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Jonah Fogel, Extension
Sunday, August 25, 2013
In his proposed resolution, Roanoke County Supervisor Ed Elswick focuses on three guarantees that are ingrained in the American experiment, including: the right of citizens to be informed and heard in matters of governance; the obligation that the public’s business be conducted in a transparent manner; and, the right of citizens to use and enjoy the property they own. Few Virginians would disapprove of such concepts. After all, these ideas are as American as apple pie, baseball and Chevrolet. So in our view, the fundamental issues with the resolution as written are ones of need, scope and compliance with the code of Virginia.
As it is drafted, the resolution preamble states the proposed property rights resolution “is to some extent an affirmation of current law and current ordinances.” We agree. In fact, the bulk of what is featured in Elswick’s resolution has long been codified in state statutes, as well as the county code. So why duplicate a narrative that is already featured in the state constitution, the state code, as well as the county code and county ordinances? Is the resolution a redundant exercise? Yes. Is it wrong to draft and adopt such a resolution? No. Would the resolution serve a useful purpose? It depends.
If the rationale underpinning the resolution is one of awareness and education, then adopting the resolution, once it is refined, makes sense. After all, the periodic placement of speed limit signs along a busy highway reminds drivers of their rights as well as responsibilities as they use the road in partnership with other drivers. Elswick’s resolution, once tweaked, would do much the same and, in this light, would be a useful exercise.
The question of scope is a bit more challenging. Elswick has included language that, rather than add value, contorts the narrative in a manner that compromises the resolution’s ultimate value. Ideas that seem to expand beyond the scope of the resolution’s stated intent, include: the protocol for eminent domain proceedings as outlined in the resolution, the admonition that selected land in the county may not be rezoned unless a public hearing is held in the immediate area to be affected, and the statement that property rights disputes will be mediated by the Board of Zoning Appeals with any final decision reserved for the Board of Supervisors.
It is our view that these specific measures should be fully vetted opposite the standards and protocols noted in the code of Virginia. Until this is done, the resolution, as drafted, should not be acted on.
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