The economic and political ‘news’ via MainStream Media during the week before Thanksgiving 2008 provided a strong incentive to give fervent thanks. But perhaps not the thanks that some think.

First some context:

In the early 1970s EMR’s and his Clustermates worked hard to elect a “reform / change” candidate for County Executive in Howard County, Maryland. Our candidate won. EMR received a plum political appointment (an unsalaried commission chairpersonship) and a broad range of very useful experiences.

The citizens of Howard County, however, did not fare as well. The new County Exec spent the next four years proving that he would NOT do what his opposition warned he would do if he was elected – and what those who voted for him hoped he would do if he was elected.

There was no Fundamental Transformation under the new Exec. He was not reelected to a second term because he had only partially satisfied those who voted against him in the first election and frustrated those who voted for him. He tried to satisfy all the voters instead of taking the actions that were necessary to achieve a sustainable trajectory for the Communities that are all or part in Howard County.

The time frame was a pivotal one in the evolution of the Washington-Baltimore New Urban Region. The Planned New Community of Columbia, MD is located in Howard County. Due to county actions and inactions, many aspects of James Rouse’s vision for Columbia were least-common-denominatored into oblivion and lost forever. Now Reston is cited as THE place in the Washington-Baltimore New Urban Region which demonstrates that there is an alternative to dysfunctional human settlement patterns. See superficial but accurate story “The Often-Imitated Reston Eyes Future With Trepidation,” 28 November 2008 in WaPo. (We say “superficial” because to really address this issue would require the entire Section A ‘news hole.’ That is not possible. See THE ESTATES MATRIX.

EMR lived for nearly a decade in Columbia (1972-1980) and in Reston (1980-1988). Both have become less than their potential but the biggest lost opportunity occurred in Columbia while “our” candidate was County Exec. During that time there was an opportunity to use Community actions in the context of the 1973 OPEC Oil Embargo to provide examples that could have been springboards toward a sustainable future. The opportunities were squandered.

Fast forward to the last week of November in 2008. The handwriting is on the wall.

There is a palpable optimism in Greater Warrenton-Fauquier, in the Commonwealth of Virginia and in the US of A. Citizens believe they have reason to hope there will be “change we can believe in,” change for the better. This optimism is evidenced by the celebration in Grant Park, the demand for tickets to Inauguration events and in animated conversations on Main Street.

There are signs of optimism are based on some of the President-Elects initial statements and promised nominations. The stock market was up before Thanksgiving on the speculation that there will be more bailouts.

It should be noted that not all the views are positive. There are those who fear real change and they are portraying the prospect of Obama led change with a negative spin. Politics-As-Usual advocates are filling partisan blogs with demeaning observations on every action, rumor or illusion that can be misinterpreted to generate fear. The most frightening head line? Karl Rove says Obama is doing a good job because he is picking “experienced” political operatives.

But what is REALLY happening?

The optimism is based on the assumption that the next administration, lead by an economic team of retreads will return the economy to one driven by Mass OverConsumption driven and that these actions will ‘save’ and create jobs for the unmotivated and under-qualified consumers.

The problem is that every action to build consumer confidence and increase consumption will make it harder to achieve sustainable trajectory for First World civilization.

Buying new Autonomobiles will only reinforce dysfunctional human settlement patterns. Bailing out mortgages on Wrong Size Houses in the Wrong Locations will only encourage more unsecured lending and the development of even more dysfunctional settlement patterns.

While the recent ‘team’ announcements generate optimism about a bigger cornucopia of even more bailouts, citizens should have grave reservations about the appointments announced to date.
These are the same politics-as-usual ‘players’ who made the decisions that put the economy in meltdown.

They do not understand the importance of human settlement patterns. They do not understand the roll of Autonomobiles in creating the Mobility and Access Crisis. Members of the transportation team (Downey, Garvey, Heminger, Oberstar and the rest) have spent their entire working life making the mistakes that have resulted in a failed and crumbling Mobility and Access System.

The US of A has grossly OVER INVESTED in and OVER-SUBSIDIZED Air Travel capacity on the assumption that demand will grow without regard to the total cost and environmental impact. Rising costs – including finally paying for environmental impact – is putting air travel out of the reach of most. The inconvenience of anti-terrorism measures makes air travel a pain for all but those who fly in private planes. “See The End of Flight As We Knew It.” (As an aside, there is painful irony in United Airlines betting on rising fuel costs in the short run. Why again are ‘futures’ not just another form of anti-Community gambling?)

The US of A has grossly UNDER INVESTED in functional IntraRegional and InterRegional shared-vehicle ground transport that would support functional and sustainable settlement patterns.

The US of A has grossly OVER INVESTED and OVER-SUBSIDIZED Autonomobility on the false assumption that Large, Private Vehicles could provide Mobility and Access in spite of a laundry list of obvious problems. See THE PROBLEM WITH CARS.

The vast majority of citizens live in a handful of MegaRegions – conterminous New Urban Regions – for which the Autonomobile and Large, Private Vehicle Roadway Systems is the problem, not the solution for Mobility and Access.

The transport infrastructure is failing – there is a Mobility and Access Crisis and the facilities are falling apart. Big construction projects to produce jobs will just mean more investment in the wrong systems and will not provide sustainable Mobility and Access and will not support unsustainable human settlement patterns.

The new economic ‘team’ still does not understand the impact of the housing market on the economy. Few admit the impact of the Wrong Size House in the Wrong Location in the Affordable and Accessible Housing Crisis and the Mobility and Access Crisis.

Here is a quote from Chapter 22 of BRIDGES now in final draft:

“Out of all this, three clippings stand out:

1. “Bernake: There’s No Housing Bubble to Go Bust” in WaPo Business Section 27 October 2005

2. “Housing Cool-Down Is ‘Orderly,’ Fed Chief (Bernake) Says” in WaPo Business Section, 19 May 2006

3. “Fed Chief (Bernake) Says Housing Problems Won’t Spread to Rest of Economy” on Page C4 of the 29 March 2007 New York Times.

The first quote was from a few days before President Bush nominated Bernake to be Chairman of the Federal Reserve. The bottom line is that the “leaders” at the federal level did not have a clue what was happening.”

They still do not know what happened or what will result from pumping more cheap money into shelter related Enterprises before everyone understand the importance of evolving functional human settlement patterns.

The economic rescue squad is burning
through the $700-billion bailout war chest but handing it out to whom so ever threatens to go under. Student loan sharks are the latest ‘victims.’

Here is a great vignette: In the 30 November Wapo (Close to Home) a state senator from Maryland says: “Effective Stimulus? Think Local, Mr. Obama.” Jim Bacon frequently rails about municipal Agency waste and here is a specific. Senator Rosapepe wants federal money to help pay for CROSSING GUARDS.

The reason crossing guards are needed is because children cannot walk safely to school. Why? Dysfunctional human settlement patterns. See note on Columbia and Reston above. Both these still Beta Communities demonstrated how to have safe pathways to schools, the library and the store – including “eyes on the path” – forty years ago. Columbia’s system deteriorated because the School Board scrapped Neighborhood schools and build too many too large shopping venues as noted in The Shape of the Future. Wherever one turns it is THE SETTLEMENT PATTERN STUPID.

The head line reads “The Car of the Future – But at What Cost? Hybrid Vehicles Are Popular, but Making Them, Profitable Is a Challenge.” What nonsense! There is a sure way to make any product profitable: Raise price to cover expenses plus profit. But for Large, Private Vehicles – regardless of the source of power – raising the price means far fewer will be able to afford Autonomobiles. That means the Autonomobile Enterprises will not be able to use most of their overbuilt capacity based on the false assumption that Autonomobiles would provide Mobility and Access.

And all that new technology? The more complex the vehicle, the more it costs. Most citizens would need nothing more than their feet, a bike, a Segway, a Vespa or a Golf Cart for all their travel IF THERE WERE FUNCTIONAL SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.

EMR noted in a recent blog post:

“The cost of energy in all forms – and all goods and services that use energy – is going up.

“Burning thru easy-to-access Natural Capital and borrowing from foreign suppliers has kept the cost of energy and all that energy cost impact artificially low.

“Already the cost of energy has ended The Age of Accessible Air Travel (Terrorism has ended convenient Air Travel at any cost.) See “The End of Flight As We Have Known It.”

“The end of The Age of Autonomobiles, The Age of Big, Scattered Dwellings and other examples of Mass OverConsumption is in sight.

“So is the end of a lot of other things.”

The only question is can citizens come to understand the need for Fundamental Transformations fast enough to implement them before there are not enough resources left to make the Transformation.

The Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday headlines on the economy and the governance transition have been over-washed by the attacks in Mumbai, Bangkok and Wal*Mart. No one will know for months if the stock market ‘good news’ and the cut rate ‘doorbusters’ stimulated the economy but if they did, that just makes things worse.

What does the administration do to “save jobs” in an dysfunctional economy? Stimulating consumption is not the answer.

What is really need are sustainable ways to use the US of A’s greatest surplus resource. That resource is citizens who are not very bright and not very motivated. They:

• Slept through the important parts of high school

• Want to be entertained rather that create their own active, healthful recreation

• Almost all have made location and consumption decisions that they thought were in their best interest, but cumulatively these actions contribute to the growing economic, social and physical dysfunction

Because they happen to be born in US of A they believe “someone” owes them a comfortable life of consumption and entertainment. They are not willing to work at the jobs that those that are attractive to those who are bright, resourceful and were unfortunate enough to have been born in some other nation-state.

There is plenty of challenge and opportunity for the bright and the motivated, it is the vast majority of the Running As Hard As They Cans and most of the Losing Grounds in the bottom 90 percent of the Ziggurat that need reorientation and something productive to do.

Telling a large percentage of the population they are fat, under-educated and slothful is not a way to get elected or reelected. “Leading” the citizens out of their self-created wilderness of sloth, indulgence and dysfunctional ways may not be possible with dwindling resources.

It has taken EMR 40 years to develop the comprehensive Conceptual Framework and the Vocabulary to articulate what should have been obvious to all in 1973. Having those tools in Howard County in 1974 would have been useful. Now the entire nation-state is sliding to the edge and no one is interested in anything but getting back to Mass OverConsumption.

This post opened with a reference to the economic political news during the last week of November and suggested that this news provided reason to give thanks.

Some think a rebounding stock market, lower mortgage interest rates and lower gas prices to encourage more holiday travel were cause for optimism.


The reason for giving thanks this season is:

Most of us born before World War II will be gone before the full impact of sloth, indulgence, consumption and corruption that has led to Mass OverConsumption and settlement pattern dysfunction turns out most of the lights and humans are left with the challenge of making draconian Transformations and few, very expensive resources with which to make them.

EMR hopes you had a nice Thanksgiving too.


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  1. Well… this is a first. I understood the whole post. And, wonder of wonders, I agree with most of it. Bailing out American automakers and re-energizing consumer debt both seem like bad ideas. Having the government build more infrastructure (code word for roads) may not be too bright either.

    But that leaves one very important question – what should be done? The lengthy post by EMR provides a lot of don’ts. Where are the dos?

    Automobiles are bad, buying things is bad, Columbia and Reston are the best ideas around but both are dysfunctional (I disagree on Reston). Consumer borrowing is bad, Americans are ill-educated, too many people are fat.

    The only good news is that people born before WWII will die relatively soon?

    Dude, your ideas are the buzz kills of all buzz kills.

    What would work?

    A New Urban Region is a pretty big place, no? How would people get around? Like to a Redskins game? Or, for EMR, a Vivaldi concert?

    EMR – you have good ideas (even if they take a while to understand). But you seem to love admiring the problem more than putting forward solutions. And that’s too bad. Because I was born well after WWII and so were my kids. Don’t they deserve something better than “cars suck”?

  2. yup.. I read the whole enchilada also.

    and then went to the vocabulary looking for enlightenment on the autonobile…and got referred to the "Handbook".

    then I was looking at this:

    Transport mode Average passengers per vehicle Efficiency per passenger

    Vanpool 6.1 1,322 BTU/mi 2.7 L/100 km (87 MPGeUS)

    Motorcycles 1.2 1,855 BTU/mi 3.8 L/100 km (62 MPGeUS)

    Rail (Commuter) 31.3 2,996 BTU/mi 6.1 L/100 km (38 MPGeUS)

    Rail (Transit Light & Heavy) 22.5 2,784 BTU/mi 5.7 L/100 km (41 MPGeUS)

    Rail (Intercity Amtrak) 20.5 2,650 BTU/mi 5.4 L/100 km (43 MPGeUS)

    Cars 1.57 3,512 BTU/mi 7.2 L/100 km (33 MPGeUS)

    Air 96.2 3,261 BTU/mi 6.7 L/100 km (35 MPGeUS)

    Buses (Transit) 8.8 4,235 BTU/mi 8.7 L/100 km (27 MPGeUS)

    go to the link.. where the original format will make it easier to read.

    but my thought was like Groveton's in terms of mobility within the confines of a NUR.

    Now most folks think that mobility is a good thing.

    They equate it to freedom and prosperity.

    But even the most ardent supporters will admit that because of the way we currently power vehicles that we are not on a sustainable path.

    However, it's clearly possible for the existing fleet of private vehicles to become much more efficient if people are presented with a choice between less mobility with current vehicles and more mobility with lighter, more fuel efficient vehicles.

    and then we have hybrids which actually turn themselves off at traffic signals.

    plug-ins on the horizon.. probably will take several years before the battery technology become mature enough to provide reliable 40-80 mile commuting vehicles.

    Okay.. so my point…

    As EMR states.. not in our lifetimes.. will the current scope and scale of mobility change….because.. there is so much "slop" in what we could achieve in vehicles efficiency if forced to deal with it.

    so… gasoline goes to 10 bucks a gallon.. cars will become electric.. and yes.. there are consequences on that path also… especially if greenhouse gases restrict the use of coal to produce electricity…

    but.. we also know.., that longer term.. we'll get electricity from nukes then solar, wind, tides, etc….

    and so… I cannot a point where mobility comes to a crashing halt…

    T. Boon Pickens correctly (IMHO) says that no matter how many electric cars you have.. that heavy transport trucks will never be electric so he proposes natural gas for them.

    But we also know we can move goods with electric-powered rail – and fairly efficiently as compared with diesel and other fossil fuels.

    So.. if the basic thesis is that fundamental change in settlement patterns ..will be forced.. by the lack of available energy to power vehicles…

    I just can't see this outcome…not only in our lifetimes.. but probably not in generations…

    It would seem that as long as the sun shines.., we'll have energy… to power vehicles…and homes…

    yes.. autonobiles (to use EMRs word) will change… they'll get lighter.. (but stronger) and much more fuel efficient…

    we could call this a kind of "fundamental transformation" if we think that it is possible for the overall fleet of vehicles to eventually use less than half the fuel they use now.

    That would extend their use well past 100 years… even without conversion to electricity… which, unless EMR or others see something I can't, would exceed their use for hundreds of years.

    Okay… so I don't understand how energy … will cause fundamental transformation in mobility.

    change in vehicles and the fuel they use …but not in personal mobility. Heck.. if push comes to shove.. think of Smart Cars that are either hybrid or plug-ins.

    So… we lose the SUVs.. but we still commute to work… and settlement patterns still can be dysfunctional unless some other force becomes involved in changing them.



  3. E M Risse Avatar


    Thank you for the feed back.

    Most of the comments like yours come to SYNERGY off line, it is nice to see one on line.

    First a point of clarification: EMR recalls that you have agreed on this before but EMR believes that Reston – and Columbia, Peachtree City, Irvine, The Woodlands and all the other post WW II Planned New Communities that were market driven and achieved Critical Mass in the US of A, Europa and on the Pacific Rim – are far more functional than any similar scale chunk of urban fabric in the New Urban Regions where they are located. They just do not live up to their potential. There are so many lessons to learn from what they did right and what they were not able to do because of a range of Business-As-Usual forces.

    Sorry for the confusion. As you can see the whole post could have used the Bacon editing touch, and / or more time for a second review.

    On the main question: What to do?

    That is EXACTLY the question that EMR’s professor, mentor and friend Mike Heyman asked when he read an early draft of The Shape of the Future. The former Secretary of the Smithsonian conditioned his agreement to write the Foreword on spotlighting six core Overarching Strategies to evolve functional human settlement patterns. They make up PART FOUR of the book – plus an opening chapter on the imperative of sustainability.

    These strategies include:

    Rational and equitable allocation of location-variable costs,

    Transforming from an auto exclusive to shared-vehicle and pedestrian supportive settlement patterns,

    Rethinking property rights and responsibilities,

    Building the future by rebuilding the past,

    Affordable and Accessible Housing strategies that work,

    Restructuring governance.

    Each chapter has examples of successful field testing of the strategies – often in market driven Planned New Communities.

    All the strategies will still work but the central question is:

    Will a majority of citizen realize they need to implement these strategies before the resources to implement them are exhausted?

    Hope that helps.

    Oh yes, on the Vivaldi Concert and the Redskins game? See Strategy one, two and four…

    And technology.

    We have not been to a live NFL game in three decades nor to a live music even in longer. We do have great sound systems and looked in on several games yesterday and did not have to get wet.

    When it is a special event, we could take a shared-vehicle to our favorite The Christmas Revels…

    Recall the population of Fairfax County would fill FedEx Field ten times over.

    New Urban Regions will not work like Imperial Rome where over 25 percent of the population could see a Chariot Race at the Circus. (Is that the right name? Too busy to check, the Coluseum only held 100,000 as I recall, about the same as FedEx field.


  4. Ray Hyde Avatar

    It is interesting that Air transit, which EMR seems to hate gets better milage than a city bus, even cars do better than city buses, according to these figures. (The figures seem to vary according to source, but these are in the ballpark.)

    I don’t think fuel efficiency tells the whole story. You need to take into account the full range of costs. Buses and trains need a full set of dedicated maintenance, safety, security and operating personnel, plus a “dedicated source of funding”, that autos don’t get, or don’t need. Once you take into account the fuel all those personnel use to get to work and perform their jobs, bus and train efficiency falls even further. And of course the same goes for the people who build and maintain the roadways.

    Once you settle on a full accounting for all the costs involved, then you have to consider what you get for the money: how many people and how much freight do you move to how many destinations?

    If a destination moves, how much stuff do you have to tear apart and rebuild to make the new system work? Metro was built on a radial transportation plan which has by now become largely obsolete: new destinations have sprung up, and there is far more intrasububrban, and extrsuburban transport need that is not met and will never be met by METRO.

    After you consider all of those things, then you can come up with some estimate of the real efficiency. Something like Amortized Capital Costs + Opeational costs (of which energy is part) / persons moved * destinations served.

    There are rational and real trade offs between where you live and work, how much you travel, and what your total living expenses are. Study after study have shown that people DO make rational choices among these. I don’t see anything changing the fundamental dynamics: closer in places are more expensive, and frequently less desirable as well. So you trade those factors for the cost of transportation.

    Now, by Larrys list, the vanpool (and by extension the jitney) wins hads down. I suspect that if you did the analysis suggested above, that would still be the case. I can easily see a system of smart Jitneys operating on a common database that could supply nearly as good a service as the private auto. You punch in on your phone when and where you need to leave and whenand where you need to arrive, and the system selects the best and most direct jitney (or jitneys) to get you to your detination. The system would determine the optimum number of stops along the way, and the trade-off that would mean for the number of passengers per vehicle and number of jitneys needed on the road.

    No Fundamental Transformation would be required for this to work, and all the parts to build such a system are available today. FAA is already working on a similar routing system for the air traffic control system.

    Unlike EMR, I beleive you can solve (or postpone substantially) huge problems with simple, and expedient incremental improvements.

    The problem is that it is difficult, sometimes, to discern what it is that consitutes a real net improvement, and what it is that is just a self-promoting special interest.


    If we choose to, we could eventually reach a situation where all our energy is driven by the sun. I can’t see any reason why we would do that. The earth has SOME fineite capacity for absorbing CO2. As long as the price of fossil fuels is less that the cost of renewables, and as long as we don’t exceed the carrying capacity, then there is no reason not to use some fossil fuels. We might even decide that it is in our iterests to exceed thd carrying capacity for CO2, providing that the rate is small enough that we don’t reach saturation for a couple of thousand years.

    But, any such conversion is going to be a hugely expensive proposition. This eekend I heard that the citibank bailout was going to Cost every single taxpayer $1000. I assume that is a misleading figure, because it is based only on current taxpayers and a single point in time for the bailout. In fact, if it works, Citibank will be around for a long time and a lot more taxpayers than just the current ones will foot the bill. This is the same “point in time” analysis fallacy that makes it appear that resdential housing is a net tax sink.

    But assume that $1000 figure is correct for a moment. There are people in the U.S. for whom such an expenditure would amount to a death sentence. They simply cannot afford it, at the most basic of levels. From a practical standpoint this means that richer people will have to take up more of the burden.

    The same thing is going to happen if (when) we come down to making huge renewables expenditures. Eventually you come to the point where richer people can no longer carry the excess burden.

    Put another way, we can guesstimate what the maximum sustainable carrying capacity of the globe is. When we reach it, then we have to make two decisions.

    Who and how many people are we going to sign death warrants for or prohibit the existence of? This is what is going on at the global warming talks in Poland, thogh no one wants to face facts.

    The second question is how well do we choose to live? We can prohibit a lot of people and live better, or allow more people and share the (sustainable) wealth more.

    When all those born before WWII are gone, who will remember that the war revolved around “lebensraum” and the Caspian oil fields? From Hitler’s perpective it was simply a matter of how much wealth to share, and with whom.

    Absent the oil, Hitler’s werhmacht was as helpless as Napoleon’s army without hay. He was defeated, partly, by mass overproduction of inferior tanks. So If you believe that what we are doing now is unsustainable,then you have to recognize that ANY kind of shift to sustainability is going to mean ,as EMR has said, fewer people consuming less stuff.

    Up to a point. After that it means still fewer people consuming substantilally MORE stuff. Hitler had his ideas about what the balance should be, and who the winners and losers shold be.

    I don’t see any sustainability activists stepping forward to explain how THEY would make the same kind of decisions. I suspect that the strongest countries producing the most stuff will have the most to say about that.


  5. E M Risse Avatar


    First about Electricity raised in the post uranium mining:

    Jim Bacon’s important post on uranium mining – “The Uranium Mining Debate …” was sidetracked by questions re NURs and USRs.

    EMR notes that a commission has announced its intent to study the uranium mining impact. Lets hope they consider the settlement pattern impacts and InterRegional impacts – especially the avoidance of InterRegional Economic Externalities – the sorts of impacts that are the focus of Exonomics.

    In the meantime here is some help for Larry Gross.

    First, in the uranium mining post, Anon 2:49 did a nice job of putting NUR and USR in context. EMR agrees with Anon Zeus, Anon 2:49 should write a book…

    And where did Anon 2:49 hear about the possible demise of USRs? In EMR’s 6:13 PM post in that string.

    Now to help Larry take the next step:

    Understanding NURs and USRs and the New Urban Region Conceptual Framework (including the GLOSSARY Vocabulary of which NUR and USR are important parts) is a tool. This tool does not by itself answer any questions, especially with respect to desirable locations for specific uses. A set of cabinet makers tools does not make a desk, much less design a functional desk.

    NURs and USRs and the organic components of human settlement exist. They are real. They are “out there” right now.

    The SYNERGY’S positions if that the smallest organic component of human settlement that can achieve sustainability is the New Urban Region. That is one of the reasons that the NUR is the key building block of contemporary civilization.

    Sustainable NURs and sustainable settlement patterns in general, DO NOT YET EXIST.

    To evolve into a sustainable NUR, a NUR must be composed of Balanced Communities – and each component of each of the Communities must obtain relative Balance to the extent possible at that scale.

    There are not yet any Balanced Communities. However, humans can come to understand what Balanced Communities and relatively Balanced components would look like and how they would function. See the comments on Reston and Columbia in the main post and in the Note to Groveton.

    To illustrate the “tool, not answer” reality of NURs and USRs, Electricity provides an good example.

    Larry’s question about the location of electric generation is very important. EMR has answered that question many times. The answer has nothing to do with “NUR or USR” or “NUR vs USR” – nothing.

    Electricity has two overarching parameters that make it critical to the future of civilization:

    1) Enormous versatility as a medium of energy AT THE LOCATION OF USE

    2) Enormous loss of value if transported over long distance, especially at low voltage and normal temperatures

    Over half the resources put into the production of electricity are lost in generation, transmission and distribution. (Even more is lost in waste heat from some applications like incandescent lighting, and just plain waste like lighting directed at the sky other than runway lights.)

    What do these two overarching parameters this mean for human settlement patterns and achieving sustainability by reducing energy demand?


    That means strategies like Modular Integrated Utility Systems (MIUS) – and capture and use waste heat.

    This issue was raised in the main “Thanksgiving Perspectives” post. There were a lot of MIUS applications afoot after 1973. Why not wire up a Village in Columbia to run on a MIUS? (EMR sold the idea to Weyerhaeuser for a freestanding Planned New Community in North Carolina but could not sell it in Columbia where it might have actually been built. See “Demise of Overhills” in Chapter 33)

    Why are there no MIUS in Neighborhoods and Villages – and no package nuclear plants except on ships? Because, just as the Autonomobile Enterprises attacked shared-vehicle systems, Energy Enterprises killed every potential MIUS project. MIUSes died because IN THE SHORT TERM energy was cheaper to acquire from burning up Natural Capital.

    There are many other Energy Enterprise actions that promoted the excessive use (e.g. volume pricing) and waste of energy because, as a regulated ‘utility,’ the more electricity that was used, the more profit the utility made. How often have you heard Jim Bacon talk about the tyranny of the Big Grid?

    While this issue has no direct tie to NUR or USR, sustainable options do vary by LOCATION. But that is another story that relates to the problems with big hydro dams (and big dams in general) and coal mines and other factors.

    Hope that helps with the electricity issue.

    Now on to Larry’s comments in this string:

    First, the cite to Wikipedia is interesting. EMR seconds the “Caveats” at the outset but even if Autonomobiles (check this spelling Larry, you forgot the Capital and left out two letters, that is a problem when doing searches, only Google asks “did you mean” and then only on heavily used terms) do “average” only 3,512 BTU/mile that just makes EMR’s point more clear.


    The key benefit of functional human settlement patterns is the many trips required NO VEHICLE. The table Larry cites clearly shows that if you have to use any vehicle, do not use an Autonomobile!

    I know it is hard for 12.5 Percenters to believe this but the market documents that the vast majority PREFER those “less-vehicle-use-needed” settlement patterns. Jim Bacon and I say again and again if you want to live in dysfunctional settlement patterns be our guest, just pay the fair cost.

    Now the REALLY BIG issue:

    The problem with Autonomobiles is NOT just the energy use, that just makes them more expensive.


    Please read THE PROBLEM WITH CARS that is available at the old Bacon’s Rebellion site and also “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Lies” our last column there. In fact if you would like, I will Email you PART FOUR of TRILO-G which is the revised and updated version of THE PROBLEM WITH CARS now in PDF and ready for publication in the BETA draft.


  6. Anonymous Avatar

    It is good to see Groveton provide support for Professor Risse’s work.

    He helped our firm avoid a lot of mistakes and make a lot of revenue for our stockholders before he devoted full time to writing.

    The real problem with Risse’s work is that it is too comprehensive.

    Those who have read The Shape of the Future from cover to cover (including me) agree that the ideas are important but I (and everyone I have talked to about the book) add that the book is “too long” and that big chunks could be cut out because they do not contribute to the overall effort.

    The problem is that every individual (and I suspect each disciplinary group) thinks a different part is not needed. We would all include only the parts with which we are conversant.

    Risse has no peers and therefore there is no peer review.

  7. better…. much better….

    but I don't think we can talk about the sustainability of settlement patterns without discussing externalities required for the long term (sustainable) survivability of that pattern.

    so EMR seems to say that electricity has nothing to do with NURs and USR and then turns around and talks about package nuke plants.

    Why would we talk about generating electricity as close as possible to it's point of use – if it does not have anything to do with the concept of NURs and balanced communities and USRs?

    I think not only is it integral but it goes to the heart of whether or not we need more coal plants.. more nukes… and coal and uranium mining… to serve the burgeoning needs of NURs.

    We have multiple proposals right now – driven by the needs of NURs.

    A coal plant in Wise Va.

    additional power lines & corridors

    a new nuke plant at North Anna

    Uranium mining in Virginia for fuel for nukes

    A water supply outside the clear edge and NUR of HR/TW.

    A new water supply for Newport News on the Pamunkey River rather than inside the NUR.

    All of these things … mean that NURs are not in and of themselves – sustainable.

    USRs essentially mean the same thing…

    The NUR concept by itself has a lot of implications…

    but when you throw in the concept of USRs – things start to get complicated.

    Because they essentially become handy safety valves for things that NURs cannot do inside the clear edge.

    to me.. this borders on negating the whole concept of claiming that NURs need to be – NURs – because … dysfunctional settlement patterns are – not sustainable.

    Well.. what does it mean if NURs are also not sustainable without USRs?

    And … pay attention here –

    how can we talk about the dysfunctional "mobility" of NURs….. especially with regard to clear edges .. and not talk about the functional or dysfunctional aspects of electricity that a NUR uses?

    saying that electricity needs to be generated as "near as possible to the point of use"

    does not answer the question – is a NUR sustainable if electricity that it needs is generated outside of it's clear edge?

    This is an important question because electricity – as currently produced – generates substantial pollution.

    Is a NUR – sustainable if the greenhouse gases that result from the generation of electricity for the NUR – are not?

  8. re: “Risse has no peers and therefore there is no peer review.”

    then his ideas won’t get implemented if others are not convinced – right?

    The essence of “peer review” is that others become convinced of your arguments.

    If you are too bright and intelligent .. and others don’t get your point.. then what?

    Sorry.. I’ve heard too many preachers practice this kind of “enlightenment” and the most I get out of it – is that I feel sorry for the converts.

  9. Anonymous Avatar


    Thanks for providing the solutions implementaiton piece finally :-p

    As you know however the devil is in the details.

    I think it would be best to wait and read the upcoming book before I comment further. I think its close right? Any hard date yet?


  10. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “The table Larry cites clearly shows that if you have to use any vehicle, do not use an Autonomobile!”

    No it doesn’t. Just the opposite, in fact.

  11. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “Because they essentially become handy safety valves for things that NURs cannot do inside the clear edge.

    to me.. this borders on negating the whole concept of claiming that NURs need to be – NURs – because … dysfunctional settlement patterns are – not sustainable.”

    I agree with what Larry is trying to say here, but I don’t see the point. We can import green infrastructure and export pollution. If we decide that it takes 15 hectares to support one person in a sustainable manner, then it does not matter whether he lives on a fifteen hectare lot or in an apartment, with 14.9 hectares set aside someplace else. all that matters is that we reach some kind of average sustainability.

    But, this implies that there are proerty rights at play that need to be bought and sold and traded, and that would set all of EMR’s claims about full locational costs and the supposed efficiency of urban areas on its ear. That urban apartment is going to be a lot more expensive if it also as to support 30 acres someplace else.


  12. my point is – if NURs are about sustainability and have clear edges that (I think) denote the boundaries of the internal sustainable area…

    then.. we have some troublesome details.. with regard to required externalities to support that NUR…

    i.e. is it truly sustainable and a boundaried NUR (or not), and if not.. then what is the purpose of the boundary?

    Why not draw the boundary much smaller – to not include the countryside?

    or why not draw it large – to include the USRs that help support it?

    short example:

    do you grow apples in the NUR or in the USR ..and why…

  13. Reid Greenmun Avatar
    Reid Greenmun

    I love the freedom my own car provides. I abhor the fascism of taxpayer subsidies “mass transit” and those that advocate for such forms of government controlled and “social justice” driven “mobility”.

    Thanks to our massive network of highways and roadways we have fantastic freedom to live and to work WHERE WE CHOOSE.

    Freedom is precious and I believe we should all unite to do our best to preserve it.

    What are “dysfunctional settlement patterns” to some are the fulfillment of the American Dream to most of us.

    I don’t support the use of tax funds to bail out Wall Street, banks, bad mortgages, or any private industries. But I also don’t support the agenda for urban planning that wants to take away the freedoms we now enjoy – especially the freedom to travel where we want, when we want and with who we want.

    Government dictated mass transit and other “multimodal” alternatives are fine as long as only those that use them – pay for them.

    EMR sees “hope” for “Change we can believe in” under a Socialist Obama administration. No surprise there. Of course the “change” EMR is hopeful for is found in the world view he has convinced himself of and thus convinced himself that he is brilliant and wise – yet, EMR’s worldviews are viewed by myself and many others as the nightmare scenario of government social engineering and manipulation run amuck that will lead us all down a path towards a lower quality of life and diminished freedom.

    In thinking about what I am thankful for this year I guess I must add that I am thankful that EMR and his followers/candidates haven’t already imposed their world view on the rest of us Freedom loving Americans.

  14. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “Why not draw the boundary much smaller – to not include the countryside?

    or why not draw it large – to include the USRs that help support it?”

    The boundary is unimportant other than as a way to preserve the countryside. If it takes 15 hectares to support one sustainable person that might very well be divided into 0.1 hectare plots associated with dozens of kinds of enterprises, all over the world, and each required to make our hypothetical person sustainable.

    This is why EMR’s full locational cost argument is complete and utter nonsense – unless – you have a full accounting of all property and all property rights are fully defended by the government and fully tradeable.

    Since we know that EMR hates property rights and doesn’t believe in them, we can pretty much write off the rest of his ideas as well.

    In an earlier post I noted that fuel efficency wasn’t the way to choose among transport modes. I submit that if you went throught the analysis I suggested, then what you would wind up with is pretty much what Reid Greenum said: “Thanks to our massive network of highways and roadways we have fantastic freedom …… Freedom is precious and I believe we should all unite to do our best to preserve it.”

    All the modes of transport have their own set of benefits and costs. Rather than pitting one against the other and making false claims for our favorites, we would be better off the examine all the claims rationally, and spend the money we have on the best mix available – all things considered.

    The kind of comments EMR never fails to make in denigration of the “autonomobile” are unhelpful, ungreen, don’t contribute anything to sustainability, and such thinking will lead to costly mistakes affecting the envrionment and the economy.


  15. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “The NYT also has an interesting
    article on the production of Chicken Poop in Maryland. What interests me here is public health consequences of economic growth at the agricultural/suburban spatial border. As suburbia grows, there are more people and more rich people living closer to agricultural areas. If a byproduct of agriculture is nitrogen fertilizer runoff and this gets dumped into the water and air, then public health issues arise.

    How the Coase Theorem plays out here is an open question. The first issue of course is property rights. Do the farmers have the right to use any amount of chicken poop that they please? How much do the downwind suburban victims suffer from these private profit maximizing actions?

    This is a very interesting excerpt of the article;

    “Storm runoff from urban areas, lawn fertilizers and pollution from cars and sewage treatment plants also play major roles in polluting the bay. But Environmental Protection Agency officials say that agriculture is the largest single source of pollutants and sediment in the Chesapeake Bay, accounting for over 40 percent of the nitrogen and phosphorous and over 70 percent of the sediment.

    State officials say that animal manure produces more phosphorus and nearly the same amount of nitrogen pollution as all human wastewater from treatment plants in the state.

    Although the dairy and hog industry in states near the bay produce more pounds of manure, poultry waste has more than twice the concentration of pollutants per pound. Reducing pollution from agriculture is also about a tenth as costly as it is to achieve the same reductions from urban development, state and federal environmental officials say.

    “The reason to focus on poultry,” said Tom Simpson, executive director of Water Stewardship, an environmental nonprofit agency, “is that sewage treatment plants have already been required to reduce their pollution and storm water runoff from cities and large dairy and hog farms have permits that can be used to limit their water pollution.”

    But in the past two decades, the poultry industry has carved a special role for itself in terms of the oversight it receives, and it has twice defeated state efforts to impose permits.”

    So, even though cleaning up chicken effluent might be cheaper, special interests have violated our property rights by causing us to spend more of our hard earned money on the wrong things for lesser results.

    On the other hand those of us in the NUR get to buy cheap chicken from the USR, as a result.

    Quotes from Urban and Environmental Economics.


  16. I read the same article and had similar thoughts with respect to cheap chickens being grown in is known as combined animal feeding operations – CAFOs – where they are recognized for the sheer numbers of chickens grown.. and the amount of manure generated included hormones and anti-biotics – the hormones to “beef” them up and the antibiotics needed because they are grown in such density that a single bird contracting a disease can in a matter of hours infect ten thousand chickens.

    After awhile there is literally no place to put the manure/hormone/antibiotic toxic soup other than on the ground – to await the next rainstorm to flush it into a nearby creek or waterway.

    It will be shown…by the way.. that putting great quantities of harmones and antibiotics into rivers and the Chesapeake Bay causes great harm.

    Of course it will take 20 years and 20 million dollars of hamster-emulating scientists to actually “prove” it and then we’ll spend another 10 years arguing about how we cannot afford to stop the dumping and by the time we actually agree.. most of the crabs and oysters will be gone and other critters will have festering lesions and the like … but I digress..

    The alternative, of course, – is sewage treatment plants – treating the sewage the same way we’d treat human sewage but then of course… chicken will double or triple in price.

    but the question is – for a sustainabl NUR – should these CAFOs be within the boundaries of the NUR or should they be in the USRs?

    … and why…

    I keep telling this to EMR and others who subscribe to his views.

    Go take a stroll down the aisles of a Giant – especially down the aisles where you get your meat – beef, poultry, fish, pork, etc… and spend a little time reading the labels of origin and see where this meat is grown.

    I can assure you that Giant does not have a chicken house out back.. nor across the street.. nor at the other end of that “balanced community” and nope.. not at the clear edge of the NUR…

    I’m looking for a criteria by which we can agree on whether or not – every item supplied externally to a NUR – is a legitimate location cost – or not.

    … and whether or not the ultimate goal of any optimized NUR is to minimize/reduce/remove as many externally-provided services and goods (like meat) as possible.

    That is why I keep asking what the meaning and significance of drawing clear edge boundaries around NURs in the first place.

    call me a continuing skeptic with regard to such boundaries… as long as it appears that we ..say that NUR’s with boundaries are – sustainable.

    The boundaries don’t seem to affect at all – things like CAFO chicken operations.

    Everyday .. dozens of tractor trailers full of chickens (and a half-dozen of other kinds of CAFO meats) bound for NUR supermarkets penetrate these invisible – arbitrarily drawn – boundaries…

    If it were not for these CAFOs and the hundreds of diesel-powered tractor trailers traveling the NUR roads every day – the NURs would wither and die or the inhabitants converted to tofu-aholics overnight.


    the word “sustainable” appears more than 30 times in the Vocabulary.

    the the definition:

    ” The words Sustainable and Sustainability are used as defined by the World Commission on the Environment and Development. Sustainable development “meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

    Okay.. nothing in this definition precludes CAFOs because a strict reading of it shows no connection to the boundaries of NURs – only that the needs of the NUR be met without compromising the ability of future citizens of that NUR to also meet their needs.

    Of course.. the folks who live in the USRs to say generate chickens for the NUR – those folks also need tractor trailers full of salt, green beans, and leather belts and the like also.

    If fact, one could surely ask – what would be different from the needs of folks in a NUR fron the needs of folks who live in USRs.

    They sure seem to be equivalent to me.

    Does that make a USR any less sustainable?

    If the farmer that grows 10,000 chickens uses tractor trailers to move the slaughtered chickens to “market” (the NURs), is that kind of “mobility” any more or less Autonombile than passenger versions that move people?

    As usual – I don’t expect EMR to have every little nook and cranny worked out with the NUR concept – but things that seem to be contradictory .. should, at the least, be worth a few words.. even if they have to be repeated.

    and yes.. I’d take a DRAFT copy of anything more written… on this subject…

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    Sustainable development “meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

    Strikes me as not much of a definition. How many generations, and what level of “needs”?

    I prefer the definition that says you use no more energy than falls on the land you occupy.

    Using this definition, the land you “occupy” can be anyplace, and whether it is part of a NUR or USR is irrelevant. Then it becomes merely a mattter of how you pay for the land you “occupy”, or as EMR calls it your full locational costs. Except in my view of this, your full locational costs have nothing to do with your actual location: rather it is the sum of the costs for all the locations you rely on.

    Needless to say, this view of things has radical implications for EMR’s way of calculating costs.


  18. Anonymous Avatar

    “After awhile there is literally no place to put the manure/hormone/antibiotic toxic soup other than on the ground – to await the next rainstorm to flush it into a nearby creek or waterway.”

    That is the problem with EVERY form of pollution. You cannot have chickens without it, and it has to go somewhere. Sooner or later it is going to foul someones’s “property” as in Chesapeake Bay, in which case somoene will try to make the claim that you have no right to pollute “my” property.

    Under my sustainability defininiton the price of the chicken would have to include support of enough land to grow the chicken and its feed and support enough microbial activity to provide sufficient energy to degrade the chicken waste. Dilution is the solution to pollution, sometimes.

    This would make chickens a lot more expensive. Probably equivalent to the cost of free range chickens. It would mean that city dwelling chicken eaters would effectively have to rent additional land to meet their needs.

    Suddenly, small farms like mine would be profitable, and people like EMR could stop inventing elaborate schemes to try to preserve them.

    Instead, what we have is a handfull of chicken growers creatng a large and unpaid for externality, which shows up in the form of unsustainability. At the same time, this special interest group has ALSO caused us to spend much more money on much less productive reductions in waste.

    Under recent new rules, it appears that we are about to pay $22 million dollars to reduce the pollution from destruction of biohazard waste by less than a half million pounds.


  19. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “and whether or not the ultimate goal of any optimized NUR is to minimize/reduce/remove as many externally-provided services and goods (like meat) as possible.”

    Absolutely not. Such a goal would make absolutely no sense whatever.

    Under my sustainability definiton, it would make sense to reduce over all energy usage, and therefore the land that a consumer has to support. But if it requires less energy to ship bananas from St. Vincet than to grow them locally, then there is no reason to attempt to remove that external service since it would raise energy costs, and require the “use” and support of more land. EMR thinks otherwise, but he thinks all transportation is a waste of energy.

    Likewise, there is no sense in going to the trouble and expense of mining tar sands to make expensive “local” crude when you can buy better crude cheaper from Saudi Arabia.


  20. why would a sewage treatment plant for chicken manure not be sustainable?

    or for that matter.. a process that uses the manure as green energy?

  21. re: sustainability

    what is the connection (if any) between functional settlement patterns and sustainability?

    for that matter – what is the definition of a Functional Settlement Pattern?

    (yes.. I DID look in the Vocabulary)!

  22. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “why would a sewage treatment plant for chicken manure not be sustainable?”

    It might or might not be. When you get to the point that you have to use 1000 BTU’s of energy to get 500BTU’s of energy out of the ground, then that is no longer sustainable.

    That much seems pretty clear.

    But what happens if you use cheap coal as an energy source to mine for much more valuable oil? From an energy perspective it is still not sustainable, but from an economic perspective it might be.

    So, even tough the laws of finance are fundamentally and irrevocably attached to the laws of thermodynamics, there are situations where it might APPEAR to have contradictions.

    If you use my definition of sustainability, then a process must use no more energy than falls on the land required to operate it. Therefore, if you are willing to devote (and pay for) enough land to the chicken sewage treatement plant to provide enough power to run it, then it would be sustainable.

    My offhand guess is that with that much land you could just let the chickens run free, and then you wouldn’t need the sewage treatement plant. But of course the whole point of having a confined feeding operation is to save on land (and have cheaper chicken).

    And, the sewage treatment plant is not 100% efficient. It has wastes of its own that have to be disposed of. Treating sewage does not make it go away. Some chemicals break down into other chemicals and some things just get more concentrated. If you had enough money and power you could convert it all into gold or diamonds, maybe, but you would go broke in the process.

    “After awhile there is literally no place to put the treated sewage treatent plant products other than on the ground – to await the next rainstorm to flush it into a nearby creek or waterway.”

    As a result, you will still have some environmental damage. If it is less than what you had otherwise, then the difference in damage is the value of the sewage treatment process. But if the COST of the sewage treatment is MORE than the difference, then the sewage treatment is not sustainable.

    In this case the thermodynamics have translated directly into dollars: if the cost of treatment is more than the damage prevented, then the system is not sustainable because you will run out of money/energy.

    Unless you charge more for the chickens. In which case you could have used more land for them to run around on, and avoided the sewage treatment plant. And saved quite a few farms in the process.

    Then you would not need massive proffers to prevent “windfall profits” from going to some poor schmuck who had to sell out his farm after 200 years. he, of course, is not going to consider that a “windfall” in anay case.


    what is the connection (if any) between functional settlement patterns and sustainability?

    By my definition of sustainability they are hardly related. But you could have a sistuation where one settlement pattern was sustainable using 100 hectares per person and another was sustainable using only 5 hectares per person.

    Provided that both groups are living at similar standards of living, then I’d suggest that the second one was more efficient, and therfore more functional.

    Even so, the second one might have its 5 hectares selectively positioned all over the globe, to get the maximum output of each needed product. The first one might have its 100 hectares per person centally located for purposes of security, or something, but still have a higher energy usage per person (hence more acres needed for sustainability) because the uses are badly positioned (growing corn on poor soil instead of buying it from Iowa).

    That’s my take, anyway.


  23. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “or for that matter.. a process that uses the manure as green energy?”

    You cannot get more energy out than you put in (originally to the chickens) the manure is not a primoary SOUYRCE of energy. That has to come from the land you grow the chicken feed on, in which case this idea is just another biofuel.

    You won’t get rid of all the manure by burning it so pretty soon you have fly ash and clinkers etc. just as if you were burning coal or coern stalks.

    “After awhile there is literally no place to put the chicken fly ash products other than on the ground – to await the next rainstorm to flush it into a nearby creek or waterway.”


  24. Groveton Avatar

    Perfect is the enemy of good.

    I am on a two week jaunt in Europe – Frankfurt, Oslo, London, Milan. Right now, I am in Frankfurt. Between EMR’s recent columns and this latest trip to Europe I think I see the plan.

    This morning, gasoline was about $7/gallon here in Frankfurt. The Germans were all saying how happy they were that gas went down to a more reasonable price.

    Here’s my take on merging the European model and EMR’s philosophy in America.

    1. It all starts with taxes. We raise the gas tax by 25 cents per quarter until gas costs $7/gallon. If oil prices spike, the tax can be lowered but once the oil prices fall, the tax goes back up. Anybody who doesn’t like the cost of gas needs to get rid of their pick up truck or SUV. We are also going to increase the tax on electricty and natural gas.

    2. A clear boundary will be drawn by government fiat around metropolitan areas. The clear edge of the NUR? There can be no density related zoning inside the clear edge. If you happen to be sitting on 20 acres inside the clear edge – it’s your lucky day.

    3. Much of the money raised from the energy taxes will be used to pay landowners within a 50 mi radius of the clear edge. Their land titles will forbid any subdivision ever again. You may sell you land but you may not subdivide it – ever.

    4. Food consumed inside the United States will be subject to strict anti-pollution measures. If the wheat is grown in Canada and the US government believes that Canada is failing to meet pollution standards through its farming of wheat- the US will impose import tarriffs on that wheat. American farmers will be subject to the same anti-pollution laws. food will cost much more. Perhaps Americans will eat less.

    5. College and technical school scholarships will be offered to young people outside the NURs. However, these scholarships will come with two big strings attached. First, the person getting the scholarship must work (at a reasonable salary) for the US government for the same amount of time as he/she was in school on scholarship. Second, the recipient must live within the clear edge of an NUR for the next 20 years.

    Ok – are we getting what we need here?

    1. People drive less because gas costs so much. Less pollution. More housing density.

    2. Presumably efficient dense urban areas grow within the NUR.

    3. Economically unsustainable rural areas are largely de-populated.

    4. The Chesapeake Bay recovers because chicken poop must be treated. As an added benefit, Americans lose weight and have fewer health problems because they eat less given the high cost of food.

    5. Property rights are preserved as those losing the right to subdivide are paid by the government.

    All this takes is high taxes, wealth transfer and a pretty totalitarian government.

    If anyone else thinks there is a non-governmental way of accomplishing these same goals, I’d love to hear from them. In fact, most of Europe would love to hear from you too. Because, in Europe, the plan I outlined is pretty much what they have done.

    Ta ta.

  25. We need to address the growing crisis in e-words; the unsustainable growth in texts now that you don’t have to pay for paper is leading us all to ruin and destruction, and if not halted, we’ll have to start eating babies.

  26. Anonymous Avatar

    “Economically unsustainable rural areas are largely de-populated.”

    They are only economically unsustainable because they are not properly paid for th eservices they provide to the NURs.


    “Much of the money raised from the energy taxes will be used to pay landowners within a 50 mi radius of the clear edge. Their land titles will forbid any subdivision ever again. You may sell you land but you may not subdivide it – ever.”

    Ever is a long time. But at least this plan allows for payment to these landowners. EMRs plan would just tax them out.


  27. Anonymous Avatar

    There is no way that tax dollars would ever be spent to purchase development rights outside the “clear edge.” While there are some equitable arguments supporting that result, there are too many other uses, e.g., public schools, that would absorb the tax revenues.

    As Virginia voters in total have become less conservative, they are also certainly much less respectful of development rights, IMO. (There are move people who live in Virginia that have never been old-line Virginians.) I think that the balance has been tipped in favor of more and more restrictions on development as can be found in other eastern and western states.


  28. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “There is no way that tax dollars would ever be spent to purchase development rights outside the “clear edge.” “

    It is already being done through PDR and TDR programs.

    But these programs miss the point, because they do nothing to promote the sustainability of such places. What is needed is a stream of revenue sufficient to support such places, not a one time payment that is supposed to last forever.

    Right now, the stream of revenue comes from off-farm jobs, but that stillmeans that the property iteslf is an economic sink. In order to preserve the property, the property istelf has to be valuable, and that means it has to produce some kind of revenue stream.

    Presumably, the move to preserve lans outside the “clear edge” is because we recognize the value. We are just not willing to pay for it, as long as it is so easy to steal it, anyway.

    But, TMT’s comment shows the other half of the problem: urban places have such high expenses there is no money left over to support all the land and space that is actually used by them.

    I had some new hay customers this year,that just sold their farm and moved to another farm out of state, because it was too expensive here. They had been six generation Virginians. They had huge problems selling their place because it was in conservation easement, and they told a tale of woe concerning their easement that they swore they would never repeat.

    Such stories are the reason that seven states have banned permanent conservation easements, mostly in the South and West.


  29. I get confused.

    Is “sustainability” the same as “self sustaining”?

    It appears to me… that …so far… that NURs, urban enclaves, “balanced communities” are not.

    That all of these kinds of settlement patterns cannot survive without substantial outside inputs.

    If that is true.. then why do we talk about the concept of sustainability with respect to “functional” settlement patterns… ???

    and… a bigger question…

    (at least in my little pea brain)_

    If functional settlement patterns are not sustainable..then what is the deal with dysfunctional settlement patterns?

    but then again.. I’m probably asking too many questions here and am going to ‘p’ off EMR and his anon supporters.


  30. Anonymous Avatar

    Some comments.

    Ray – I understand that both PDFs and TDFs are generally limited to a single county or city. Assuming that the entirety of Fairfax County is now within the “clear edge,” any local tax dollars to buy development rights or a transfer of development rights from one place to another would be within Fairfax County. I just cannot see Fairfax County transferring more tax dollars to purchase development rights outside the county or accepting more density to preserve land outside the county. (Yet, one can argue that the insanity of Tysons Corner planning is just that.)

    Larry – I tend to agree about self-contained economies. Isn’t one of the key factors to the success of the United States (and despite its current situation and many warts, it’s been incredibly successful) the fact that there has been free trade and movement between the states?

    If we were to create a self-sustaining community somewhere here near the nation’s capital, could we do so without access to the many tax dollars raised elsewhere and spent on government and government contractors?


  31. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “Ray – I understand that both PDFs and TDFs are generally limited to a single county or city.”

    It is still tax money, used to buy public property that is then given away. Anyway, I’m not so sure that VOF and other state or quasi-state agencies are not also involved in buying PDRs. Or that such a policy might happen someday.

    Otherwise, you are right, I can’t see Fairfax buying PDR’s outside the county, even though one could argue that it would make county property, (where development is allowed and rampant) to be more valuable.

    What I can see happening, is what is going on in New Zealand. The government has recognized some of the value of outlying areas. They recognize this value will not be retained unless it is profitable to do so, so and they simply pay farmers an annual stipend for “environmental services”. Again, this is already happening with agencies that will allow you to “buy” carbon credits (if you need to assuage your gult), the money from which they allegedly apply for similar purposes.


  32. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “the fact that there has been free trade and movement between the states? “

    That is why it does not matter where the land required for sustainability is located, or how much of it one individual actually uses. It matters that he pays his share for maintaining it.

    The urban dweller that buys cheap chickens grown in overcrowded feeding stations isn’t doing that, unless the full cost of disposing of the chicken litter on more land is included in the price.


  33. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Here is an example of that debate in practice, from the WSJ.

    “Solar plants require staggering amounts of land, which could threaten fragile ecosystems and mar the stark beauty of America’s deserts. And in contrast to rooftop panels, which enable homeowners to pursue energy independence, these centralized facilities keep consumers tethered to utility companies.

    The big-solar push raises an intriguing question: If the country is going to overhaul the way it generates power, why shouldn’t it also overhaul the way that power is distributed?

    Big solar plantations, like big wind farms, represent only a partial change on the present system. They are still centralized sources of power in remote locations that require huge, expensive transmission networks to bring power to houses and businesses. That transmission hurdle alone is one of the biggest obstacles to wide-scale deployment of clean energy in the U.S. (NEI Nuclear Notes offers a graphic idea of different energy footprints.)

    What about putting power sources at homes and businesses? That’s the idea behind California’s other solar-energy push, a spate of rooftop installations of the more expensive solar panels. While it costs more, boosters point to one crucial difference with big solar—instead of using up potentially valuable land, small-scale power turns “barren” space like factory rooftops into something valuable. “

    Faxcnating idea: which is cheaper “efficient”, large-scale, crammed-in production which needs big distribution networks, and may have other consequwences, or more expensive, spread-out low intensity production, which however saves on distribution costs.

    Sounds a lot like the chicken growing or “more places” argument, doesn’t it? If we have square miles of solar panes some place to generate power for urban dwellers, no doubt they will wind up paying for that land, somehow.

    Why should it be any different for all their other outlying land uses?


  34. re: PDRs and TDRs.

    I have problems with the concept of “saving” land that has no significant attributes that make it worth saving.

    I can see ..preserving…land that has some significant natural, cultural and historic resources but to set aside land – without regard to it’s significance – even from a development perspective is a bit weird.

    Virginia got itself into a pickle over this concept when it agree to grant tax credits for land put into permanent conservation easements.

    so… what it got.. was a bunch of land that had virtually no development potential.. being set aside to gain tax benefits..which turned out to be based on inflated/bogus appraisals.

    oh.. and worse.. these credits can be bought and sold…

    so.. we have some “investors” who have bought these tax credits.. getting notified that they cannot write them off at near the value that they thought they were when they bought them.

    Let’s be honest.. land that cannot be developed.. doesn’t need to be “protected” in the first place.

    then TMT’s point – it makes absolutely no sense to think about PDRs and TDRs from the perspective of political boundaries.

    and TMT also won’t the basic concept behind TDRs even if done across political jurisdictions .. and that is the concept of trading bonus density for extinguishing the development rights of other property.

    By the way…. the surviving part of 3202… the requirement that each jurisdiction designate UDAs – Urban Development Areas (essentially areas served by water/sewer) … sufficient for 20 years of growth…. is the same thing… i.e. designating a minimum density… (I think it is at least 4 units per acre)…. which is really not much more dense than some SFH subdivisions.

  35. Anonymous Avatar

    TDRs – Sections 15.2-2316.1 and 15.2-2316.2 of the Code of Virginia provide that, with one exception, a transfer of development rights occurs within a single city or county in compliance with an ordinance.

    Section 15.2-2316.2 was amended in 2007 to permit a county and an adjacent city may enter voluntarily into an agreement to permit the county to
    designate eligible receiving areas in the city if the governing body of the city has also amended its
    zoning ordinance to designate the same areas as eligible to receive density being transferred from
    sending areas in the county.” The two jurisdictions must also obtain approval from the circuit court. “The circuit court
    shall affirm the agreement unless the court finds either that the agreement is contrary to the best
    interests of the Commonwealth or that it is not in the best interests of each of the parties thereto.”

    I guess that means Fairfax County could transfer development rights to the City of Falls Church or the City of Fairfax if those jurisdictions wanted them. Query, would Fairfax County want to give some of the planned Tysons density to Fairfax City and Falls Church City, along with a proportionate share of the associated costs?


  36. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “that has no significant attributes that make it worth saving.”

    Well, that’s the issues isn’t it? Whether it is worth saving, and for how long? Do we need someplace to put all that chicken waste where it will have time to do it’s thing before it goes bck to the Bay, or not?

    Do we need forests to absorb CO2 and produce oxygen and clean water, or not?

    Otherwise, why zone land as agricultural which even the state agriculture czar admits can never grow anything profitably?

    We have pretty much given up on that argument, so now the argument is that it saves other taxpayers money by preventing residential development. Ethically speaking, this is no different from going to the BOS and asking for full school funding, knowing that you won’t have to pay the full cost of the benefit you receive.


    “oh.. and worse.. these credits can be bought and sold…”

    Larry, sometimes I do not understand how you can be at once so wrong, and so inconsistent. A tax credit is property worth money. there ae proerty rights associated with it and the PRIMARY right of property is that it can be bought and sold.

    Here is how it works. I have property but no money. I put the property in easement and get a bunch of tax credits. My neighbor has lots of income but no tax deductions. She could go buy a rental house and get some tax deduction that way, or she can (feel as if she is) support conservation and buy my tax credits.

    Naturally, she needs to make a profit on the deal, so if I have a hundred thousand in tax credits she may offer to pay me only 60k. I get 60k which I would not have otherwise (no income too use the credits on) and she gets 100k credit for 60k so she saves 40k.

    The government is no worse off whether she uses them or I do.

    The only question is whether it was worth doing in the first place, and did someone scam the process with inflated assessments.

    So we find ourselves in the contradictory situation of claiming on the one hand that conservation isn;t worth anything and the assessments are inflated, or else the owner sells the land for real money, in which case we say what a shame we lost that farm, and he should not be allowed those windfall profits!


    The IRS has gone after some owners and “conservation agencies” which were deliberately set up to game the system. And rightfully so. On the other hand, the conservation easement/PDR system was set up to play fast and loose with the real basis of property rights and management of land use and zoning, so there is plenty of fault to go around.


    “so.. we have some “investors” who have bought these tax credits.. getting notified that they cannot write them off “

    This is simply government not taking responsibility for defending property rights. Had the property rights in the land been defeded to begin with, there would be a market that established the price unequivocably.

    Absent that, the government took the word of appraisers (just like rating agencies set the value on mortgage backed securities), and issued the tax credits, based on deals that government and conservation agencies participated in.

    Then, caught with their pants down, the government refuses to protect the property value of the credits. It is just like downzoning: set up a market, and then change the rules, with no respect for prior ownership.

    Otherwise known as stealing.


    “land that cannot be developed.. doesn’t need to be “protected” in the first place.”

    Fine, then let’s strip off the agricultural zoning and find out if it can be developed or not.

    Let’s not call it land that cannot be developed, when it is actually land from which development rights were stripped without payment: you know, those same kind of development rights the government is now willing to pay for withtax dollars – and then give away.

    OK, if it can’t be developed because it is a swamp, and could never have been developed, then that’s different. But swamps and wetlands are among our most precious conservation assets. We won’t allow th eowners to drain them and convert to a useable asset, because WE WANT TO HAVE THEM as they are. This is a clear confusion of property rights. We have no way, actually, to pay for what we want except the PDR programs, so we allowed a certain amount of creative looking the other way, by zealots in the field.

    (Sounds a lot like the housing situation, no?)

    And it all comes down to not properly defining and protecting property rights, and THEN allowing the property owners to take the (known) risks.


    I’m not trying to justify bad things that were done. But I can see that plenty of bad things were done on both sides. There are no saints out there who are actually aiming for the highest net social benefit. And the more we screw around with property rights the harde it will be to discover what that is.

    As Larry’s example shows.


  37. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “I have problems with the concept of “saving” land that has no significant attributes that make it worth saving.”

    Then you should not have a problem with someone selling it for development, providing there are buyers willing to pay for that significant attribute.

    But you will say that the owner has no right to develop. Except that right is granted by the government.

    So, what is the government “saving” the land for? It is not their land.

    The government has an interest in preventing development if they believe it will save them money (property). So the significant attribute is that it saves some people money at the expense of the owner.

    Same as the idiots (citizens) who go to the BOS for full school funding. Let’s gert someone else to pay for our benefits. All we have to do is use democracy to trample property rights.


  38. Ray Hyde Avatar

    I have no problem with the government buying or transferring development rights.

    But a prerequisite of that ought to be that, having now recognized developmet rights as valuable property, they either need to pay for or give back all the ones that were previously removed without payment.

    For one thing, removing all those previous rights now means the government has to pay a much higher premium to get the ones that are left.

    I do have a problem with the government buying development rights with tax money, and then giving that property away. It ought to be auctioned off like any other surplus government property.

    I have a problem with government giving the property to an agency in exchange for the promise never to use or relinquish it. First of all it is a promise that cannot be guaranteed, or even kept. And second it amounts to government abdicating its control over land use – for the current practitioners and all their successors. It amounts to passing a law that subsequent administrations cannot change: it is a dictatorship in time.

    If development rights are property that can be bought sold (and given away) then there should be a full and free market for them, political boundaries aside. I can see developers buying up development rights far away to a) make their properties close in more valuable and b) to have the development rights to use.

    Would TMT complain so bitterly about development rights had they been purchased rather than simply granted?

    Notice again, that those development rights would be a lot cheaper, if there were more of them. That is had the government not already extinguished so many.


  39. Anonymous Avatar

    Ray, I would likely think that purchased development rights should be protected beyond those that are given freely or for campaign contributions.

    Perhaps the solution is to figure out the real, forward-looking costs that residential and commercial development cause; calculate the amounts per unit of development, say 1000 square feet; and then auction the units. My concept needs some work, because there are likely cost differences that are dependent on the location of the development and on the size of what’s built. Also, there is probably some fixed limit of units that could be built in a county or city.

    But, at least, in theory, an auction with a reserve price, an auction should work.

    The FCC auctions radio spectrum. The Treasury is much fuller because of auctions, and most winning bidders have built successful businesses or sold their spectrum for a profit.

    Suppose there were a limited number of units in Fairfax County. We should see bidders from Tysons compete against bidders from Route 28 against bidders from Springfield-Fort Belvoir against bidders from Reston, etc. I would think that this type of approach would bring in large amounts of funds to build infrastructure, force development into cost-efficient locations and generally temper over-building.

    Ray, you may well be on to something.


  40. re: “vacant” land vs “productive” land vs developable land

    “Board of supervisors sued over rezoning case”

    ….. “The plaintiffs don’t think they were treated fairly or legally,” said Wilson. “They agreed to full cash proffers and complied with the comprehensive plan, but the denial was based on the lack of infrastructure in the area, which is the county’s responsibility.”

    … next…

    “SB768: Conditional zoning; replaces cash proffer system with system of impact fees.”

    Chief Patron
    Sen. John Watkins (R-Midlothian) (Chesterfield).

    interesting ……ehhh ??

    Anyhow… the law does allow for land to be used for many different “productive” purposes but the law is not required to guarantee that a profit can be made from whatever the owner is permitted to legally pursue…

    .. no more and no less than one is entitled to a job or a good return on his 401K or for his home to appreciate in value.

    .. and no one is entitled to have their land rezoned if it will impose costs for infrastructure on others..

    … or ..we are about to find that out…perhaps with this court case which I think is NOT a coincidence with respect to Mr Watkins pursuit of a law replacing proffers with impact fees.

    The bottom line for this specific case is – how much will it cost to upgrade the road infrastructure to maintain an equivalent level of service after the proposed development is built.

    No matter how the court rules or Watkins might have success with his bill…

    ultimately.. a locality .. has an electoral duty not to allow any and all growth and to make the existing residents pay for the infrastructure.

    Even if they claim the courts or the law forced them to do it – they’ll be voted out at the next election and replaced with a BOS that will do everything in it’s power to legally limit “by right” uses for existing zoning and rezone proposals.

    Instead of one Facquier county.. there will be dozens… as more and more counties will refuse any development that forces existing taxpayers to pick up the infrastructure tab.

    In the meantime.. back at the ranch.. the “property owners” are as free as they have always been to engage in other uses of the land – in a productive ways that benefit them – again – with the proviso that no landowner is guaranteed the “right” to make a profit no more and no less than someone who opens up a Pizza Store or tanning parlor is entitled to a profit.

  41. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Speaking of hot air, some may find the following report interesting.

  42. Anonymous Avatar

    “has an electoral duty not to allow any and all growth and to make the existing residents pay for the infrastructure.”

    Yes, but those existing residents who happen to be selling land should not have to pay unfairly for the infrastructure either.

    Your argument is based on the faulty assumptions that the costs accrue to only one class of existing citizens, and that new infrastructure needs are caused only by new citizens.

    Furthermore, I don’t buy the argument that growth restrictions are purely a matter of costs. If that was the case then unrestricted growth should be allowed provided the proffers were high enough to cover costs.

    That isn’t the case because existing residents don’t want new neighbors – period. I sat in a meeting last week when one of my co-workers openly admitted he was one of those who “moved out and now wants to slam the door”.

    What such people want, pure and simple is to control other peoples land without paying the costs.

    Otherwise known as stealing. Dressed in any kind of unproven finanacial claptrap IT IS STILL STEALING.


  43. Anonymous Avatar

    “Instead of one Facquier county.. there will be dozens… as more and more counties will refuse any development that forces existing taxpayers to pick up the infrastructure tab.”

    Yeah, well, that might be the case if there was any real tax savings to be seen. But, with property in Fauquier and Fairfax, I can tell you that the value recieved for the money spent just isn’t there.

    Sooner or later the proof of your argument is going to have to show up in the financial pudding.

    That’s why you have folks showing up at public meetings demanding that schools be fully funded.


  44. Anonymous Avatar

    “I would likely think that purchased development rights should be protected beyond those that are given freely or for campaign contributions.”


    A development right is property. It should be protected just like any other property. It should be traded in an open market,same as other property.

    I have some land I’d like to give away. Should my property be more protected from fraud, abuse, and theft just because I choose to give it to an orphanage rather than some officials campaign fund?

    I have some money I ‘d like to give away. Should I get more protection if I choose to give it to an orphanage than a campaign fund?

    Whether I give it to an orphanage or a campagn fund it is because I get something out of the gift.


    Sorry, but what are you thinking?


  45. Anonymous Avatar

    “Perhaps the solution is to figure out the real, forward-looking costs that residential and commercial development cause; “

    Now you are talking. At present we calcualte a point in time and say that any home valued at less than $350,000 or something pays less in taxes than it gets in services, so we won’t allow it to be built. Then suddenly home values double, and all those homes we didn’t allow would suddenly be cost effective.

    Guess what? Suddenly the new rule is that homes less than $700,000 don’t pay their own way. (Because they cut the tax rate in half.)

    Same with farms. The claim is that we should save farms because they pay more in taxes than they cost in services. That does not mean that farms ar a good deal: it means they are being taxed unfairly.

    Same with residential: if it really isn;t paying its own way, then it is not being taxed fairly, and the price should go up – new infrastructure or not.

    Then, with a fair tax structure in place (some but not all) of the infrastructure argument would go away.

    The rest of the argument would be exposed for what it is: an attempt to control other peoples land to achieve quality of life benefits at no cost.


  46. Anonymous Avatar

    The FCC auctions radio spectrum.

    Good example. Radio spectrum can be defined as property, and so can the right to CO2 emmissions, the production of oxygen, or anything else we choose to manage.

    What you cannot have is every Tom Dick and Harry claiming ultimate rights: you have no right to pollute my portion of the spectrum with Rush Limbaugh, or something like that.


    “Suppose there were a limited number of units in Fairfax County.”

    And there is the crux of the problem. At one time there was alimited number of units in Fauquier. But that number has been downzoned six separate times, and each time unequally, depending on location.

    WHEN do you decide what the limits are, and HOW do you distribute them. That was the whole issue surrounding Oregon’s proposition 13. Regardless of how you decide, you then have to be prepared to protect and defend that property, same as any other.

    The government seems to have forgotten that it’s primary mission is to protect people’s life and property.


  47. Anonymous Avatar

    “Anyhow… the law does allow for land to be used for many different “productive” purposes “

    Horse manure. If you apply for a zoning change, are denied, and elect to sue, you will probably never be allowed to get to court. You are utterly mistaken in thinking that the law allows for much of anything in such cases.


  48. Anonymous Avatar

    “.. no more and no less than one is entitled to a job or a good return on his 401K or for his home to appreciate in value.”

    The law does not prevent me from moving my 401k from investments in Cargill, and ADR and other agricultural investments to Mitsubishi and Boeing. But the law does require me to invest my land ONLY in agriculture, and ONLY as they define it.

    Even though state officials freely admit that there is NO economic crop for some land which is presently zoned agricultural only.

    If I was allowed to build a truck stop, I would not expect to be guaranteed a profit: it would be done at my risk.

    But that is a lot different from being reauired to do something at a loss. And don’t even suggest that I could always sell out, because the present restrictions mean I would be required to sell at a loss.

    I’m not suggesting that wveryone should be allowed to achieve unlimited windall profits, but they should not be held in virtual bondage, either.


  49. Anonymous Avatar

    “.. and no one is entitled to have their land rezoned if it will impose costs for infrastructure on others..”

    Fine. Put a price on the infrastructure, and let me build, then.

    Fine. No government is entitled to downzone peoples land in order to impose saving on infrastructure disproportionately either. I’ve been downzoned six times in order to save other people money (at least that is thier phoney argument, actually, they just hate people). This imposes costs on me, and they are no more entitled to do that than they are entitled to impose infrastructure costs on me unfairly.

    Your “entitlement” argument is either all wet because it assumes some kind of superior property right, or else it is all wet because it is applied assymetrically.

    The real problem has nothing to do with entitlements: it has to do with bad accounting that makes it impossible to agree on who is paying for what and who benefits from what.

    The fact is that even if I was able to show up with a gold plated, iron-clad financial argument showing that the costs you are complaining are trivial at best, you would fall back on the aragument that, well, we’ve got the votes.

    You would still oppose development and support conservation -especially at someone elses expense.

    After all, you are entitled.


  50. Anonymous Avatar

    “In the meantime.. back at the ranch.. the “property owners” are as free as they have always been to engage in other uses of the land – in a productive ways that benefit them “

    You just don’t get it. At some point there is no way to use the land that benefits the owner, unless he is allowed to develop it.

    If you trap him in that box, it can only be because you get a benefit that you don’t have to pay for. To the extent that he has to pay for it, he is put upon just as much as other citizens who complain about paying for infrastructure needs that they didn’t cause, and it is just as wrong.


  51. If you developed your land and there were no impacts to others, no one would care to be honest.

    There is actually a name for this – they’re called “improvements”.

    You could likely build the biggest, ugliest monstrosity this side of the Mississippi as some religious sects have done.

    but when you intend to build something that will require public infrastructure – you’re wanting something that does not belong to you….

    and you have no inherent right to it ..beyond one ordinary curb-cut to a public road.

    you’re not even entitled to electricity… or cable.. or other utilities.

    …and not necessarily even if you are willing to pay… if your idea of cost is different from the entity providing the infrastructure.

    For instance, if you want electricity a mile from the nearest line.. you’re probably going to have to pay to put the infrastructure in to make that electricity “available” to you.

    And even then… you may not be able to hook up if the nearest power line is already at capacity..

    You may have to wait until the power company adds to it’s capacity infrastructure before it’s even “available” to you.

    so.. my point here… is that you are not “entitled” to infrastructure – private or public …EVEN if you are willing to pay for it…if their is not available capacity to start with…

    one more step…

    let’s say there is limited capacity…

    say.. the power company says that they can add one more connection ….but there are 3 property owners who want it.

    Do you – first come first serve.. and the others are out of luck?

    and the reason I ask this – is because that is pretty much the way it works for publically-provided infrastructure also.

    When the road is maxes or the water/sewer lines are maxed.. or close to being maxed.. even though you are physically close to it.. there may not be sufficient capacity to serve you.

    Now.. it is in the interests of the power company to hook you up… cause they’ll make money on you – eventually – but not always.

    If that were true.. the cable companies would be out in the countryside snarfing up DISH territory…everywhere they could string a line…

    Similarly … the Post Office does not have to bring mail to your front door…either…

    nor the School Bus…

    etc, etc, etc.

  52. Groveton Avatar


    You’re going European on me here.

    “They are only economically unsustainable because they are not properly paid for th eservices they provide to the NURs.”.

    If suppliers are not properly paid for their product then they should develop alternative products or exit the market. If enough exit the market then the prices will rise and the reamining suppliers will be properly paid.

    I understand that this is a free market thought and no markets are really free. However, if the friction in the market causes providers to be economically unsustainable for long periods of time – why wouldn’t they exit the market?

    “You just don’t get it. At some point there is no way to use the land that benefits the owner, unless he is allowed to develop it.”.

    Then the owner, action rationally, should sell the land for the best price possible and exit the land ownership business. At some point the price of the land will fall to a point that its price in in equilibrium with the price of the product it can produce.

    Are you in Europe, too (your economic arguments are starting to sound that way)? If so, we should get together and hoist a beer. I am in Oslo.

    More seriously, I think Americans need to really stop and consider whether or not America is really much more of an “open market” than a developed European country like, say, Switzerland. I rather doubt it. I think the American politcal class has done a reather good job of bamboozeling the American public with tales of open markets and the economic advantages therein. In reality, I believe our markets are no more (or less) open than many others and too much of the national income goes to those who can jury rig the process (aka the special interests argument).

  53. Anonymous Avatar

    “If you developed your land and there were no impacts to others, no one would care to be honest.”

    Wrong. They STILL wouldn’t want me to develop, even if it meant NOTHING to them in terms of costs.

    You really don;t get it. My Co-worker freely amitted he was one of those who would like to slam the door behind him. This has nothing to do with nothing, other than controlling/despoiling other peoples property.

    Which you reely admit no one has a right to do.

    If I wasn’t convinced before, his statement cemented my observations forever.


  54. Anonymous Avatar

    The right to develop. Let’s look at my favorite spot — Tysons Corner — and something simple — soccer fields. If Tysons fully develops, Fairfax County says there would be a need for an additional 31 soccer fields (or rectangular fields, if you prefer). The needs doesn’t come overnight, but if Tysons builds to 220 million square feet, the added population would necessitate 31 more soccer fields, using existing county standards.

    Using 2.5 acres per soccer field, that would require c. 77.5 acres from Tysons Corner’s 1700 acres. Some landowners have already objected to a requirement to add 160 acres in total for parks, recreational facilities and open space — that does not include soccer fields.

    If the soccer fields (including a big indoor sports complex)are not built on site (within Tysons Corner), the new workers and residents of Tysons will need to find fields elsewhere. (Groveton, how big is your lot?) Whose fields will they use? There are no answers or definitive plans to address something as simple as soccer fields.

    I submit that, under this simple scenario, it makes little sense for anyone to support large-scale development at Tysons. If defense of property rights means there is an obligation to let Tysons owners grow and develop, while exporting the infrastructure problems to the rest of Fairfax County, I say leave those rights undefended.

    Now if the landowners come up with a plan that matches soccer fields to expected demand for soccer fields and comes up with a funding plan that does not include tax increases for me, I’ll join Ray in defending that right to develop. But it is not going to happen; there will be no plan to address something as simple as soccer fields.


  55. Anonymous Avatar

    Even If I agreed to pay double whatever the county claims their “costs” are, and even if I built my own power plant/septic system, I would still be prohibited from doing ANYTHING other than growing money losing crops.

    That is the simple fact of my existence. I’ll say again, I have no intention of developng anyway. I only use my personal examles because it is what I know best.

    As far as I can see the true facts are NOTHING like Larry claims them to be. There are people taking absolutely crushing financial disadvantages just because too many people believe the claptrap peddled by Larry and people who think that way.

    It is a seductive train of thought, but it is deceptive and wrong.


  56. Anonymous Avatar

    “If suppliers are not properly paid for their product then they should develop alternative products or exit the market.”

    My point is that we supply services that were formerly free. They were byproducts of other activities that turned a profit. But now we are venturing into a sistuation where new property rights are being claimed. This is tantamount to developing alternative products.

    so my argument is, that if we are going to tax those that create CO2 (in order to compensate for a non market externality of global warming) then we equally ought to pay those that use up CO2 and create Oxygen.

    In this case, the reason we are not getting paid properly is that there is no property right defined in what we produce. If I got paid for using CO2 at the same rate polluters get charged for creating it ($30 a ton) then it would be worth $6000 a year to me. That’s enough to turn the farm from a loss to a profit.

    The product I’m trying to develop is called equal rights in property for everbody. Not equal property, but equal rights in the property they have, without any claims to superior rights such as those claimed by Larry.

    As for exiting the market, I’d be happy to, except there is no market. Who is going to buy a piece of agricultural land that has no prospect of turning a profit at agriculture? Thee is no way out except to find someone stupid enough to try to enter the same market I’m trying to exit.

    Zoning the land solely for agriculture depresses the value far below its intrinsic value, to the point where you have to ask, what are you trying to save it for? Having bought your farm on the Eastern shore, you will see what I mean, eventually.


  57. Anonymous Avatar

    Larry, I’m not asking for ANY of that stuff.

    The ONLY thing I’m asking is that the government not deliberately single me out to be trapped in a box from which there is no escape.

    Even if they said I could build one auxiliary home every twenty years, then I would have SOMETHING I could plan on.

    Right now I have nothing that they will let me work with.

    I could build a fabulous 8000 sq ft horse barn and equip it with all of the amenities of an 8000 square ft home. The authorities wouldn’t bat an eye. I could board out a dozen horses there and generate 30 auto trips a day, without any complaint.

    So long as I don;t put a kitchen in it, or use it for human habitation.

    This isn’t about development or infrastructure: it is about hating humans, and it has become a sick obsession in Fauquier county and other places.

    So I can build to my hearts content, so long as I only rent to horses. But the rent for horses is about one tenth of the rent for humans, with the same expense going in.

    The market for renting to humans is a lot better and takes less land than the market for renting to horses. But I’m prohibited from taking anypart whatsoever in the profitable land use, by virtue solely of my zoning, based on a land use argument that makes absolutely no sense.

    And there is not even access to the courts.


    What is the diffeence in Europe and NZ? They have found ways to pay their farmers enough to keep them in business, and THEY believe it is a fair trade for the land restrictions the farmers work under.


  58. Anonymous Avatar

    I think that TMT’s argument shows the value that is associated with open space. As long as we are not willing to pay for it, we won;t have it.


  59. I’m pretty much aligned with Groveton on the use of land.

    If the options available to not present the desired opportunities …find another path.

    One would think… given all the troubles cited by Ray that Fairfax would be a vast wasteland of undeveloped properties … “restricted” by government that is “anti-people”.

    Since we all know the exact opposite is true – to the point where TMT is claiming that property owners have actually been given TOO MUCH “right to develop” without actually having to pay and/provide equivalent levels of service – roads and soccer fields of recent mention.

    So… we have TMT basically saying that developers have been given way too much free rein to develop.. and Ray claiming that developers have been restricted to the point where they cannot make a profit off of land…


    yes.. I’m aware of what I’m doing here…

    trying to make a point…

    developers…. they develop.. for profit.. and they figure out where land can be developed and where it cannot be developed and they buy the land that can… and don’t buy (or if they own, get rid of) land they cannot develop.

    Farmers have my sympathy.. but no more or less than anyone engaged in any business in which hard work and money invested.. still do not return a profit.

    That’s the free market.

    Now.. if you happen to own a particular piece of land and you are not really a developer but you want to use that land to make the most money you can – then you have that opportunity but … it’s a little like trying to put a square peg in a round hole if the local government has a different vision for that land than you do.

    The truth is – that virtually no land development truly pays for all the infrastructure that is needed and that, in turn, drives local governments to do some things in reaction to that.

    Some .. will try to restrict the amount of land that can be developed ..because for every lot developed.. they lose money …and the only way to make it up is to raise taxes – and that is a politically dicey circumstance… just ask the BOS in the counties that have been “unelected”.

    But the other things that some counties…like Fairfax do – they’ll actually upzone the land .. hoping to attract more jobs.. more revenues.. and basically believing that more jobs..more commerce will generate more taxes…to then build the infrastructure necessary – but often, after the fact… as with Tysons.

    I have to say, however, that if the majority of folks in Fairfax were opposed to Tysons – that the elected politicians would be a little more circumspect in their support.

    As it is.. it appears to (an outsider) than there is wide and deep support .. from the BOS to Regional leaders, to State and even Federal elected officials…

    I see where John Warner has said supportive words about the METRO extension and I don’t consider him to be incompetent or crooked… nor gullible…

    I don’t doubt for a minute what TMT is saying.. just look at the way Fairfax is going about the Belvoir deal…. it’s just that there does not appear to be wide and deep opposition.

    I remember shopping at my favorite outfitter store in Oakton – Appalachian Outfitters… right next to a country store that sold great subs… but over the years.. it became clear that – it’s days were numbered because of the growth… and sure enough the dreaded day came.

  60. Anonymous Avatar

    “…find another path.”

    You still don’tget it.

    I’d be happy to find another path, if they would let me.

    Suppose that sub shop in Oakton was zoned ONLY for sub shops. What would have happened to it when the dreaded day came? I’m willing to bet that sub shop turned into something else, or was sold to someone who could turn it into something else – but I don’t have that option.

    Until I have that option, or until we decide to pay to support all the open space we demand (for ourselves), then I am nothing more than a serf working for the visual beauty crowd – for free.

    Sure, I could sell out. I can find some other sucker who thinks he wants to be in the boat I’m in. But in the end, it won’t have solved the problem. he is going to wind up with property, surrounded by other property with much higher values on it, because it was allowed to become more developed.

    I can think of quite a few “other paths” that would result in minimal changes, but my neighbors and the county would fight me tooth and nail.

  61. Anonymous Avatar

    “One would think… given all the troubles cited by Ray that Fairfax would be a vast wasteland of undeveloped properties “restricted” by government that is “anti-people”.”

    It is a vast wasteland, just scattered here and there, just as EMR says.

    When I built my Alexandria house, I got lucky. Had I waited another six months the purple people haters would have succeeded in doing to me what they did to Larry – my development rights would be gone, I’d be out $500,000 in equity, and I would be the proud owner of a squirrel jungle, paying taxes for the privilege, and no way to sell out except walk away and let the county take it for taxes.

    Yeah, it is happening in Fairfax, it is just not quite so obvious or on such a grand scale as in snob-ville.


  62. Anonymous Avatar

    “Farmers have my sympathy.. but no more or less than anyone engaged in any business in which hard work and money invested.. still do not return a profit.”

    You really are an A__.

    Show me a business where the government steps in and takes away the value of your capital investment. It isn’t as if the farm could not have made money, itwas that the major opportunity to do so was taken away – to benefit other people – six different times – without any compensation.

    It would be different if the money invested was lost.

    It wasn’t. It was STOLEN by the government.


  63. Anonymous Avatar

    ” it’s a little like trying to put a square peg in a round hole if the local government has a different vision for that land than you do.”

    It is not their land. I’m willing to do whatever they want me to do with the land. But If I have to abide by their wishes, flying in the face of any kind of rational action, excet the single one they will allow, then they need to find some way to provide me with some paying customers.

    Tax the people who make CO2, and pay me for consuming it.

    Otherwise, they have made me a slave.

    Besides, the owners of the land had a vision for a very long time before the government blinded them with the governments idea of a shining beacon of reason.

    I have no problem with what the government did. They have every right to reduce development rights. So long as they pay for them, just as they have finally decided to do.

    But waht they did was steal thousndss of develpment rights, over decades of time, and THEN they decide, gee maybe these are valuable and we shouod buy them instead.

    So far, they have stolen thousands and bought dozens. Even then, they have mostly paid for development rights from those that are so wealthy or old they have no intention of using them. They went out and bought the stray dog that wasn’t for sale.

    Then they took it to the pound.

    Dumb as toast. Dumb.


  64. Anonymous Avatar

    “The truth is – that virtually no land development truly pays for all the infrastructure that is needed… “

    Horse frigging manure.

    This is not true. Cannot possibly be true. Not even remotely. This sentence is laughable on its face.

    Are you trying to tell me that nothing we have ever done is worth while. That all the infrastructure we all have and use was built on the dole, or on the backs of existing residents to support the huddled masses yearning to breathe free?

    Give me a break.


  65. Anonymous Avatar

    “if the majority of folks in Fairfax were opposed to Tysons “

    How would we know?

    There is no referendum.

    The board has a history of ignoring the public.

    Tysons is a little corner in a big county.

    And most of the people are stuck in traffic.


  66. when I say a different path…

    if you are an individual who makes a living ..developing land.. and some of the land you would like to develop is not developable.. for any number of reasons.. to include government restrictions –

    then you find another path – other land that IS developable and you develop.

    there is nothing to prevent developers from – at the same time they are finding developable land – to contribute to efforts at the GA and legal level to defend/expand what they feel are property rights.

    But they do not stand still and claim that they are enslaved.

    The vast majority of Fairfax – despite your claims of restricted property rights – is, in fact, very heavily developed.

    Are there pockets where development has not occurred specifically because of restrictions – unfair or not?

    I’m sure but compared to the land that has been developed.. it would be a ridiculous claim IMHO.

    Heck.. I’d like to put more houses on the land I own..but alas.. it’s got a flood plain on some of it and other parts of it won’t perk and then the part that could be subdivided.. the county won’t allow it on less than 20 acres.

    but,.. I consider these restrictions as legitimate and not unfair…

    if I actually wanted to get in the business of developing land.. I know where to go.. that they do allow it..

    and that’s exactly the way the State and Local Government go about this.

    They do a Comp Plan. They decide where they will allow different kinds of development and where they will not – and the folks who vote this are elected by the majority of folks who live here and if they don’t agree with that plan – they either have it changed or they vote the guys out of office who won’t.

    Is it a perfect system?

    Not by a long shot – but way, way ahead of what is in second place.

    picking a specific piece of land a location.. where the local government will not agree to it’s development..and trying to find ways to go around their intent.. will get you nothing but frustration.

    I’d say… if you want to develop land …then go where they have land designated for development and not stay where it is not.

    you’re swimming upstream fella.

  67. Ray Hyde Avatar

    You still don’t get it.

    I’m not swimming anywhere, I’m long since resigned to the condition the county has put me in. This has nothing to do with my personal plans, it has to do with what is ethically and morally correct. I use my condition only as an example of what is wrong with the system, because it has opened my eyes to the corrupt practices and wrongheaded thinking that passes for land use planning.

    But that does not mean that I think that what happened to my wife and her family it is right in any way shape or fashion.

    In fact, my feelings are relatvely mild. I have spoken to some professionals in the field who believe that this will ultimately come to violence, because some people are much angrier than I am.

    Developers do not buy land for development, unless they have a very secure position with by-rights, or something. They take an option on the land and then apply for re-zoning. Their land risk is minimal.

    That is not what I’m talking about. The re-zoning process is what it is.

    What I’m talking about is the ethical cesspool the county has placed itself in by now BUYING developent rights which it previously expired by the hundreds and thousands, without payment. In those days, they claimed as you do that development right were “not real” they were “only on paper”.

    Well, if that is the case, you deed is only on paper, too.

    Since the county is now in the business of buying development rights, they must now be real rights, and the only question is when did they get that way? The issue of whether developemtn rights are reallly property or not is now resolved.

    Otherwise the county could not buy them or give them away, and the entire consevation easement practice would be dead.

    What I’m talking about is the situation where someone (developer or not) already owns land with development rights promised and SUBSEQUENTLY has the value of the land stipped away without compensation.

    We have already had KELO explain to us that increasing the tax base is a public use sufficient to trigger eminent domain and payment to affected property owners.

    How is downzoning to prevent tax increases any different as a public use from upzoning to increase the tax base? it is a public use with the exact same effect on public coffers.

    I don’t have any problem with downzoning. But the right, fair, ethical, correct, proper, courteous thing to do is to pay for it the same as you would pay for any other public use or benefit.


    It’s pretty black and white to me, but when you get your nose rubbed in it day after day and you write the checks month after month, you develop a certain clarity.

    That takes care of the matter of development rights which are stolen, which is an entirely diferent matter from development rights requested and not granted. You choose not to see or obfuscate the difference for fear that if development rights are ever clarified, it will turn out badly for the antidevelopment set.

    I think just the opposite, and for reasons that seem obvious to me. If I have development rights that I think are protected, I’m much less likely to use or sell them than if I live in constant fear they will be stolen.


    The other thing I think is wrong is what is known as the “sliding scale”. What this means is that the larger your property was at som epoint in history, the fewer development rights you got.

    The idea was to preseve intact the largest pieces of ground, but the effect was that those who hd successfully preserved their property the longest, on their own, got punished the most in the end.

    Today, those people are living on and maintianing large pieces of proeprty that are worth little more than much smaller proerties that surround them. They are worth many times less than the sum of the smaller properties, that their former neighbors have long since sold.

    This is now a matter of treating one person and one plot of ground differently than a neighboring person an d plot, based on what happened to their grandfather! It has nothing to do with land use, or infrastructure.

    Even if I had any incliation to develop, I would not have any need or desire to create something grossly different from what surrounds me. But that difference could be worth tens of millions of dollars, that I will never see, and the county tax base will never see.

    Simply because of some moron who doesn’t apparently understand anything, and thinks it is a good idea to save “our” farms. Notice the confusion in ownership stated this way.

    Either that or because somone wants to create an enclave for the rich, and make sure they get it at a bargain price – since it can’t be used for anything else.

    The situation I face is completely and utterly different from my situation in Alexandria. There, there is a market of single family homes, which will never be anything but that. You buy in knowing what you have, and you take the market risk. At most, you might put on an addition to increase value.

    No one is going to come in and take your building right away, most likely, because they would have to tear your house down to do it. If that happened, and you got paid nothing, I expect you would be angry. Even if you got paid, like the KELO folks, you might not be so happy, if the location is irreplaceable.


    Let’s talk about flood plains. Flood plains are a fair and reasonable restriction, done for the public benefit. In most places when private property was appropriated for flood plains, the affect on development rights was recognized. Usually (but not always) that recognition came in the form of “density credits” meaning you could create additional (but smaller) lots on the non-flood plain portion of the land, in order to compensate fo r the “public use” obtained in the flood plain.

    Again, there is a huge and obvious difference between buying land you know is designated as flood plain, and owning land and having a flood plain designation forced on you. And there is ahuge difference between getting density credits in return, and not getting them.

    Likewise there is a huge and obvious difference between buying agricutural land that you know you cannot build on, and owning property that SUBSEQUENTLY becomes agricultural only.

    Some communities used the flood plain protection act as an excuse to downzone and gave no density credits, some gave partial density credits, and some gave full credit. It is an example of the confusion and ignorance and greed that surrounds our inability or refusal to come to grips with what property rights are and the governments role in protecting them.

    Not to mention what property rights mean to conservation. it is beyond me why so many conservationists seem to believe that property rights are somehow the enemy of conservation: without them the whole conservation easement process would have failed.

    If you lost buildable property that you paid for under one set of circumstances, due to SUBSEQUENT changes, then you should have been compensated, one way or another. Those changes were made to benefit the public, of which you are only one person. If the benefit existed, then the public should have no problem in making you well, as long as they still have a benefit in the end.

    If that didn’t happen then you got screwed and you should be raising holy hell aout it. Even not perking is a poor excuse for preventing development, with todays technology, but that technology is (mostly) outlawed – not for public safety, but to prevent more neighbors.


    If I wanted to develop land, I would goa bout it the way yousuggest and the way developers practice. I’d follow th comp plan, etc. I understand that.

    That is not what I’m complaining about. What I’m complaining about is having the comp plan and six subsequent d
    ownzones on top of that IMPOSED on me AFTER THE FACT OF OWNERSHIP. What I’m complaining about is decades of incremental, uncompensated theft of family property for the benefit of other people.

    What I’m complaining about is the REQUIREMENT that I engage in farming practices that can ONLY be expected to lose money. It would be as if in order to continue living in your house, the county REQUIRED you to paint it every month. This is a REQUIREMENT that only applies to 2% of the population, but benefits everyone.

    If the county is going to make this REQUIREMENT, that benefits everyone, then they have at least a minimum obligation to see to it that no one is HURT by the requirement. Otherwise, the county is exactly requiring work from me without payment, and, yes, I call that SLAVERY on top of THEFT.

    It is no absolutely different from the “laws” the Germans passed to first strip the Jews of property and then bond them in servitude.

    If the county is going to insist that I farm, and ONLY farm, flying in the face of economic reality, because it is GOOD FOR THE COUNTY, then at a minimum they have an OBLIGATION to see to it that it is not BAD FOR ME.

    If they are going to consistently and incrementally force me into a situation in which I can do nothing else, have no options, and the only market for exit is almost entirely blocked to the general population, then, yes, I’m going to call that a TRAP, THIEVERY, and ENSLAVEMENT.

    I’m perfectly happy to make that exposition to any public official, neighbor, or anyone else, and I have. Watching them squirm is one of the small joys in my life.

    Your argument has nothing to do with the injustices I’m talking about, and nothing about the comp plan, provision of infrastructure, the subdivision process, or land development has anything to do with justifying what is not justifiable.

    What happened to my wife’s family and many others like hers was flat out WRONG, and nobody will ever convince me otherwise. It is entirely different from what happens to an ordinary residential owner: no one is coming to an ordinary residence and take millions out of the value.

    Sure, they do a comp plan. I don’t have a problem with that at all. But when they do the comp plan there is no requirementt that they consider personal damages. What would the comp plan look like if it had to be paid for as it went along? Would it mean you couldn’t still have a good plan?


    In fact you would have a BETTER plan, and one that had MORE support. Because people would understand that the government was working for EVERYONE’S benefit, while protecting EVERYONE’s property.


  68. Let’s come at this from another angle.

    Do you believe that the Government should have the right to condemn land for public use?

    Now.. I’m not asking you for the circumstances that you think are ethically correct or not but simply whether or not you accept the basic concept as a legitimate function of government.

    If you do not accept it – then all of your other positions with regard to property rights is perfectly consistent because you disavow the “right” of the government being superior to the “rights” of property owners.

    If, however, you do believe that the Government does have a legitimate right to “take” your land for just reasons then you must also believe that lesser “takings” for public purposes are also legitimate.

    In other words, you agree with the basic concept but you disagree with the circumstances under which it is done – like downzoning “takings” – for public purpose or denial of the ability to build on a newly designated flood plain – again for public purpose.

    For myself – I think the right of the government to “take” – “rights” is a necessary evil.

    For instance, we’d never have public highways without it.

    We’d never have schools or hospitals built in certain locations without it.

    We’d have situations where private land development was lucrative because the infrastructure would be provided without cost to the developer or the subsequent buyers of the developed property.

    So.. I support the right and the legitimacy of Government to “take” property – in all forms – not only the physical taking of it but the “taking” of it for other public needs.

    Where does it end?

    It ends when a property owner obtains “vested” rights which means he has obtained the specific permissions necessary to do specific things with his property.

    that is a protected right – and IMHO – it is valid and necessary.

    Prior to that – the ability to develop a particular piece of land is – problematical – for dozens.. hundreds of possible reasons that can range from parts of the property being designated as wetland and as such – wetland “locked” or steep slopes or.. the size of the proposed developed exceeds the existing capacities of the roads and schools that will be needed to serve it – and the local government does have the right – and the responsibility (and duty) not to indebt other property owners (taxpayers) for the cost of providing that infrastructure.

    Is this a lot of power that can be and is abused?


    Would I classify it as “stealing”?


    No more or less than if you were dumping oil down a creek – perfectly legally – and then the government decided that – that “right” would be taken away from you.

    The Government DOES have that right to do that if it feels that doing so is in the best interests of the wider public beyond yourself…

    … even if .. you know have to pay money to have that oil disposed of.. and it used to be free…

    … you could say that the Government forcing you to get out your wallet and pay for oil disposal – which used to be free – is “stealing” from you.

    You could say that.

    But not many folks would agree with you.

    And.. it is IMHO.. not that different a thing when it comes to other land-use issues.

    We do have courts and and elected government to deal with the issues that are still in dispute – but at the end of the process – a decision is made – and “stealing” at that point.. in my mind is akin to what some folks say the Government is doing by collected taxes from you.

    You could say that. I could say that by taking my money to build a new road for a private development that the government is “stealing” my money.

    I could say that. But I’d be wrong in most folks eyes.

    The thing about where you live and the way they do business is that if the Property Owners of Virginia felt that Facquier was seriously abusing their authority – they would buy a piece of land in that county – and proceed to use it in a lawsuit to push the county back on the things you claim are “stealing” abuses.

    Heck.. if not mistaken.. you’ve got folks like Til Hazel … a property rights affectionado extraordinaire and other folks who made their fortunes developing land….

    it would seem that if such abuse was occurring (in their minds) .. and had the potential of expanding to other counties and in the end… seriously infringing on all property development rights in Virginia -that they would act also to rein in the county.

    But have faith.. there ARE folks who hold your view and are pursuing it:

    “Four separate lawsuits have been filed challenging Orange County’s revision of its subdivision ordinance.”

    “Each suit alleges between four and 10 illegalities in the subdivision ordinance. Examples include the creation of an impermissible time restriction (the prohibition against more that one division every four years) and impermissible size restrictions (a parent tract cannot be divided into a tract smaller than 50 acres).”

    this..ultimately will end up back at the General Assembly …

    and yes.. I’ve heard the term “steal”… applied to VDOT .. when they cut a property in half and seriously damage the future use of the property in doing so.. and the compensation is NOT based on future use (in the mind of the owner) but likely future use ..allowed..

    But again.. if you support the right of VDOT to acquire land for new roads – or for that matter – to acquire your own property (which I know they’ve done).. then basically they are using the same concept of the government’s right to “take” based on public need.


    So you basically agree with the fundamental concept but you disagree with the different ways that Government has decided to “take” property?

  69. Anonymous Avatar

    I hate to break up this fun party but this discussion is based on illusions and misunderstandings.

    They are summarized in the following:

    “At some point there is no way to use the land that benefits the owner, unless he is allowed to develop it.”

    There is already too much land that is “developed” but underutilized. Well located land that is now underutilized (some of it vacant) will more than meet all foreseeable needs. Especially now that the housing bubble has burst and cars are going to be unaffordable.

    RH fails to understand that there is a difference between “rights” and “value.”

    He might as well say his land (and all other non urban land) has special value and thus he has “rights” because it is on Santa’s route from the North Pole to all chimneys in North America.

    His view of land value is an illusion supported by speculation and speculative land value does not generate “rights.”

    When the future urban use land value bubble bursts, RH will be able to do what ever he wants to do with his land, so long as he pays the total cost.

    And Groveton, no need to pay for that land to keep it in non urban uses, that will happen via the market when all costs are fairly allocated.

    A student of the New Urban Region Conceptual Framework.

  70. Ray Hyde Avatar

    There is already too much land that is “developed” but underutilized.

    That might be but it has nothing to do with the previous comment, being “At some point there is no way to use the land that benefits the owner, unless he is allowed to develop it.”

    Both of those statements can be true.

    Following this argument you can eqully say that There is already too much land that is farmed but underpriced.


    His view of land value is an illusion supported by speculation and speculative land value does not generate “rights.”

    Anonymous is talking about something of which he knows nothing. My view of development rights is that they are demonstrably property, in law. We know that because government purchases them, and they are crucial to the concept of conservation easements.

    If anonymous can’t see that, then he is an idiot, or blind. My only position is that as property, government has an obligation to protect development rights equally for all citizens that have them.

    This says nothing about citizens who are applying for NEW development rights, under a rezoning, but has only to do with those citizens who had rights removed without payment.

    Todays Post has an article that describes exactly this situation with respect to car dealers. A dealer buys a franchise, and invests millions withthe expectation that the manufacturor will not pull the plug on his franchise brand without compensation – and in fact that is the LAW in most states.

    Property rights purchased under one set of expectations should not be removed (allegedly for public benefit) without compensation.

    By claiming that there are no such rights, anonymous puts himself in the same league with muggers, pirates and other thieves.


  71. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Do you believe that the Government should have the right to condemn land for public use?

    Yes, provided they pay a fair price for it.

    I think that you and I agree that price should be established by a jury of peers and not by the same panel of judges that approve the “public use”.

    There is no requirement that the owner agree in the end that a fair price is reached, otherwise there could never be a taking. All we can hope for is a consensus among reasonable people. Hopefully they will be frinds and neighbors with both comapssion and a realistic view of personal vs public damages which will both necessarily ensue.

    “then you must also believe that lesser “takings” for public purposes are also legitimate.”

    Yes, I do. There is no reason that government cannot “take” development rights. Now, the reson government “takes” development rights through downzoning and does not pay for them is that there is a Supreme Court decision that says a taking has not occured unless substantially all of the value of the property has been taken.

    Local governments hae interpreted that to mean they can take almost all the value out of a persons proerty without a taking having occurred. My Supervisor told me that this was part of the plan for conservaton in Fauquier county.

    But, now we are in the position of buying development rights as separate property. Therefore, if a development right is taken, then isn’t ALL of that property taken, and does that not imply that payment is due?

    If you take any one stick out of my “bundle of sticks” then you have taken all of that stick, and payment is due.

    I don’t see any logical or ethical way to argue out of that. In fact, on the rare cases in which someone has managed to get to court, the court has granted judgement in favor of the proerty owner. The issue isn’t whether this is right or wrong, as far as I can see, rather it is that under zoning law, there is very little accss to the courts.


  72. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “Where does it end?

    It ends when a property owner obtains “vested” rights which means he has obtained the specific permissions necessary to do specific things with his property.”

    So we recognize that once someone has made an investment, typically he has a footing, well, or septic in the ground, THEN we agree he has vested rights.

    The question isn’t when it ends, the question is when it starts. The question is what constitutes a public benefit.

    So, I buy a property which under present rules is suitable for and has developement rights for three houses.

    Then the county changes the setback requirement from 50 feet to 100 feet. Because my lot is an irregular shape, I lose two buidable lots, but the guy next door with a square lot loses nothing.

    Why did the county increase the setbacks. Pesumably it was for some public benefit. That benefit cost the guy with the square lot nothing, but it cost the guy with the irreguar lot a million dollars worth of two half million dollar homes.

    My guess is that the county would think twice about the value of the public benefit of bigger setbacks, if they had to pay for the losses involved.

    In other words, if they are not allowed to “steal” that benefit.

    It makes no difference what the benefit is or how good the cause. The point is that the public thinks it is worthwhile.

    If it is worthwhile, then there is no reason why the winners, the public, cannot pay off the losers, and still come out ahead.

    If they are not willing to do that, then they are thieves.


  73. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “RH will be able to do what ever he wants to do with his land, so long as he pays the total cost.

    And Groveton, no need to pay for that land to keep it in non urban uses, that will happen via the market when all costs are fairly allocated.”

    My assummption is that ALL landowners will have to pay their full locational costs, under this hypothetical scheme. If that happens we will discover that it is the uraban land users that have the highest portion of unallocated costs, not the rural landpowners.

    EMR has the right idea but the wrong facts, and as a result he is predicting the wron outcome. If he is right, and rural land alueas are due to collapse, then why is he so hot to preserve what he calls useless and valuless rural land?

    The logic in this guys mind is like a jello trap, as opposed to a steel trap.


    RH fails to understand that there is a difference between “rights” and “value.”

    I judge value by what people are willing to pay in a hands off trade. Now, in the five counties surrounding me, in the past ten years, there has never been a parcel of land sold that could be paid for by raising corn or soybeans on it.

    That is an incontrovertible fact, and it is supported by statements of state agriculture offcicials.

    All I’m saying is that it makes no sense for the local government to insist that such land is “agricultural”, because there is NO rational economic hope that it can be such.

    It is fine to say that if it can’t be farmed, you should sell out, but how do you sell out if it can’t be farmed and it is zoned agricultural?

    In this situation BOTH farming AND the agricultural designation are unrealistic.

    To REQUIRE that people engage in agricultural practices for which they have no hope of being paid is tantamount to slavery.

    I think people have a right NOT to be slaves. So, you tell me, where is the confusion between value and rights?

    The government has an obligation to protect your property. You have the right to buy and sell it. The market determines the value. There is no value without the rights.


    Let’s suppose that EMR is correct, and suddenly one day we decide to change all the rules about who gets billed for what. Presumabley we would do that in order to promote a huge public benefit. That policy would create many winners and losers. EMR thinks and predicts that the losers will be rural landowners currently using the land for what he calls “urban uses”.

    In fact, he HOPES that will be the case: that’s what he WANTS to happen.

    Wheras my view of the situation is that if there is a huge public benefit to be gained, then this policy change amounts to a taking, and a wealth transfer. The winners should be able to pay off the losers, and still come out ahead.

    If they are not willing to do that, then either they are promoting thievery, or else the supposed public benefit is a fraud.

    Either EMR is proposing that because of their greater numbers, that the urban masses should be free to vote to steal from a relative handfull of rural and exurban residents, or else he is admitting that the numbers are not there: there is NOT a public benefit large enough to pull off his scheme without stealing.

    What possible reason could you have for putting together an elaborate scheme designed to strip all the value out of rural property? It is because that property has conservation and natural values. These are bundles of sticks associated with the proerty that he thinks he can get at no cost – steal in other words. That whole business about true locational costs is a lie and a sham: it is a front for a major league theft, in my opinion.

    But, assume it isn’t, and he is right – there is a huge public benefit to be had by changing the rules. Changing the rules to get a public use or benefit requires that you pay off the losers. There is no reason for the rural landowners to be hurt by his predicted land value collapse.

    We are going to have to pay off thos landowners, or else we are thieves.

    Or, we could just recognize the value of floodplains and all the other rural services we get (or have stolen) and pay for them. In that case, agricultural land has sudenly multiplied the “crops” it provides, and now agricultual land is profitable and agricultural zoning designations make sense again.

    As long a agriculture is realistic and profitable, EMR can stop worrying about windfall profits from nefarious developers.


  74. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “I could say that by taking my money to build a new road for a private development that the government is “stealing” my money.”

    You could say that, but you would have to prove it. If it turns out that the new development pays enough in taxes and provides enough other benefits to cover the cost of the road, then you would be wrong.

    By making a false statement, you would be damaging other people’s proerty and value, whaich you have no right to do.

    I’m not saying you are right or wrong, I’m saying we don’t have the transparency of accounting to ever know. I’m saying your accounting argument and others I have seen from AFT and such places are not convincing to me. I’m saying there is an unfair advantage built in when you can say “No” at virtually no cost to yourself.

    I’m saying that rather than argue about whether such a road pays or not, we should be arguing over how to set a policy that lets us decide, and decide fairly. We should be arguing over HOW to do the accounting, and not what the result will be or “should be”.


  75. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “and the compensation is NOT based on future use (in the mind of the owner) but likely future use ..allowed..”

    Again, you are talking about subdivision involving rezoning. All I’m talking aobut is previuous rights removed. Like the fifty avcre lot thing, where the rule was once three acres.

    It is unethical fro the county to change the rule form three acres to fifty acres (without payment), just so they can make you go through the subdivision process to get you r three acre lots back! Had the county Paid the land owner for the development rights at the time of reduction, then they wouldn’t be back in court now.

    Here is the problem though. VDOT (or Dominion) pays nothing for future use, they pay oly for historical use. They pay nothing for dividing a property in half, only for the histrical value of the actual property taken.

    Such abuses have already been resolved in several other states. It is time for Virginia to grow up and stop letting government act like the bully kid in the toybox: “No! Mine!”

    While at the same time refusing to admit that “Mine!” implies that property rights are involved. It is whay EMR cannot logically claim that there are no property rights, and then say anything about relative values.

  76. Anonymous Avatar

    “but you disagree with the different ways that Government has decided to “take” property?”

    Because in one case they pay nothing like a fair price, and in the other case they pay nothing.

    But if you at least agree that designating a flood plain (for public protection and benefit) where there was none before amounts to some kind of a taking, then all we have to argue about is the compensation.

    Some people refuse to concede even that.

  77. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Here is the thing. We could go back and look up what VDOT and others paid for property that was taken 20 to 50 years ago. Something within a span of life that could affect people today.

    So you go back and find a place that VDOT paid $200 an acre for in 1960, and today land in the area is going for $30,000 an acre.

    Given what has transpired, could $200 an acre possibly represented a fair net present value for the the property at the time?

    If you think the landowner could have invested his $200 and made 11% anually for 47 years, then it was a fair trade at the time. But if other local land is worht only 2000 an acre today, then it is equivalent to a 5% rate of return, and the owner probably got a fair deal at the time.

    It would not be too hard to go lookat som takings and see if they made sense retroactively.


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