Should Roanoke County supervisors pass a property-rights resolution?
Time for a resolution by the people
Professors Fogel and Chandler state: “The fundamental issues with the resolution as written are ones of need, scope and compliance with the code of Virginia.” What they may not be aware of is that the property rights resolution is still being refined with input from citizens, business owners and, hopefully, other Roanoke County supervisors. It is important to keep in mind that the process to create this resolution is not finished. Indeed, it will be stronger and more complete with community involvement.
Clearly, the resolution has to comply with state code (Dillon rule debate aside) and the scope of it cannot exceed the bounds of state code, though it may create new county guidelines or ordinances within those parameters.
However, the need for it has been apparent for many years in Roanoke County, and that is the real issue that needs to be addressed. As mentioned last week, the current planning process often negates the voice of the citizens, so is it in actuality redundant to affirm existing code in one place, affirm the intent of that code and expand on it as applicable to provide a consistent and declared process needful of citizen input?
The nature of government is always to claim increasing authority, and our pact with government is only as viable as we allow it. If we are to exercise our right to property, then it is imperative that we constantly demand that right.
If a properly constructed property rights resolution serves the citizens and gives them voice, then it is purposeful and fills a need. To put it into perspective, this has been a long and thoughtful process that has not been rushed like so many government mandates are. This resolution is ours, and it is time to make it happen.
Christley, a small business owner, property owner and 25-year resident of Roanoke County, is president of the Roanoke Valley Republican Women and chaplain for the Virginia Federation of Republican Women.
Balancing freedom and the public’s rights
RoxAnne Christley ended her Aug. 25 essay with a partial quote from James Madison. The full quote, which appeared in the National Gazette on March 29, 1792, reads, “In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights. Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions. Where there is an excess of liberty, the effect is the same, tho’ from an opposite cause.” (Emphasis added.)
While addressing those who questioned the efficacy and reach of the national Constitution of 1787, Madison observed “if men were angels no government would be necessary.” The Founding Fathers, swayed by Madison’s logic, designed a system of governance that seeks to balance individual freedom with the rights of the public. The Roanoke County land-use controls retain a substantial inheritance from the past, and they are Madisonian in spirit and practice.
Private property rights in America are exclusive. They are not absolute. The Constitution written by Mr. Madison makes this point with clarity. With equal clarity, the right of citizens to be heard and to participate in government is also guaranteed by the national Constitution as well as the Virginia constitution. Narrative designed to draw attention to these guarantees should be added to rules of procedure the Roanoke County governing body adopts annually. Instead of a property rights resolution, we believe a Code of Governance crafted, adopted and signed by each member of the Roanoke County governing body would be a more effective way to address the concerns raised by Christley.
Fogel is director of the Land Use Education Program at Virginia Tech, Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist, and adjunct professor in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies’ Center for Public Administration and Policy at Virginia Tech. Chandler is director of education for the Land Use Education Program at Virginia Tech and professor emeritus of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech.