Frozen Assets in Arizona

Margaret Foster's picture

Don't know if you've heard, but Arizona voters passed a new law in November, a nameless one called Proposition 207. And here's what preservationists have to say about it:

"With Prop 207, we're dead in the water," Debbie Abele, Scottsdale historic preservation officer, told the East Valley Tribune.

It's modeled after Oregon's controversial property-rights law Measure 37. In a nutshell, it allows property owners to seek compensation from the state for infringing on their right to use, divide, sell, or possess their property via a land-use law.

People yell at me whenever I write a story about property rights. A former editor accused me of being a libertarian (a surreal McCarthyism moment). Obviously it's a divisive issue, but I can see both sides: If it weren't for laws, even Mount Vernon could be redeveloped-well, OK, not really. Then again, my neighbor in our historic district has to remove all her new windows because she didn't get approval first. Stuff like that fuels the "don't tell me what to do with my property" case.

Arizona's law means lawsuits, which gives city officials pause. Or stalls them permanently. After Prop 207 passed, the League of Arizona Cities and Towns issued a report that recommends governments to require 100 percent support before designating a historic area. Total agreement? Like that will happen.

In limbo is the only pre-war neighborhood in Tempe, wedged between Arizona State University and downtown. What are the chances that the 204-house neighborhood, built between 1900 and 1940, will become a historic district now?

Margaret Foster is the editor of Preservation Online.
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Comments

Comments

Slight Mischaracterization?

Ms. Foster writes: "[Prop 207] allows property owners to seek compensation from the state for infringing on their right to use, divide, sell, or possess their property via a land-use law."

It was my understand that owners could seek redress for adverse changes in land use restrictions. There's quite a difference between being able to sue because the municipality won't change land use restrictions and being able to sue for changes to existing covenants. Only the latter is covered while Ms. Foster's comments imply the former.

Margaret Foster's picture

Yes, it's changes to existing laws

Here's the legal mumbo jumbo (apologies for the all-caps):

12-1134. DIMINUTION IN VALUE; JUST COMPENSATION

A. IF THE EXISTING RIGHTS TO USE, DIVIDE, SELL OR POSSESS PRIVATE REAL PROPERTY ARE REDUCED BY THE ENACTMENT OR APPLICABILITY OF ANY LAND USE LAW ENACTED AFTER THE DATE THE PROPERTY IS TRANSFERRED TO THE OWNER AND SUCH ACTION REDUCES THE FAIR MARKET VALUE OF THE PROPERTY THE OWNER IS ENTITLED TO JUST COMPENSATION FROM THIS STATE OR THE POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THIS STATE THAT ENACTED THE LAND USE LAW.

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