Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Property Rights vs Public Safety on the Jersey Shore

SURF CITY, N.J. — Anchor Produce Market sells homemade mozzarella, its own fresh salsa and what many regulars swear is the best sweet corn on Long Beach Island.

But, a sign on the counter declares, it will not sell anything to the owners of 63 Long Beach Boulevard, 7 Coast Avenue, 12 Sea View Drive South or 34 other nearby oceanfront properties. 

Those owners have refused to grant easements to allow the federal government to build a massive dune along a 35-mile stretch of the Jersey Shore. Without the protective ridge of sand, engineers predict it is only a matter of time before homes, neighborhoods, even entire communities are wiped out by rising seas — a reality brought into stark relief by the devastation from Hurricane Sandy. 

 So until they sign the easements, holdouts should buy their groceries elsewhere. 
Read the rest here.

I loathe eminent domain. As in I really detest it, because it has an incredibly long history of abuse wherever it is legal. But I have never quite been able to bring myself to call for its complete abolition, Mainly because in the back of my mind I have always accepted that there are very rare cases where it can be justified. This might be one of them.

As much as I hate to side with the statists, this really does sound like a handful of people invoking property rights over public safety. And even libertarians will generally concede that your rights end if and when they threaten someone elses. It's a bit like invoking property rights in a refusal to abide by the fire code. My guess is many of these same people who are screaming about their "view" took public money to help repair the damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy or will happily file claims when their house is devastated by the next big storm. Speaking as one of the people who will have to foot that bill I think their position is hard to stomach. 

Even so, I would likely side with them if it were just their property or lives they are endangering. They could be told to sign the easement or renounce any and all future claims to disaster aid, end of story. But it's not just their property at risk. They are endangering other people's property, and potentially even lives on a significant scale. 

Sorry. No one has that right. 

Further, the inconvenience and loss of property value is relatively minor compared to the potential public dangers of failing to build the sand barriers. So yea, this has dragged on long enough. Ask the holdouts nicely one more time. But if they still say no, then invoke eminent domain and expropriate the property required to protect the local community from a major hurricane.

My fingers actually hurt typing that last sentence.

1 comment:

EPG said...

"I loathe eminent domain. As in I really detest it, because it has an incredibly long history of abuse wherever it is legal."

Has there ever been a government without some power of eminent domain? The takings clause seems to assume that it exists, and just attempts to limit it by requiring compensation. How have governments without eminent domain power handled the building of roads, etc.?