Arizona’s 7-month old property rights law, Proposition 207–the combined eminent domain and regulatory takings reform measure passed overwhelmingly by Arizonans last November–may end up forming the basis for a legal challenge to a new historic overlay district passed in Flagstaff this week. Here’s the skinny from PLF:
The Pacific Legal Foundation today filed a demand letter with the City of Flagstaff, Ariz., which starts the clock ticking toward filing a lawsuit under Proposition 207, the Arizona Private Property Rights Act. This will be the first case invoking the protections of the Act. The case challenges the new city ordinance adopted last night, which imposes a “historic district overlay” on a portion of the city. Essentially a new layer of zoning, this overlay imposes severe height and width restrictions on properties in the area and creates a new bureaucracy with power to deny property owners the right to renovate their homes. PLF represents Jon Regner, a Flagstaff firefighter who purchased his property with the intention of renovating it and living in one house while renting out the other. The new ordinance prohibits him from doing this. PLF also represents several other landowners whose property rights are being trampled upon. Fortunately, with Arizona’s powerful new property rights protection law, these property owners have a legal tool with which to defend themselves.
In just the first seven months of implementation, there have already been several indications that Prop 207 is changing the way Arizona communities approach regulation and growth management issues. For example, in April 2007 the Phoenix City Council voted to repeal a historic designation it had placed on an area in central Phoenix after being threatened with a Prop 207 challenge from an aggrieved landowner. Also, the Tuscon City Council recently delayed the adoption of a neighborhood preservation overlay district to study the potential Prop 207 ramifications after a group of property owners opposed it on Prop 207 grounds, arguing that it would restrict the use of their property and decreased its potential value. In other words, Prop 207 is working. I’ve just written a piece on Prop 207 that will be featured in Reason’s upcoming Annual Privatization Report (slated for a July release) that talks about these events and more, and I’ve got a policy brief in the works that will provide more details on Prop 207 and articulate the case for it as the best current model for state-level property rights protections. For more on Prop 207, check out Big Rattler’s Prop 207 blog.