Land use policy and the Constitution


The October 12, 2017 edition of the Bridgton News had a front-page article entitled Your thoughts on land use?  The writer, Wayne Rivet, quoted Audrey Knight, Bridgton’s Community Development director as saying, “Every land use has an impact, be it on the environment and traffic.”  What Ms. Knight forgot to add is that land use regulations have a primary impact on property rights.

Without getting into the benefits (or lack thereof) of planning, I wonder where property rights fit into the ongoing thinking and planning by the Land Use Committee?   I ask this question because our Constitution allows for government based on limited powers; powers that allow government by the people; powers to be used to protect the people’s unalienable rights to life, liberty and property.  When it comes to property, the only way that government can interfere with our property is if there is a compelling government interest, due process, and just compensation.

The concept that a majority vote can alter the property rights of individuals is alien to our constitutional concept of government. A majority vote to determine rights of any kind is the tyranny of a democracy and is why our Founders formed a Constitutional Republic instead of a Democracy.

James Madison said, “Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”

Thomas Jefferson said of a democracy, “Democracy is 51% of the people taking away the rights of the other 49%.”

I know that progressive attitudes towards property are ambivalent and somewhat confused.  Possibly because they were taught the Wilsonian theory that the Constitution had out lived its usefulness and needed to be converted to a “living” document that could be changed at will by professional politicians, bureaucrats, and Judges; elites who have unparalleled knowledge in all matters.  Their studied planning should take precedence over inconvenient restrictions on government expressed by the Founders in the Constitution.  Progressives (self-defined) consider themselves better equipped to determine what people should do with their property than the people who create and own the property.

Progressives’ unmitigated hubris is only exceeded by their lack of knowledge about the value of property as the linchpin that secures all other inalienable rights (maybe they do know but willfully chose to ignore property rights in favor of socialist theories). Progressives almost always turn to majority rule to bypass Constitutional limitations on government and its personnel.

Without incorporating the individual’s property rights into planning, the committee’s reports will be for naught, as they are violating the Constitution on at least two levels.  First, they are violating the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (compelling government interest, due process, and just compensation.)  Second, they are violating the whole concept of a Constitutional Republic by using the democratic notion that the majority can vote away the property rights of an individual or group of individuals.

Perhaps it would be a wise move on the part of the commission to show the electorate how their proposals protect inalienable, individual rights as defined under the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.  Finding a law passed by a legislature or a regulation by an agency that conflicts with the Constitution is not sufficient justification to modify the Constitution.  That would be unconstitutional.


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