FACT: This myth just doesn’t hold up under close scrutiny. Historic preservation laws do not infringe on private property rights any more than laws that have long been enforced in communities throughout our nation. Although we might like to believe that private property rights reign supreme, the reality is that the U.S. Constitution delegates the authority to local governments to regulate the ways in which private property may be used. Zoning requirements often restrict property owners from building apartment complexes in single-family residential neighborhoods. In some communities, height limitations prevent or restrict structures over two or three stories. Density restrictions limit the number of dwelling units that can be constructed in a multiple-unit building. Owners of condos may be prevented from owning pets, washing cars in the driveway, painting the exterior in unapproved colors, or installing a storage shed on an exposed balcony. These limitations are far more stringent than historic preservation laws, but they are commonly accepted clauses in C C & R (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions) documents. Finally, we should all be glad that laws are firmly in place which prevent our neighbors from operating a toxic waste dump or building a skyscraper on the other side of our shared property line.
What are your thoughts on the rights of homeowners and preservation of historic resources? Let us know in the comments section below.
This is the third article in a four-part series entitled May Monday Mythbusters. Check in with us again on Monday, May 28, when we explore the benefits of historic preservation.
Photo courtesy of Mr. T in DC.