are essentially useless because their value has no relation to what should be the fair market value of Mr. Dittmer’s land, the plaintiffs charge.

The Nature Conservancy offered Mrs. Gherardi a buyout of $7,500 per acre, when other commercial land on Route 111 is selling for $100,000 per acre. She thinks that the Nature Conservancy is “a government fronting agency working in conjunction with the commission.” Furthermore, at no time was consideration given to the law that the fee owner of the land owns the underground water rights. Summarizing these and other flagrant illegal actions, the lawsuit states that the defendants have acted individually and in concert to deny the plaintiffs’ property interests.

The defendants include the leaders of the State Legislature in their official capacity, plus prominent officials of Suffolk County, the three towns, Pine Barrens agencies, and Suffolk County Water Authority, individually, as well as in their official capacity. In addition, the property owners are suing Richard Amper, who is well-known as the head of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, individually, and in his capacity as vice chairman of the Pine Barrens Commission Advisory Committee. The lawsuit points out that the Pine Barrens Society used the courts to stop 232 projects worth $600 million until overturned by the Court of Appeals in 1992 and that Mr. Amper has influential access to the media. The Pine Barrens law was passed and the map all-too-quickly finalized in 1993, the lawsuit points out. - Carol W. LaGrasse

© 2001 Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Editorial; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: conservation; easements; enviralists; epa; esa; gop; green; landconservation; landgrab; landuseplanning; libertarians; michaeldobbs; natureconservancy; propertyrights; unlist
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And something to paste on the wall or scrapbook for reference.

In Romans 1:18-32 is a great description of radical environmentalism facing America today. The most obvious part of the passage begins at verse 22, read this and see if it describes what we are facing today:

Professing to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures... For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Time for this old geezer to hit the hay (02:00) so I'll play catch-up tomorrow. Goodnight.
1 posted on 09/10/2001 10:59:39 PM PDT by brityank (brityank@FReepmail)
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To: the irate magistrate, church lady, ratcat, farmfriend, jeff head, JudyB1938
Something to think of overnight. Pass it around.
2 posted on 09/10/2001 11:05:46 PM PDT by brityank
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To: brityank
Bump for later read. Hang in there!
3 posted on 09/10/2001 11:15:44 PM PDT by zeugma
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To: brityank
This is an excellent post! We have a 42 acre ranch that is completely surrounded by National Forest. I have been dreading the day that the environmentalists will use my own government to take the ranch away. It's amazing how little regard is given to the rights our forefathers granted to us in the Constitution.

I have bookmarked this post, and printed a copy. I will contact the Property Rights Foundation tomorrow.

Thank you!

4 posted on 09/10/2001 11:19:21 PM PDT by passionfruit
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To: brityank
Good thread here.

Here's a bump!

5 posted on 09/10/2001 11:57:04 PM PDT by the irate magistrate
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To: brityank AuntB Jolly Roger Nunya Bidness MadameAxe
A bump to a few of my friends.
6 posted on 09/11/2001 12:37:01 AM PDT by Anthem
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To: brityank

BTW, the US Supreme Court issued a landmark TAKINGS ruling on the last day of the 1last session aroung June 29, 2001.

(By coincidence, I was in the room, when it was read.)

It is a step toward greater protection of private property from arbitrary government takings, "without just compensation."

7 posted on 09/11/2001 12:47:08 AM PDT by FReethesheeples
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To: brityank
Professing to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures... For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

The scary part is that the NEA is teaching the children the same thing in the schools, where the God is not allowed.

The moral of this story? If you have wetland not that's not on the books yet, bulldose it under while you still have the chance.
So-called endangered lizard on your land? Kill it before they find out.
This may sound radical, but that's what I would do to save my home, property, and everything we"ve worked our whole lives for.

8 posted on 09/11/2001 5:05:58 AM PDT by concerned about politics
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To: brityank
9 posted on 09/11/2001 5:07:00 AM PDT by concerned about politics
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To: brityank
I can't stand to read stuff like this. It tears at my heart!
10 posted on 09/11/2001 6:12:27 AM PDT by JudyB1938
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Comment #11 Removed by Moderator

Comment #12 Removed by Moderator

Comment #13 Removed by Moderator

To: Anthem, brityank
Bumping for a later read. I think we're all having trouble getting back to the usual problems.
14 posted on 09/12/2001 7:57:42 AM PDT by AuntB
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To: ratcat
Don't sell Property Development Rights
By Don L. Ranck

PDRs in Ohio

A Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program has been in operation in Lancaster County, PA for over 22 years. The pushers originally told lies and exaggerated greatly in describing the "sprawl" that would cause Lancaster to be "completely paved over" in a few years. To con people into voting for the PDR program, they created TV ads that showed a moonscape (without PDRs) and a beautiful stream and pastoral scene (with PDRs.) Don't allow Wayne Countians to be conned into selling your birthrights!

The first PDR program here was for 25 years, and county officials duped landowners into signing PDRs that paid $250 per acre, then hid a clause in the fine print that said they would have to pay it all back, plus 6% per year for the 25 years, if they did not allow the PDRs to become perpetual after 25 years, with no additional payment!

After 10 years, the state got involved and eliminated the 25-year provision, allowing solely perpetual (permanent) PDRs, which remove the right to use the land for anything other than what is permitted by the agency that holds the PDR, FOREVER! What this means is that all other rights are subsidiary to the PDRs, and pushers lie when they tell you that you still have all the rest of your rights! There are over 900 land trusts in the U.S.A. telling these lies!

In 12 years of the PA program, nearly half a billion dollars has been spent, much of it bonds that will have to be paid off by future generations, while only 2% of the state's farmland (half of one percent of PA's open space) has been enrolled! Some areas get a lot more money than others, causing envy and distrust throughout state government. The former Master of the State Grange got over $10,000 per acre for PDRs on a 250 acre farm with water and sewer on two sides, bordering the town of Trappe, PA!

Some unscrupulous landowners sell the PDRs on their land, then sell that land to an unsuspecting fool who doesn't care if there is a deed restriction on it because he just wants to farm it anyway! Then they buy another farm twice as big and try to sell the PDRs on that one too. Some state legislators who voted for the program sold PDRs on their own properties ahead of others, too! Now they are trying to reduce property taxes on land under PDRs, excluding the 98% of farmers who have not sold their PDRs.

PDRs can be transferred (sold) from one agency that holds them to another agency, raising the possibility that animal rights groups could obtain PDRs, which would allow them access to your private property.

Those who want to build mansions in the country are the biggest pushers of the PDR program. Once they have their house in the country, they want no one else to build, or at least only the wealthy may build there. Building lots overlooking PDR land increase in value over 300%! Builders and developers of expensive houses quietly favor the PDR program. Some landowners who own more than one farm sell PDRs on one, and then subdivide the adjoining farm. Therefore, PDRs CAUSE the sprawl they are claimed to prevent!

PDR is an incredible abuse of future taxpayers, and this generation of vipers who implement it will be cursed by our children and their children forever into the future.

VOTE NO! Future generations will bless you if you stop the PDR curse. There is a much better way to preserve farmland and open space. NOT with PDRs!


Don Ranck is a resident of Paradise, Pennsylvania, and is a member of the Directors of the Pennsylvania Landowners' Association


I am glad that I sold my Texas ranch this summer because I would go after these liars with a gun in my hands.

15 posted on 11/01/2001 7:08:01 AM PST by B4Ranch
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To: B4Ranch
Those who want to build mansions in the country are the biggest pushers of the PDR program. Once they have their house in the country, they want no one else to build, or at least only the wealthy may build there. Building lots overlooking PDR land increase in value over 300%!

Ain't that the truth!
My county (El Dorado, CA) is overrun with these bastards.

16 posted on 11/01/2001 7:36:03 AM PST by Phil V.
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To: brityank
A bump so I can locate the dam' thing to copy!
17 posted on 11/01/2001 1:49:27 PM PST by backhoe
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To: B4Ranch; backhoe; farmfriend
FRiends -- does anyone have any info on the tax consequences of these PDR's?

Let me pass on some info about a friend in Upstate NY. He and his family owned five small farms around the area along with a large tract in Canada, passed on from four generations. Mr. G. lived on his families original homestead, just outside of Brighton, a moneyed suburb of Rochester. The area really took off in the 60's-70's with $250,000 to $700,000 'gentlemen's estates' (2 to 6 acres) going up all around as other farmers sold out or were coerced out of their holdings. Several times 'neighbors' of his had complained to the town hall because of his farming activities; but since he was zoned 'Agricultural' there was no recourse.

In the middle 80's, a new board had their Property Assessment Department revise the town platt maps, and his resulting tax bill went from $200/acre to $5500/acre. In other words, they were establishing his tax based on the development rights that his property would be worth raising houses instead of food. It took him a few years, but he got the assessments reversed, and he also had them pay all of his bills and fees for contesting their erroneous billings. Sadly, Mr. G. has passed on, but his sons and daughters still hold the property, and still farm there. The town hasn't bothered them since.

So therefor my concern about the tax implications; if Farmer Jones sells his 'PDR's', and therefor acknowledges that the land is worth four or five times what it is assessed for as an agricultural holding -- shouldn't it also follow that he then has placed himself in the position that he has no recourse if the authorities tax him based on that price?

Say NO! to PDR's.

18 posted on 11/01/2001 6:29:53 PM PST by brityank
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To: brityank
My question is what about Homesteading the land. Could they still do a PDR on you?

Tax wise, I believe that they can't tax you on potential property value. It has to be on what the land is worth now. Otherwise tax boards could say you should build million dollar apartment buildings on your land and we are going to tax you as if they were already erected.

19 posted on 11/01/2001 8:05:25 PM PST by B4Ranch
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To: brityank
I would only be fertilizing with fresh chicken manure every early spring and then using cattle manure from the closest dairy farm twice every summer. My neighbors would know they tried to screw the wrong ole boy.

Chicken manure is so hot that it will melt snow as it breaks down and the water in the snow would keep it fresh smelling for a month.

20 posted on 11/01/2001 8:10:25 PM PST by B4Ranch
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