Fight for property rights

Posted 3/14/23

Dear editor:

In response to Mr. Bromley’s letter to the editor on Feb. 28, I couldn’t agree more. I also urge the residents of Park County to resist the “feel-good” …

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Fight for property rights


Dear editor:

In response to Mr. Bromley’s letter to the editor on Feb. 28, I couldn’t agree more. I also urge the residents of Park County to resist the “feel-good” language in the county’s draft Land Use Plan and see it for what it is: a power grab on private property rights in many directions. The Colorado consultants hired to draft the plan, the county planning and zoning staff, and certain Land Use Plan Advisory Committee members are working overtime to sell this “vision” as a good thing for this community, but all that’s coming are more restrictions, more regulations and more government. If you value private property rights, limited government and free market economics, you must let the P&Z commission and the Park County Commissioners know that this plan is going in the wrong direction.

Who doesn’t love open spaces and scenic vistas? Of course, we all appreciate those things. However, if we don’t stand firm for private property rights, then we will, eventually, lose everything. Our country and our economy are based on private property rights. I understand the emotional argument about “saving farm land” and “conservation” and “protecting open spaces.” Most people hate seeing a beautiful piece of ground, especially one in production agriculture, broken into smaller parcels. However, I promise you that the overwhelming majority of farmers and ranchers in this county only subdivide or sell to a developer as a last resort, not because they want to. People in ag are deeply connected to the land. Nevertheless, the ag business is hard and they need options. Despite the narrative in this plan suggesting otherwise, unfortunately there is very little new blood or younger generations of farmers entering the business — there are not people standing in line wanting and waiting to rent or buy land for the purpose of farming it. One recurring “goal” throughout this plan, a proposed 20-acre minimum lot size for subdivision in the Powell-Cody rural ag overlay, is an especially outrageous strategy. So much for farmers being able to sell off dry pivot corners to help pay for those pivots and improve their operations — things that actually help them stay in the ag business! That is but one of many examples of how or why a farmer or rancher needs to have the flexibility to sell pieces of their land. Ironically, 20-acre lot sizes can actually create more problems than smaller ones because the demographic that typically buys them rarely have the knowledge or equipment to manage them, and most true farmers don’t want to rent or custom farm such small pieces because they are a huge hassle and they don’t have the time.

Another very alarming “goal” in this plan is the requiring of easements for access to public lands for new subdivisions. Are you serious!? If a landowner sells off a piece of land for whatever reason, say that dry pivot corner for example, since they “subdivided,” they must create legal access through their remaining parcel from the subdivided piece to public land, should their remaining piece border public land. This should absolutely scare the socks off of any landowner, and I view this as a tactic bordering on eminent domain.

More regulations are not the answer here, but I think incentives or other types of voluntary programs are. The good farmers and ranchers of this county have been providing countless free ecosystem services to everyone else for decades. It is wrong to punish them and limit them now by restricting their rights and removing their options. Regarding open space, I offer a suggestion of a county-wide “viewshed tax” that will be collected from county residents and paid to landowners who are providing large, open vistas. I have a feeling the “complainers” will not like my suggestion because when it comes down to it, they just want to dictate what they think others should or should not be doing with their own land, rarely do they “put their money where their mouth is.” Incentives and voluntary programs or agreements like conservation easements are a much better way to try and conserve ag land and open space in this county. There are several local and regional nonprofits that are equipped to purchase easements, and the time is right for the development of other ideas to incentivize and reward landowners for what they provide in the hopes they are able to keep their land in agriculture, and therefore, the ancillary benefit of open spaces. The county should keep their existing regulations in place and not move towards more heavy-handed, Boulder, Colorado ideas.  Please resist the “shininess” of this plan, with all its word graphs and fluffy language, and instead, take the time to really look at what is being proposed. There are many more examples in this plan, including things that Mr. Bromley touched on, that increase regulations and restrict private rights. Allowing this plan to move forward establishes the framework or guide for the new regulations, which based on this document, promise to be extreme. There are already regulations in place for minor and major subdivisions, it is an onerous process that not many people undertake. Don’t take the bait, fight for private property rights and speak out in opposition of this plan.

Dylan Tate