I don’t usually disagree with Dennis Lieb, but I have to say this Community Bill of Rights proposal in Easton sounds like a bad idea. There are good reasons why municipal powers are derived from the state, and not the other way around. As frustrating as it is when the state laws are bad, it’s clearly better than the alternative of 2500+ autonomous municipalities. I’d prefer to see the state simply delegate transportation and land use planning powers to counties, and get PennDOT out of the way of walkable planning.
Stuff like this makes me especially nervous:
One point in the document deals with the idea that each neighborhood in Easton should be able determine future development of the neighborhood. If the ordinance is passed, the method for that determination must be drafted and included in the City Charter within a year from the date of the passage.
It could give citizen groups the right to reject development that is incompatible with the city’s master plan, according to the language of the ordinance.
“Incompatible with the city’s master plan” is key. If that’s all it is, that’s great. The master plan should lay down clear rules, and then most development should be allowed as-of-right with no political approval needed.
Where this could go off the rails is if neighbors are empowered to veto any development they happen not to like, even if it’s allowed under the plan. That’s the kind of weak property rights regime that’s going to kill off all the progress Easton’s been making on land use in recent years.
(Thanks: Zach Lindsey)