Major property-rights rally cancelled in Florida

By WND Staff

While caravans of property-rights advocates rolled toward Florida from California and Ohio, rally organizers agonized over the decision to cancel the events planned to celebrate the caravan’s arrival in Naples, Fla., Oct. 17.

Two days of speeches, music and other festivities designed to call attention to the erosion of private-property rights were planned for Naples, which was to serve as a staging area for the caravan to then proceed across Alligator Alley to Dade County for a final day of activities.

The decision to cancel came late Monday night after a Dade County sponsoring organization discovered they could not secure the necessary permits in time to arrange for the event. Organizers in Collier County had come to the same conclusion earlier in the day.

Local organizations in South Florida have been working since mid-July to secure suitable locations and necessary permits. Obstacles of various sorts appeared at every step of the way.

Some of the organizers are pointing fingers of blame at local politicians, while local politicians are blaming the organizers. Bottom line is, the previously planned and much-touted events will not occur.

Collier County’s Property Rights Action Committee, however, is planning a get-together on private property of their members on Oct. 18 to welcome any of the caravan travelers who decide to continue the journey to south Florida. Local organizations in Dade County are trying to regroup and find some other way to prevent the flooding of their land and thousands of acres of private farmland.

The Sawgrass Rebellion was conceived as a rallying cry for people across the country who are experiencing the loss of private property and property rights to government programs that seek to expand wilderness, establish wildlife corridors, secure “open space,” create urban-growth boundaries, scenic viewsheds and a host of other land-management programs.

The two primary programs that brought the Sawgrass Rebellion to Florida were the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and Collier County’s Comprehensive Plan Amendments.

The $7.8 billion Everglades Restoration Plan seeks to “restore” the Everglades. The plan, however, is also expected to drive hundreds of people from their homes and flood thousands of acres of prime farmland. Moreover, the Washington Post has reported that scientists and engineers have a low confidence level that the plan will achieve the anticipated results.

Amendments to the Collier County Comprehensive Plan, required by state law, present a different set of problems for landowners. The proposed amendments designate vast stretches of private property as “Natural Resource Protection Areas” in a county that already has 87 percent of its land in government ownership or is otherwise “protected.”

Development in the protected areas is essentially prohibited. Landowners may “transfer” a development right to a buyer in a “receiving” area. This scheme arbitrarily assigns an artificial value to a development right that is determined by a buyer within the designated receiving area. But there are more so-called “development rights” available for sale than can be absorbed by the designated receiving area. So, what amounts to government manipulation of property values and the designation of a favored “receiving” area is fraught with the potential for political misadventures, say critics.

Not surprisingly, the owner of a significant portion of land in the “receiving” area is a strong supporter of the politicians who are advancing this plan. The “victims” – those who live in the designated “protection” areas – include landowners who have tried to organize the rallies in Collier County.

A legal challenge to the amendments, filed by a local landowners group – one of the rally organizers – asked the county to provide more than 30 specific documents, maps and scientific data required to justify the land use designations. The challengers claim scientific data they have accumulated indicates there are virtually no significant ecological or biological differences between the land designated for preservation and the land designated as the “receiving” area where development could occur – with development rights purchased by a very limited number of buyers.

Politicians and environmentalists have clearly won this round, fought in the swamps of South Florida. The problem, though, has received considerable attention. People from South Carolina, New York, Montana, California and many other states are discovering that they are confronting precisely the same problems.

The Sawgrass Rebellion, if nothing else, has served to galvanize property-rights groups across the country. More than 700 such groups have lent support in one way or another, and will not fade into the woodwork just because the Florida rally has been cancelled, they say. In fact, property-rights leaders say they are digging in and preparing strategies to take the campaign to a higher level – with or without a rally in Florida.

Editor’s note: The October 2002 edition of WND’s monthly Whistleblower magazine – titled “GREEN WITH ENVY: Exposing radical environmentalists’ assault on Western civilization” – is a mind-boggling expose of the radical environmentalist movement. It documents how environmentalist-inspired laws outlawing asbestos caused the early collapse of the World Trade Center, killing thousands; how this year’s ferocious western wildfires were largely the result of environmentalist policies; how environmentalist policy elitists want to lock up as much as one-half of the United States as “Wilderness,” basically off-limits to humans; why the save-the-rainforest movement is a fraud; and much, much more.

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Henry Lamb is the executive vice president
of the Environmental Conservation
chairman of Sovereignty
International and a columnist.