Fact Check: Did P&Z Really Propose Condemning Land?

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Courtroom with gavel and question mark.In a recent letter to the editor of the Independence Bulletin Journal, Allen Miller claimed that the Buchanan County P&Z proposed WECS regulations amount to condemning the land of some farmers. He claimed the P&Z is effectively using the right of eminent domain. Furthermore, he claimed that “For those land owners who don’t qualify under the CSR rules, that is a ‘taking’ as defined by the 5th amendment of our U.S. Constitution and as such, we land owners are entitled to compensation.” Is any of this actually true?

Our Verdict: FALSE

Quite frankly the argument that placing restrictions on what you can and cannot do with your land is a “taking” under the 5th amendment is ludicrous and would not hold up in any court of law anywhere in the United States.

The Taking Clause of the 5th amendment specifically states: “Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Taking for public use includes such things as building highways, railroad right of ways, airport runways, and, occasionally, utility transmission corridors. Simply placing restrictions on what you can and can’t do with your own land is not taking it for public use.

Furthermore, it is well established, both in legal opinion and legal precedent, that the government does not need to compensate land owners when it requires them to take reasonable steps or follow certain restrictions in order to prevent damage to the environment, or prevent harm to other public or private property. For example, it is not a taking of my land if the P&Z tells me I can’t construct a toxic waste dump on it because I am too close to a municipal water supply.

At no time has the P&Z ever proposed or discussed taking land from land owners under eminent domain. Only placing reasonable restrictions on where wind turbines can be constructed based on protecting the environment and preserving public safety and health. This clearly does not require compensation under the Taking Clause of the 5th amendment.

Furthermore, using Mr. Allen Miller’s reasoning, all of the following would also be true:

  • Since I can’t construct a dwelling on my own property within a certain distance of a wind turbine, the land owner who has the wind turbine should have to compensate me under the 5th amendment because the land owner has “taken” my property.
  • I should be able to construct a commercial garbage dump on my own property even if the smell will blow right towards my neighbors. If the P&Z tells me no, they should have to compensate me under the 5th amendment because they have “taken” my property.
  • I should be able to set up an all night outdoor heavy metal bar on my own land in the middle of a residential area of Independence. If the P&Z tells me no, they should have to compensate me under the 5th amendment because they have “taken” my property.
  • I should be able to set up an outdoor shooting range on my own land in the middle of a residential area of Independence. If the P&Z tells me no, they should have to compensate me under the 5th amendment because they have “taken” my property.

Clearly all of the above arguments are ridiculous and would not hold up in any court of law, nor would they work in any civilized society. And neither would Mr. Allen Miller’s. Fortunately, we don’t live in a society where you can just do whatever you want with your own land, even if it tramples over the rights of all your neighbors. Society could not function at all if we did.

What is becoming abundantly clear here is that non-participating land owners have agreed to some mutual restrictions. For example, that they cannot construct a dwelling on their own land if another land owner has a wind turbine within a certain distance. The participating land owners, on the other hand, seem to think that they are the only ones who have property rights and that none of the non-participating land owners do, or that somehow their rights outweigh the rights of everybody else.

Perhaps Mr. Allen Miller, constitutional scholar that he fashions himself to be, needs to re-familiarize himself with that other important document in American history that begins with the famous words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”.

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Mike

Mike

I'm a freelance writer who has published multiple technical books. I'm also a long time resident of rural Buchanan County who owns and takes care of two rescue horses. I am interested in preserving our rural farm land for the future of both our children and our animals.

3 thoughts on “Fact Check: Did P&Z Really Propose Condemning Land?

  1. Mr. Miller seems to have things a bit confused. Your comments set the record straight, including clearing the air about any misconceptions about our P&Z Committee.

  2. It’s about time someone started discrediting these wild accusations. If you want to know the truth, come to the P&Z meetings. They are all open to the public and everyone is welcome. The next meeting is April 3, 7:00 pm at the Falcon Center in Independence.

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