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A plan to stay forever rural Town of Mukwonago might use taxes to buy land use rights
Milwakee Journal Sentinal ^ | Jan. 26, 2006 | AMY RINARD

Posted on 01/30/2006 10:27:26 AM PST by GreenFreeper

Town of Mukwonago - The Town Board has begun laying the groundwork for a likely referendum on whether farm land and open space should be preserved by using tax money to purchase development rights.

Last week, the board hired a consultant to conduct a public education campaign to explain the goals of a purchase of development rights program, how it is paid for and how it works.

Town Chairman David Dubey said much depends on the public response to the educational campaign, but that "a referendum is likely what we'll get to" either this November or the spring of 2007.

A committee that studied the issue recommended the town implement a purchase of development rights program. The educational campaign would be the first step, Dubey said.

The town already imposes an annual limit on new home construction, but "this would be another tool for the town to use to preserve open space," Dubey said. He noted that in a survey of town residents a few years ago, a majority of respondents favored using some tax money to preserve open space.

The consultant hired by the board is Ed Minihan, chairman of Dane County's Town of Dunn, one of only a few towns in the state that have implemented a Purchase of Development Rights program.

Minihan said educating the public is the key to getting such a program approved.

"This is a decision the whole community has to make," he said in an interview. "If people don't understand it, they won't vote for it."

Dunn started its program nearly 10 years ago after voters in a 1996 referendum approved a new purchase of development rights tax: 50 cents per $1,000 of equalized property value. The money goes to purchase development rights to farms and open space.

State and federal grants also are used to buy development rights, which like easements are attached to the land, forever preventing it from being developed. Town tax money pays for about 47% of the cost.

Since the Dunn program began, Minihan said, a total of $1.8 million has been spent to buy development rights for nearly 2,000 acres of farms in the town, which is close to Madison and increasingly under development pressure.

"We buy development rights to entire farm parcels," he said. "And farms here are, much as they are in the Town of Mukwonago, comprised of cropland, wetlands and woodlots."

Minihan said residents of his town are pleased with the results of the program.

"You're deciding what you want your community to look like in the future," he said.

He said his public education campaign in the Town of Mukwonago would focus primarily on talking to people, especially landowners, to explain the benefits of a purchase of development rights program.

Town Clerk Katherine Wilson said the board agreed to spend not more than $10,000 on the educational campaign.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: development; ecoping; land; landuse; privateproperty; property; propertyrights

1 posted on 01/30/2006 10:27:31 AM PST by GreenFreeper
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To: GreenFreeper
Great thinking! Let's spend taxpayer funds to poison the economic well!

Some pinheads just shouldn't be elected... :-(

2 posted on 01/30/2006 10:29:12 AM PST by TChris ("Unless you act, you're going to lose your world." - Mark Steyn)
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To: TChris
Click to enlarge
3 posted on 01/30/2006 10:32:31 AM PST by Woodstock
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To: blam; Carry_Okie; Chanticleer; ClearCase_guy; cogitator; CollegeRepublican; ...
ECO-PING

FReepmail me to be added or removed to the ECO-PING list!

Thanks to Diana in Wisconsin for bringing this to my attention. It's an interesting idea I know very little about (what else is new). From what I can tell, this idea seems similar to classifying or designating land as forest or wildlife habitat and giving up development rights in exchange for a tax break. The difference would be that private land owners would be paid to give up those rights at the taxpayers expense. Anyone know more information about this?

4 posted on 01/30/2006 10:33:00 AM PST by GreenFreeper (Not blind opposition to progress, but opposition to blind progress)
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To: GreenFreeper

"Anyone know more information about this?"

You pretty much summed it up. My in-laws own quite a lot of farmland, and also own land that's designated as a "Tree Farm." They have set-aside land, as well, and the state pays them a stipend each year for the Tree Farm and the set-aside land (which basically pays them NOT to grow anything on it.)


I'd rather see it handled by the individual communities, and not have the State basically "redistributing the wealth" by using others' tax dollars for deals like my in-laws have. Nothing against them; I'd do the same thing if it were offered to me, but again, I like the idea of communities controlling their growth, versus the State stepping in and controlling Green Space.

Of course, that applies ONLY to the land a community already owns, unless they buy surrounding land from private citizens at fair market value. And of course, with any idea that sounds good at the begining, greedy people will find a way stack the deck to their advantage, LOL!


5 posted on 01/30/2006 10:57:42 AM PST by Diana in Wisconsin (Save The Earth. It's The Only Planet With Chocolate.)
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To: Diana in Wisconsin
I'd rather see it handled by the individual communities, and not have the State basically "redistributing the wealth" by using others' tax dollars for deals like my in-laws have.

Well from what I can tell, it's a voluntary program. So if private landowners want to keep their full rights, they can. I do wonder about the permanency of the land use rights- eminent domain? I would find it appealing to live in a community in which I knew a strip mall wouldn't be built in my backyard. That's exactly what happened to my parents home and the property value plummeted.

6 posted on 01/30/2006 11:14:39 AM PST by GreenFreeper (Not blind opposition to progress, but opposition to blind progress)
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To: TChris

If the program is voluntary for the landowners, and the taxpayers want to spend their money that way, who are we to object. Use Kelo or use a dummy lawsuit to implement the program, and I'll be happy to jump on your bandwagon.


7 posted on 01/30/2006 12:09:34 PM PST by PAR35
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To: PAR35
If the program is voluntary for the landowners, and the taxpayers want to spend their money that way, who are we to object. Use Kelo or use a dummy lawsuit to implement the program, and I'll be happy to jump on your bandwagon.

What bandwagon? Tax money shouldn't be used for silly, protectionist policies like this, IMO. Voluntary or not, it's economically a bad decision.

8 posted on 01/30/2006 12:40:08 PM PST by TChris ("Unless you act, you're going to lose your world." - Mark Steyn)
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To: TChris
Tax money shouldn't be used for silly, protectionist policies like this, IMO

The voters there apparently disagree with you. Should they be denied a voice on the issue?

it's economically a bad decision.

For whom? By creating artificial scarcity of developable land, it should increase values for remaining landowners. It's certainly better than zoning, where the government redistributes economic value without compensation.

9 posted on 01/30/2006 1:27:38 PM PST by PAR35
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To: PAR35
The voters there apparently disagree with you. Should they be denied a voice on the issue?

Not at all. I was only voicing my opinion. They are quite free to make bad decisions.

For whom? By creating artificial scarcity of developable land, it should increase values for remaining landowners. It's certainly better than zoning, where the government redistributes economic value without compensation.

This artificially increases the value of the land for the landowners, at the expense of all the local taxpayers. I'm wondering what percentage of the tax base is in posession of farm land. It's another redistribution of wealth and economic protectionism. This approach always leads to economic harm, to a greater or lesser degree.

10 posted on 01/30/2006 1:35:45 PM PST by TChris ("Unless you act, you're going to lose your world." - Mark Steyn)
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To: TChris
I fail to see how protecting farmland has a negative effect on the community as a whole. You could argue that certain sectors, like homebuilders, are negatively affected, but I'd argue that other sectors, like agriculture, are positively affected. Both sectors generate tax dollars that benefit the community, but ag has the advantage that it keeps generating income in perpetuity while construction is a one time payoff. After farmland is built over and the initial tax windfall is realized, property taxes from the constructed homes are typically fully consumed by the maintenance of that neighborhood. There is no continuing tax benefit to the community. Ag land not only pays property taxes without requiring substantial government support, it also generates revenue through the creation of jobs and taxes on sales of its crops/goods.

Economically, I would think that profit-generating businesses like agriculture would be of greater benefit than service consuming subdivisions. When you factor in the fact that very few homebuilders are actually based in the communities they're developing in, meaning that most profit from the development of those homes leaves the local economy completely, a limitation on non-necessary development becomes an obvious choice at the community level. The primary concern of community leaders should be the long term economic health of THEIR community, not the national economy or the health of a company that may be located in another state.
11 posted on 01/30/2006 1:55:17 PM PST by Arthalion
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To: TChris

I don't know the what this area looks like and it may be right for their situation but Easements like this are just the first step to control of the lands of the farms that op out. Next step could be limiting noise, smells, chemicals etc.


12 posted on 01/30/2006 3:31:08 PM PST by tubebender (Always remember that you're unique. Just like everyone else...)
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To: GreenFreeper

Not enough info here to make a reasoned judgement, but it smells suspiciously of the "dead hand doctrine."

Under dead hand, the wishes of the dead owner reaches out from the grave and stipulates how the land may be used by a future owner. If the doctrine says the land may only be used to raise bunnies and sheep, any owner who wishes to buy the property must raise bunnies and sheep.

This severely restricts buyers for the property. Find no buyer for the land and the property may fall back into the government's ownership, where taxpayers will be assessed for its maintenance.

Finally, the entire issue of the dead hand doctrine has its origins in feudal Europe where the king and church could control a serf's property through dead hand. I suspect these dead hand contracts will be seeing their day in court soon. I'm sure the Marxists in black robes will love dead hand, but I'm not too sure they'll stand well before conservative appeals courts. In fact, I doubt it.

Then you have the issue of control of any conservation easement placed on the land. These contracts are tricky as hell, and the owner of property with a conservation easement may find uses of the property severely restricted by a foundation "owner" living a thousand miles away who can assert a development interest on the person physically occupying the land.

This whole thing in Mukwonago looks like a can of worms that could keep lawyers happy and taxpayers very unhappy.

I'd be closely looking at the word "capracious" and a couple of USSC decisions before signing on the dotted line. The city should spend a couple hundred thousand on a few good land rights lawyers. Better than paying millions later on.


13 posted on 01/30/2006 4:34:39 PM PST by sergeantdave (And on the second day The Lord created February - the slowest month of the year.)
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To: GreenFreeper

I don't know about this particular effort. I do know that a lot of people thwart the "big developers" by having their land declared a wildlife sanctuary (Ducks Unlimited helps with that, I think). I mean, growth is good and benefits us all, but we all hate seeing acres of farm in America's heartland plowed up. I live out in the country, and I'm afraid some day I'll come back to find it's not country anymore.


14 posted on 01/31/2006 8:10:26 AM PST by DaveLoneRanger ("We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being." SCOTUS, Zorach v. Clauson)
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To: TChris
You are 100% ... WRONG. See...the tax money belongs to the townspeople. This is what the townspeople WANT it spent on. They are willing to pay now to not have congestion later. It is EXACTLY the way it should be done.

NOT at the state level.
NOT at the local level.
At the LOCAL level....where the townspeople still have control and can still get rid of bad apples in the town government.

15 posted on 01/31/2006 8:15:47 AM PST by KeepUSfree (WOSD = fascism pure and simple.)
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