A Law Student's Attempt to Understand It All.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Property Rights Redacted

The Rocky Mountain News (soon to be a memory) reported what is a quite affront to property rights.

It seems that Denver's 16th Street Mall is "at-risk." Apparently, the Mall will start smoking weed and dropping out of high school-- to hang out at the mall.

The self-appointed Historic Denver, Inc., and it's kissing cousin Colorado Preservation, Inc., fret that the 16th Street Mall is in danger of destruction. For those who have lived or worked near the mall, we know that the RTD bus shuttles, while they may be eco-friendly, will damage the Mall's granite tiles. Now Historic Denver, Inc. wants to stop any attempts by RTD to change the Mall's pavement.

What is more disturbing in the file are these lines:
"Historic preservation is moving away from a lone iconic structure," [Jonas Landes, coordinator of the Endangered Places program for Colorado Preservation, Inc.] said. "Our list is an example of where it is going, including a design landscape that is not even 30 years old but an important part of our recent history."
So, instead of taking single buildings by regulation (i.e. putting such onerous restrictions that make a property unusable and therefore greatly devalued), now the "historic preservation" societies are taking entire neighborhoods? Remember, the Mall isn't even 30 years old.

Note too that the restrictions would not only be on RTD but also the properties that line the 16th Street Mall. The "historic" status would make any renovation to the properties very expensive. Imagine if/when they turn their attention to "historic" neighborhoods like Highlands, Globeville, or even Highlands Ranch (hey, if a 30 year old mall, why not a suburb?).

Later in the story, the Rocky notes:
Meanwhile, far from this urban landmark...

* The Fourth Street Commercial District of the town of Saguache is really "main street," but like other rural towns in the West, it is seeing stores shutter as population drops. Mayor Milton Jones, a fourth-generation resident of Saguache, says he wants his hometown to "become a place where people want to live again."
How exactly will a designation which severely limits what an owner can do to a building "become a place where people want to live again"? If the problem for Saguache, Colorado is a troubled economic situation, then the last thing "main street" needs is for the historic preservation districts to make life difficult for any incoming entrepreneurs to bring business and jobs to the city though burdensome historic preservation codes.

We need to stand up and say, "No!" to the nannyists who worry more about a modern mall or decrepit old building than they do about bus carrier safety and business revitalization.

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