Our congressman, Rep. Tom Reed was the Gas/Oil Industry’s go-to-NY-Rep during the 2014 congressional campaign. They donated $198,750 to get him reelected and continue to support their legislative needs. They gave Rep. Reed more money than all of the other New York representatives put together. He was one of the organizers of the Marcellus Caucus in 2011, and became one of its co-chairs. Reed stood his ground on putting poisonous fluids underground to shatter shale at one town meeting after another. The Corning Leader article about Reed’s town meeting in Burdett in August 2011 called it “A contentious gas-drilling debate”. You can safely say that hydrofracking is very important to our congressman’s livelihood.
About a month after his re-election in 2014, Governor Cuomo banned hydrofracking in New York State. That sent Reed’s head a-spinning. Two days after the Ban, Reed appeared on the Fred Dicker Albany Talk radio 1300 program. Reed proclaimed that the federal government has the right to over ride Cuomo’s ruling and cited a federal communication law that allows the federal government’s needs supersede local zoning laws dealing with the placement of satellite dishes. Even at that point he was grasping at anything that looked like it might negatively affect our government’s duty to protect us.
In January Rep. Reed introduced his “Defense of Property Rights Act” (DOPRA). This legislation, if passed, would give the public the ability to sue any government that makes a decision that reduces their property’s value.
The Gas/Oil Industries, Real Estate industry, and Land Owners Associations all endorses this proposed law.
Rep. Reed is now enticing farmers to support his proposal. According to the Olean Times Herald, Friday, April 17 our congressman met a few Allegany County farm owners and a Farm Bureau area field director. They discussed the DOPRA and how the State government and the Environmental Protection Agency make decisions that “financially affect landowners”. He added that residents who have valuable resources on their land, shouldn’t have to bare the brunt of losing property value because of a state regulatory decision.
What happened next was was not expected:
The Allegany County Board of Legislators Chair announced that he will introduce a resolution to his County Legislature to support Reed’s Property Rights Act. Sounds familiar? It is the same technique the SAFE Act used two months after that passed in 2013. Reed thanked the Allegany County Chair by saying, “Any local, grassroots type support will be very helpful.”
I don’t think that Rep. Reed is going ask only Allegany County for support. He will try to find someone from each of the eleven NY 23rd county legislatures to promote his resolution.
A county (or Town, or City, or Village—any government) would be irresponsible to support Reed’s proposed law. Almost every decision governments make could lead to a property value lost. For example:
On Glass Factory Road, in the Town of Geneva, the neighbors are in a legal battle with each other. It is a short road with Better Homes and Gardens type properties on Seneca Lake. The area is zoned “Single Family Residential”. A group of residents have complained to the Town’s Zoning Officer that five neighbors are renting their McMansions to groups of noisy partiers–a different group each week from May through September, or longer. One house rents for $425 to $550 a night. If you are interested reading more about the situation here.
The Town’s Zoning Code Officer has decided that the renters of these properties are “transients” and therefore the properties do not adhere to the “Single Family Residential” definition. He has ordered that the renting must stop. Those landowners are fighting it. Presently they, as a group, can sue the town because they think the Zoning Code Officer made an improper decision. With Reed’s Property Rights Act they would also, as individuals, sue the Town for the potential lost of revenue because the law is now being enforced.
This may seem like an extreme case, but situations like this are not uncommon. Reed’s Property Rights Act is a lawyer’s dream, and a government’s nightmare. Governments will be continuing defending their laws in court, and will be reluctant to create new regulations.
I think it is time to present another view of Rep. Reed’s talking points. I spoke with the Clerk of the Yates County Legislature today. There has been no mention of this law to her, yet. She will let me know if it gets on a committee’s agenda. If that happens a few friendly phones calls might open some eyes.
Others may want to check with their legislatures to see if they are considering supporting it and attend their meeting to let them know what you think. I believe that if legislatures have their attorney review the Reed’s Property Right’s Act, s/he would recommend not to support it.
It is our duty to let our representatives know how we feel.