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land use and zoning

We’ve tracked (especially by way of the Westchester County, N.Y. controversy) the ambitious efforts of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to grab more control over local governments’ zoning and project building decisions, in part through a proposed new “AFFH” rule (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing). Now the House has voted an appropriations rider cutting off funds for implementation of the new rule. [sponsor Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Paul Mirengoff/PowerLine, Sara Rankin/Legislation Prof (opposed), National Low-Income Housing Coalition, earlier on AFFH and on housing discrimination law generally]

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It squeezes some New Yorkers hard in order to provide what can be a $90,000-a-year windfall for a few [Josh Barro, New York Times] How has the policy worked in Washington, D.C. and nearby Montgomery County, Maryland? [Emily Washington, Market Urbanism]

More: Lots of goodies financed by taxpayers get thrown into the subsidy mix too, says Jim Epstein at Reason.

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Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on May 21, 2014

  • Julie Gunlock, from her new book, on killer garden hoses [Free-Range Kids]
  • “EPA and the Army Corps’ ‘Waters of the U.S.’ Proposal: Will it Initiate Regulatory Overflow?” [Samuel Boxerman with Lisa Jones, WLF]
  • Federal rules governing land ownership on Indian reservations ensure waste and neglect [Chris Edwards, Cato]
  • “Zoning’s Racist Roots Still Bear Fruit” [A. Barton Hinkle]
  • Victor Fleischer: Pigouvian taxes on externalities beloved of economists, not so great as actionable policy [TaxProf]
  • So economically and so environmentally destructive, it’s got to be federal ethanol policy [Hinkle]
  • “Regulation Through Sham Litigation: The Sue and Settle Phenomenon” [Andrew Grossman for Heritage on a consent-decree pattern found in environmental regulation and far beyond; Josiah Neeley, The Federalist]

Maryland roundup

by Walter Olson on April 6, 2014

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“There’s plenty of money. The problem is interminable environmental review.” That’s Philip K. Howard in the Wall Street Journal [summarized here; related Common Good forum with Regional Plan Association] Excerpt:

Canada requires full environmental review, with state and local input, but it has recently put a maximum of two years on major projects. Germany allocates decision-making authority to a particular state or federal agency: Getting approval for a large electrical platform in the North Sea, built this year, took 20 months; approval for the City Tunnel in Leipzig, scheduled to open next year, took 18 months. Neither country waits for years for a final decision to emerge out of endless red tape.

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Some reasons to think Bill de Blasio’s schemes for “mandatory inclusionary zoning” are likely to fall short. [Jim Epstein, New York Daily News]

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Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on July 22, 2013

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The Supreme Court had already ruled that disproportionate “exactions” levied on property owners in exchange for the right to develop are an unconstitutional taking if they consist of demands for land. Now, in Koontz v. St. John’s River Water Management District, the Court confirms that the rule also applies to exactions of money and effort — in this case, a demand that a landowner develop a government property miles away from his own holdings. It also confirms that the principle applies to denials of permits as well as approvals. [Roger Pilon, Tejinder Singh/SCOTUSBlog, Ilya Somin, Damon Root/Reason] Background: Cato brief and summary, Timothy Sandefur and Ilya Shapiro. More: Richard Epstein, Gideon Kanner, Randal O’Toole, Rick Hills, Ilya Somin.

A highly placed Democrat in Sacramento is acknowledging the problems with the state’s environmental-review law, which empowers complainants to stop, slow down or drive up the cost of new development projects. Among those who’ve learned to turn CEQA to their own uses: NIMBY-minded neighbors, business competitors seeking to hobble rivals, and unions looking for a shakedown tool. [Los Angeles Times]

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Check-cashing businesses are perfectly legal, but the Long Island town of Hempstead doesn’t like them, so it’s used zoning to try to force them out of areas convenient to their clientele. New York’s highest court is considering the companies’ appeal. [Newsday]

“Formstone is to Baltimore what Communism was to Czechoslovakia.” Although virtually no one installs the simulated-stone exterior cladding any more, and it doesn’t seem to raise any safety concern, Charm City authorities are still proposing to ban it, which has touched off a wave of protests and a Baltimore Sun editorial objecting to the ban. [Sun reporting, editorial]

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Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on November 30, 2012

  • As wildlife policy goes wrong, it’s guano on the rocks for La Jolla [Matt Welch, language]
  • Georgia-Pacific West vs. NEDC: “Millions of jobs at stake in logging case” [David Hampton, Wash. Times; Henry Miller, Forbes]
  • Ontario environment ministry won’t investigate complaint of noise from neighbor’s basketball play [National Post, earlier]
  • Maryland: Following state mandate, Howard County prepares to stifle farmland development without compensation [HoCoRising]
  • Role of local government structure: “New England vs. Midwest Culture” [George Mattei, Urbanophile]
  • More re: suits vs. utilities over Sandy outages [Bloomberg (Long Island), NJ.com] Pre-Sandy, NY pols kicked around Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) for decades [Nicole Gelinas/ NYP]
  • “Reckless Endangerment: Global Warming in the Courts” [Michael Greve, Liberty and Law] Various interest groups have already locked themselves into EPA’s jury-rigged scheme to limit carbon emissions [Greve]

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Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on August 22, 2012

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Food roundup

by Walter Olson on July 3, 2012

  • Why eating local isn’t necessarily good for the environment [Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu, The Locavore's Dilemma via David Boaz/Cato, BoingBoing]
  • “Can Behavioral Economics Combat Obesity?” [Michael Marlow and Sherzod Abdukadirov, Cato Regulation mag, PDF] Get cranberry juice out of the schools. Must we? [Scott Shackford]
  • Portland might deem you a subsidy-worthy “food desert” even if you’re six blocks from a Safeway [City Journal]
  • “Policemen eying giant iced-coffee I bought near 96th and Broadway. I’m imagining a future of ‘stop and sip.’ ‘Is that sweetened, sir?’” [Conor Friedersdorf]
  • Crise de foie: California’s ban on livers of overfed fowl results in evasion, coinage of word “duckeasy” [Nancy Friedman]
  • In defense of policy entrepreneur Rick Berman [David Henderson]
  • The federal definition of macaroni [Ryan Young, CEI]
  • How food safety regulation can kill [Baylen Linneken, Reason] We’ve got a nice little town here, don’t try to grow food in it [same] And the prolific Linnekin is guest-blogging at Radley Balko’s along with Ken and Patrick from Popehat, Maggie McNeill, and Chattanooga libertarian editorialist Drew Johnson.

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It’s not just New York:

In Georgetown, for instance, Eastbanc has proposed to replace the Canal Rd. Exxon with a five story condo building. From a true historic preservation perspective, there’s not much of a case against the project. It wouldn’t break up the rhythm of the block and the proposed style, while not particularly elegant, was at least not discordant.

But neighbors along Prospect Street would lose a part of their fabulous view across the Potomac. So they argued vociferously during the design review process that the project should be reduced to preserve their views. This had little to nothing to do with genuine historic preservation. … This pattern is repeated frequently in Georgetown and in other historic districts.

The local opponents have thus far blocked the project, which means the historic district is still adorned with the Key Bridge Exxon. One might ask the neighbors whether they feel a gas station enhances the neighborhood’s quaint Nineteenth Century ambiance, except that, taking a leaf from lower Manhattanites, they might say it does.

More: David Schleicher, Prawfs, on the municipal political economy of zoning.

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April 18 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 18, 2012

  • “MPAA: you can infringe copyright just by embedding a video” [Timothy Lee, Ars Technica]
  • NYC: fee for court-appointed fire department race-bias monitor is rather steep [Reuters]
  • Larry Schonbron on VW class action [Washington Times] Watch out, world: “U.S. class action lawyers look abroad” [Reuters] Deborah LaFetra, “Non-injury class actions don’t belong in federal court” [PLF]
  • Will animal rights groups have to pay hefty legal bill after losing Ringling Bros. suit? [BLT]
  • You shouldn’t need a lobbyist to build a house [Mead, Yglesias]
  • “Astorino and Westchester Win Against Obama’s HUD” [Brennan, NRO] My two cents [City Journal] Why not abolish HUD? [Kaus]
  • “Community organized breaking and entering,” Chicago style [Kevin Funnell; earlier, NYC]

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“A 2-story Whole Foods on an empty lot in the heart of brownstone Brooklyn should not take 8 yrs to (maybe) get permits” [@MarketUrbanism on NYT coverage]

December 19 roundup

by Walter Olson on December 19, 2011

  • Too much of a stretch: US nixes copyright in yoga exercises [Bloomberg, earlier]
  • “Know your rights dealing with cops” material construed as probative of criminality [Popehat] Is Justice Scalia really an “unlikely” champion of defendants’ Constitutional rights? [LATimes, Adler] “Overcriminalization: The Legislative Side of the Problem” [Larkin/Heritage, related Meese] When feds spring false-statements trap, it won’t matter whether you committed underlying offense being investigated [Popehat] “‘Clean Up Government Act’ sparks overcriminalization concerns” [PoL]
  • Former Attorney General Mukasey on ObamaCare recusal flap [Adler]
  • American Antitrust Institute proposals might be discounted given group’s longstanding pro-plaintiff bias [Thom Lambert]
  • NYC: “The tour guide said that the way to get rich is to be a zoning lawyer.” [Arnold Kling]
  • “Obama’s Top Ten Constitutional Violations” [Ilya Shapiro, Daily Caller] In at least two major areas, “Obama has broken with precedent to curtail religious freedom” [Steve Chapman]
  • Ted Frank-Shirley Svorny med mal debate wraps up [PoL, Bader]