- Start with the name: the Texas Landowners Conservancy.
It evokes environmental groups, such as the Nature Conservancy and the Hill Country Conservancy, conjuring backgrounds as green and landscapes as lush as those on the LandownersConservancy's Web site.
Yet the group has created more ire and trepidation among Central Texas environmentalists, and some government officials, than any developer in a decade. In just three months of existence, the Landowners Conservancy has shown that is has deep pockets, powerful political connections and strong ties to developers, some of whom stand to reap bigger profits if the group can convince lawmakers that cities should compensate landowners for strict environmental regulations.
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The issue in question is House Bill 2833, a measure written by Landowners Conservancy lawyers. The bill would force local governments to pay landowners when strict environmental rules cut into land values by more than 25 percent.
The Landowners Conservancy, along with a score of development representatives and property rights advocates, say the bill gives them needed protections against government takings of property.
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The Landowners Conservancy has spent much of the past two weeks trying to reassure lawmakers that the bill would not force cities to compensate landowners for zoning restrictions, smoking bans, sexually oriented business prohibitions and other regulations that might devalue property.
Though the group's battle cry is fairly broad – "Just compensation for land takings," according to its Web site – its leaders insist that the bill's focus is quite narrow: Regulations such as the SOS ordinance requiring that developable land have less than 45 percent impervious cover such as buildings and pavement.
A Measure 37 (of Sorts) in Texas?
Coming on the heels of Oregon's controversial Measure 37 initiative passed late last year (see here, here, and here for more), the Texas House is considering House Bill 2833, which would force local governments to compensate landowners when strict environmental regulations reduce property values by more than 25 percent. Bill 2833 appears to be much more limited in scope than Measure 37, which allows for compensation (or waived regulations) for zoning, environmental, and a variety of other sorts of regulations that reduce private property values. According to the Austin American-Statesman: