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Planners’ Ploy Imperils Property Rights

Yes, sign-users could be greatly affected, but all property owners should be enraged.



An intricately organized coup attempt on the American way of life has been in the forming stages for several years and is just beginning to come to light.

This effort comes in the form of a so-called Legislative Guidebook, written by the American Planning Assn. (APA) and funded primarily by the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The organizations intend to facilitate the nationwide implementation of the so-called “smart growth” philosophy.

A broad coalition of organizations, including the International Sign Assn. (ISA), is taking a hard-line stance in opposition to the Legislative Guidebook and the funding mechanisms that include the proposed Community Character Act. We urge you to familiarize yourself with the APA effort and join us in opposing it.

Members of the APA are in a unique position to profoundly impact nearly every facet of society. Not only do planners interpret land-use plans during the permit-approval process, they also help draft the very laws they interpret. This allows planners to implement their vision of utopia nearly unfettered.

This is a far cry from the orginal purpose of land-use planning. Earlier, the question of whether a local government could even control property and force it into subjective governmental determinations of “highest and best use” was still subject to debate. In 1937, Herbert Hoover wrote a statute that enabled states to grant zoning authority to local governments; those statutes have continuously granted more state control.

Few Americans realize how extreme this power has become. They may become annoyed at the taxes and fees they must pay or the processes they must endure to obtain a license or permit to “use” their property, but few understand that land-use planning controls the basic conduct of their very lives. Land-use planning controls property usage and what permission will be granted relative to the operation of a business, farm, or home — with the enforcement authority of police powers. Controls include setback size and types of accessory buildings allowed, the number of customers allowed on the premises at any given time, signage color and components and myriad other details.


Until now, states have largely confined their intrusions into business activities and accessory signage on a building’s exterior, in the name of public health and safety.

But two states — Michigan and North Carolina — have proceeded to a new level, authorizing, in some cases, regulation of a building’s interior signage and d



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