News of Otsego County

Richfield Supervisor race

Super-Majority Aims To Keep Tyranny Out Of Zoning Plans

Super-Majority Aims To Keep

Tyranny Out Of Zoning Plans

To the Editor:

For 150 years after Independence, government attempts to limit how landowners use their property were seen as unconstitutional because:

1. Zoning laws take property rights without compensation, and

2. Zoning laws constitute unequal treatment under the law.

Then came the ‘progressive’ era, in the early 1900s, which brought us the income tax, direct election of Senators, the Federal Reserve and Prohibition – all the so-called progressive reforms.

In 1916, New York City passed one of the first zoning laws in the nation – in response to construction of the Equitable Building (which still stands at 120 Broadway). The building towered over neighboring residences, blocking windows and hiding the sun.

All the original zoning laws in this country were written to address the problems brought on by congestion.

The first zoning enabling act was entitled:“An act to provide for the establishment IN CITIES AND INCORPORATED VILLAGES of districts within which the use of land and structures may be regulated by ordinance….” (emphasis added)

Crowded cities gave us the first zoning laws but the problems of crowded cities are not the problems of rural Richfield. That is why our 20-page land-use ordinance has served us so well for 27 years – it is appropriate to the area.

The proposed 100-page zoning amendment is NOT appropriate, and not warranted. It addresses problems we don’t have and arbitrarily interferes with growth and economic development.

The original NYC zoning law provided for protest petitions to enable dissenting landowners to force a super-majority vote by the legislature.

Edward Bassett, the legal architect of the ordinance noted that the protest petition was “a device for the protection of the property owner” and that its purpose was “to prevent easy or careless changes in the zoning regulations.”

In other words, the authority of government to zone and the recourse for landowners to petition were born in the same moment. The one has gone along with the other since there ever were zoning laws.

Property owners here in Richfield, who have signed objections to the zoning amendment, are using protest petitions exactly as they were intended – “to prevent easy, careless changes“ to our property rights.

Our protest petitions will require a super-majority of the Town Board to pass the zoning amendment. Without a fourth vote, the amendment will fail. The three-member majority may still use our tax dollars to pay an attorney to challenge the petitions – on technicalities.

Should they do that? Will they do that? Or will they accept the wishes of their constituents—and stand down? Stay tuned.


Town of Richfield

Nick Palevsky and David Simonds are running for the Republican nomination for Richfield town supervisor in the June 25 primary.

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