Focus Point - Sprawl

Commentary by Pete du Pont

I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis. City planners and environmentalists love to use so-called "smart growth" to control "sprawl," that is, stopping suburban development. Here's what happened when Richland County, South Carolina got "smart."

Their plan directs growth toward cluster villages by declaring the county's prime farmland "preservation" areas that cannot be developed. But the farmland's owned by black families descended from slaves and sharecroppers who over the years saved money to buy the land.

But because of the law, they can't develop it -- or even borrow money with land as collateral, because the law makes it worth a lot less.

Just one problem: the law violates the Fifth Amendment, which says Government can't take land without just compensation, which Richland County has, in effect, done. The ACLU's considering a suit and I wish them luck. As an attorney who won a 1992 Supreme Court Takings Case told Investor's Business Daily, "If you want to preserve greenspace, you have to do it the old-fashioned way: you buy it."

Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont. Next time, to the movies.