Property Rights, Close to Home

 Posted by on 11 November 2010 at 8:00 am  Activism, Colorado, Penley Dam
Nov 112010

I’ve got a very local activist project brewing, and I thought I’d tell you about it now, before it gets hopeless complicated.

Many of the people in our semi-rural neighborhood are up in arms about a dam and reservoir proposed for a neighboring property. That property — the Penley Ranch — is between us and the Rockies, so any dam seems likely to mar our view somewhat and perhaps cause some other (seemingly minor) problems.

Unfortunately, many people in our neighborhood and area seem determined to use force — via our county planners — to stop the project. To justify that, they’re appealing to anything that might be effective: environmental regulations (including some endangered mouse), historic value, diminished property values, increased flood risk, etc. As far as I understand, water rights are not an issue.

You can find more details about the project — and the opposition to it — in this 9 News article.

As far as I understand, this dam project is wholly private. So, as you might expect, Paul and I regard property rights as paramount. But I’d not yet said anything, as the county meetings won’t happen until late December.

At present, my major concern is that the people opposed to the dam will represent the whole neighborhood as opposed to it. So far, the opponents been the only people talking, so they might assume that others agree with them. However, that would be terribly unfair to the rest of us.

This morning, a board member for ICRIA (our neighborhood association) expressed his reluctance about involving ICRIA in this matter, precisely because he imagines that not everyone agrees that the dam should be stopped. That seemed like the perfect opening for me to register my dissent.

Here’s the note that I wrote:

From: Diana Hsieh
Date: November 10, 2010 7:58:35 AM MST
Subject: Re: Meeting

Hi ICR Neighbors,

I don’t know as much as I would like about this project, but in light of Mark’s worries about [the board of our neighborhood association] representing the neighborhood, I figured that I should say something.

My husband and I are strong advocates of property rights. We believe that people should be able to develop their property as they please, without government interference, provided that they don’t violate the rights of others. So we must oppose any attempt to stop this project based on environmental regulations, diminished property values, historic beauty, or minor flood risk — absent some genuine tort.

Hence, we would be wholly opposed to either ICRIA or the Riding Club speaking on our behalf, given that we are not likely to agree with what is said. And if that happens, we will be obliged to speak out against what is said in our name — and that will only create hostility in the neighborhood and confusion about this issue. I’d really like to avoid that.

I would ask that people only speak for themselves — and for their neighbors that they know agree with them. Instead of using non-political organizations like ICRIA and the Riding Club, why not form a “committee against the dam” or something of the sort that can speak for all the nearby residents (not just in ICR) opposed to the project? That way, you’ll be representing people fairly and accurately. That would be best for everyone, I think.


Alas, one woman already wrote everyone to express her disagreement with my proposal that opponents of the dam form a separate group, insisting that she wants the ICRIA board to speak for her. Our by-laws don’t seem to allow for that, but I fear that mere words on a page won’t be much of an obstacle. Alas.

Whether our neighborhood association involves itself or not, I might form a group for “Citizens for Property Rights in Douglas County” or something, to coordinate and represent those of us who don’t want the government meddling with private property. If you have any advice on doing that effectively, please let me know! I’ve never done anything so local before.

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