A team of property rights advocates, lawyers and state lawmakers has joined forces for a nationwide campaign to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Murr family of Wisconsin went to court several years ago when members sought to sell a vacant parcel of land their late parents bought decades ago. The family wanted to fund repairs on the family cabin on the adjacent lot but were blocked by local officials, who contended the two parcels were actually one lot.
The recent ruling deprived the Murr family of the value of the extra piece of land, a “taking” by the government that was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The family was denied any compensation for the land.
The Pacific Legal Institute, which defended the family, said the Murrs “had been effectively robbed by regulators of a family legacy.”
The government not only said the family could not sell the land, it ordered them not to make any productive use of it. The “maneuver” they used to avoid liability was to claim that the two lots were a single unit.
Now the Murr family, representatives of the foundation and others are launching an effort to reverse the high court’s decision.
Joined recently by two Wisconsin state lawmakers, John Groen, Pacific Legal’s general counsel, announced a plan to restore property rights nationwide.
The legislation proposed in Wisconsin, the starting point, was written by state Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst; and Rep. Adam Jarchow, R-Balsam Lake.
The goal is to prohibit “government from inventing ways to strip people of the use of their property while denying them the compensation that the Constitution requires.”
Donna Murr declared, “What happened to my family should not happen to any American, and the Supreme Court’s ruling must not be the final word.
“We are grateful to Sen. Tiffany and Rep. Jarchow for proposing tangible measures to strengthen the rights that were weakened by the Supreme Court’s decision. We are also grateful to Pacific Legal Foundation for its determination to fight nationwide until the setback from the Supreme Court’s ruling is overcome. The Murr family is proud to have helped raise everyone’s awareness about the importance of property rights, and we will continue to stand up for our own rights and those of all Americans.”
The Murrs were “victims of a government stratagem” that took their rights to use the land they inherited from their parents, Pacific Legal said.
“They were denied the ability to use or sell a vacant parcel along the St. Croix River that was handed down as a family legacy. The government declared the lot substandard – based on regulations imposed after the family purchased it. Officials said the Murrs were owed no compensation because they also own an adjacent parcel, on which their family cabin sits. By a 5-3 majority, the Supreme Court accepted this regulatory maneuver by which officials avoided paying for a regulatory taking,” the foundation reported.
The plan is to grandfather lots that were buildable when they were purchased, even if they do not meet later standards.
The foundation intends to go nationwide to seek court rulings and legal changes “that will ensure that property owners cannot be denied their constitutional rights simply because they own adjacent property or because local land use regulations might subsequently change.”
“PLF has always been recognized not only for our principles but for our persistence,” said PLF President Steven Anderson. “We have never allowed near-term obstacles to deter us from pursuing long-term victory in our ongoing fight for individual liberty. Our response to the Murr decision will be no different: We are embarking on a nationwide campaign to undo its damage and ultimately leave property owners’ rights stronger than before.”
WND reported the government told the family their additional land was not only worthless, they had to keep paying property taxes on it every year.
The parents of Donna, Joseph and Michael Murr, and Peggy Heaver, bought a St. Croix riverfront parcel and built a cabin for their own use in 1960. They also, a few years later, bought the adjacent, separate, lot as an investment, hoping to cash in when property values rose.
But in the 1970s, new land-use rules were imposed that limited the area of land that could be developed. As typically happens in those circumstances, the existing parcels were grandfathered under the previous rules, which meant the new limits wouldn’t apply.
However, in this case bureaucrats declared the rules would apply if the property owner owned an adjacent piece of land. That means the government now officially considers the two parcels purchased by the Murrs one lot, even though they legally are separate entities and property taxes still are collected every year on both.