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Case Study:

Property Rights

Property rights were considered so important to the framers of the US Constitution that the protections were included in Amendments 4 and 5. The 14th Amendment is often cited in zoning case for "due process." In a nutshell, property rights have been decided in court cases creating a dilution of an individual's private property rights and zoning is able to be used as a police power, like property taxes.

Back in 1926, in Euclid, Ohio, a property owner wanted to develop property for manufacturing, a growth from the industrial nearby Cleveland. In order to "preserve" the area, Euclid put together a zoning ordinance to block the development. The case went to the Supreme Couty because the new zoning reduced the land's value.

Euclid was able to aruge the zoning is "form of nuisance control and extension of police power." The court ruled zoning was ok as long as "public welfare" were the cataylst. It is for this very reason, the words "public welfare" are repeated so often in zoning ordinances.

The flip side to public welfare is individual rights which was tested in a major case, Kelo v. City of New London, a 2005 case that went to the Supreme Court.

The fight was over the individual property owner resisting the forced sale of a house to a private company for the development of a proposed "redevelopment" project the city backed because it would "increase property taxes" for New London.

The private developer won that case, and the homeowner had to sell. As an interesting twist, the redevelopment did not happen - the developer couldn't get financing. However, by then, the former homes had all been assembled and torn down...so much for new tax revenue.