Houston County Landowners Concerned About Property Rights has been working for years to prevent a “Comprehensive Plan,” contrived in the pursuit of sustainable development. Houston County, Minnesota is a small community of about 20,000, situated in the southeast corner of the state, an unlikely place to be troubled by sustainable development.
Nevertheless, the county adopted a comprehensive plan that ignored private property rights and the principles of freedom. Landowners fought back.
Landowners organized a group of concerned citizens, and sought advice from Sovereignty International, Freedom21, Freedom Advocates, and other organizations experienced in sustainable development initiatives. Then they contacted the Budd-Falen Law Firm.
In early April, the Houston County Commissioners were served with a 36-page Notice of Intent to Sue.
The document claims that the county’s Comprehensive Plan is in violation of the State Constitution and the U.S. Constitution; that the plan is not implemented uniformly among the citizens; and that the county’s enforcement of the plan has exceeded state law.
The document also provides extensive documentation to support the claims.
Rather than force the county to fight an expensive court battle, the landowners have given the commissioners a face-saving alternative. They have offered to appoint a small citizens’ committee to work with the commissioners to correct the defects in the Comprehensive Plan, but only on one condition.
This politically-savvy landowners group developed a resolution outlining six principles on which any Comprehensive Plan should be based:
- Land use planning and zoning is governed by the United States and Minnesota Constitutions, as well as Minnesota law;
- These laws include the prohibition against the taking of private property for a public purpose without due process and just compensation;
- The purpose of land use planning and zoning is to promote public safety and welfare, not to regulate the legitimate use of private property;
- While permits may be needed for issues related to construction of a dwelling, sewer, water, etc., those permits shall not be approved or denied for arbitrary reasons;
- In order to preserve agriculture land uses, landowners may have to use their private property for additional economic uses other than the cultivation of crops, in order for those agricultural uses to be sustainable; and
- The neighbors should have strong voice in the outcome of controversial land use decisions but this voice in the use of the neighbor’s property should be weighed as “harm” not just “personal choice.”
This resolution was circulated in the county and was signed by 700 landowners.
The landowners are demanding that the County Commission adopt this resolution as a condition of their willingness to work with the commissioners to modify the plan.
If the county refuses to sign, then off to court, with the commissioners having to explain to the voters why they would not sign a document to protect property rights.
Congratulations, Houston County landowners. Your work provides a great example for the rest of the nation.
Sovereignty International, Inc.
Victory in the Making by Henry Lamb
Henry Lamb is Executive Vice President of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and Chairman of Sovereignty International. Henry Lamb can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Henry Lamb has a comprehensive archive totaling more than 2,000 pages and accumulated since 1994, located at Sovereignty International’s Library.
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