Salt Lake City, UT (December 16, 2015) — Libertas Institute is pleased to announce a new proposal to amend Utah’s Constitution to protect property rights. The proposed amendment—a single word—will be sponsored as priority legislation by Representative Mel Brown.
Libertas Institute has published a new policy brief explaining the history of the issue, details of the proposed single-word amendment, along with examples that the amendment would address. A copy was delivered to each legislator last week.
“It’s widely believed that property rights are a fundamental aspect of good government,” said Connor Boyack, president of Libertas Institute. “But our research, along with conversations with land use attorneys, property owners, and city officials, makes clear one simple fact: they don’t actually exist to the degree most people would expect.”
“This constitutional amendment, though simple, is significant,” Boyack continued. “Property rights protections are out of balance, and judges lack the ability to overturn the actions of neighbors or cities that violate this right, simply because there is no relevant constitutional language. We’re hoping to fix that with this proposal.”
The policy brief highlights an example from the town of Virgin, Utah, where a land owner’s investment of millions of dollars to build an RV park was roadblocked due to a narrow majority of neighbors succeeding in a referendum to overturn the town council’s action and shut down the owner’s ability to develop his property. The land remains vacant. Read more here.
The constitutional amendment aims to balance a property owner’s right against the city’s ability to arbitrarily restrict this right, unless a compelling state interest can be shown in protection of the public health, safety, and welfare.
“For years we’ve heard and collected stories of people’s property rights being violated in Utah, and now we’re excited to offer a simple solution that will restore balance between a property owner’s rights, and the interests of city government,” said Josh Daniels, policy analyst at Libertas Institute. “We are confident that the legislature will recognize the importance of this amendment and submit it favorably to Utah voters on the 2016 ballot.”