A developing fight is expected to determine whether a city’s deal with a schools organization to force property values up is legitimate.
The Institute for Justice reports that the fight has developed in Big Water, Utah.
There, town officials admitted they established a ban on any homes smaller than 2,000 square feet across most of the town’s land.
It’s because, officials have admitted, they promised the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration they would “keep the property value up” by allowing only homes that are fairly large.
“All Americans should be free to build and live in homes that best fit their unique needs, as long as they comply with basic health and safety rules,” said IJ Attorney Joe Gay, one of the authors of the Institute’s letter to town officials.
“Banning modestly sized homes does nothing to preserve public safety. It simply makes it harder for individuals to find housing at a time where there is a nationwide housing supply crisis.”
The letter went to Mayor David Schmuker and the town council members.
The fight is on behalf of Chrissy Rochford, who guides tourists in the region.
“She currently lives with her dog in a small RV park, but she wants to build a 1,600-square foot home on a plot of property that will be large enough to accommodate her horses. She has secured financing to build such a home, but because of the town’s law she is unable to do so,” the Institute reported.
“When Chrissy asked the town’s Planning and Zoning Board to change the law so she could build her home, she was told that she could move to ‘the other side of town’ and that the town has promised Utah’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) that it will maintain the law, in order to ‘keep the property value up.'”
In fact, the city told her it had promised the schools group “that we would keep the area around Shelter Cove with larger requirements.”
“I just want an affordable home that provides enough space for me and my dog, while still having enough room outdoors for my horses,” said Rochford, in a statement released by her lawyers.
““Under both the United States and Utah Constitution, all laws must serve a legitimate government interest, such as preserving public safety. Big Water’s unreasonable and irrational law serves no legitimate purpose and likely violates both Constitutions,” said IJ Attorney Bob Belden, the letter’s other author.
Further, the legal team is charging, “Making matters worse, when Chrissy requested a copy of the town’s agreement with SITLA, the town failed to get her the document within the 10-day window required by Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA). To this day, Chrissy still has not received a copy of the agreement, and the town has not given her an explanation for the delay, as also required under GRAMA.”
The IJ has fought similar home size demands in Calhoun, Georgia, and Highland Lake, Alabama.
The lawyers wondered why the city is following an agreement “not one [person] is able to locate and for which no one is able to provide details or terms…”
“Here, the town’s 2,000 square foot minimum is ‘unreasonable’ and ‘irrational.’ In the town’s own words, the zoning ordinance exists solely to prop up the property values in areas zoned RE-2 – where some members of the town council currently lives.”
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