How Private is Your Property?

If your lucky, you don’t have to deal with “that house” in your neighborhood. You know, the one with the two or three beat up cars in the driveway (or on the lawn) and the hayfield instead of a lawn. It doesn’t look good and brings the appearance of the rest of the neighborhood down. But is it a “conservative” thing to do to force someone to clean up their yard? The discussion is being had in today’s Warwick Beacon:

“Frequent flyers,” is the name Annamarie Marchetti bestows on a small group of residents whose names resurface time and again for infractions of the “property maintenance code,” previously known as “minimum housing.”
The habitual offenders, Marchetti believes, don’t do what they do deliberately, said the clerk of property maintenance. She thinks they really don’t understand why their neighbors should be upset with the piles of junk and unregistered cars in their yard. After all, it’s their stuff – andtheir yard.
Debris and unregistered vehicles are two of the three most frequent infractions, says Ted Sarno, director and building official. The third most common relates to “protective coating” which could be peeling paint or siding coming off a house. In the summer, the fourth and fifth sources of complaint are overgrown lawns and standing water that is a source for mosquitoes. With so many foreclosures, Sarno said complaints over uncut lawns have been on the rise.

When negligence towards your private property affects the value of mine, is it any of my concern? Philosophical arguments based on conservative or libertarian principles can be made from both sides.
And there are some pretty obvious extensions, right? For instance, to conflate two, drug legalization and health care: some may say what they put into their body is their own business and also that they pay-as-they-go for health care instead of pay for insurance—until we end up paying for their visit to the Emergency Room and rehab care because they OD’d and didn’t have health insurance. So where are the boundaries? Are they all slippery slopes? Part of what makes political discourse interesting is where we all choose to draw our own lines in the sand on issues like this. Where do you draw them?

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Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
9 years ago

I have a great deal of trouble with the idea that my purchase of property in a neighborhood gives me any rights over my neighbors. I don’t believe the “police power” in the Constitution, as expressed in zoning and health codes, confers that power to governments. Government should not expend its majesty in “protecting property values”. In fact, many do believe that is a legitimate purpose of Zoning (‘snob zoning”) Massachusetts has had to enact an “anti snob zoning” law. I am reminded of a couple of incidents in life. When I was younger, I lived on Boston’s Beacon Hill. I had to obtain approval of the color for my front door. This caused so much trouble that people eventually agreed on red being the only color. History records that this was once the identifier of a bordello. Visiting suburbanites, who had “heard stories”, would ask about the red doors.
I once knew a woman who grew up on Long Island with her divorced mother. The neighborhood was good, but money was short. Neighbors would knock on their door and inform them it was time to buy a newer car, or mow the lawn,because they were an embarrassment to the neighborhood.
I am thinking of the florist shop on Hope Street that was being converted to a coffee shop. The neighborhood had to be “consulted”. Why? Were the neighbors going to buy it if they didn’t like the intended use. No, they were going to call down the power of Zoning and “Planning”. I have noted that many Bellevue Avenue mansion back on three deckers. Do you think that is what drove away the “idle rich”?

mangeek
mangeek
9 years ago

“until we end up paying for their visit to the Emergency Room and rehab care because they OD’d and didn’t have health insurance.”
I like this simplified ‘black and white’ view that’s so common among conservatives. In reality, legalization and regulation might REDUCE the overall costs on society due to overdoses, crime, and disease.
Same goes for prostitution, if it’s legal, you can control where it goes via zoning, you can send health inspectors in, you can tax it. If it’s banned, the problem doesn’t go away, it just operates out of apartments in residential neighborhoods.
Universal health care is the same. Conservatives hate the idea of ‘growing the government’ by 10% of GDP to cover everyone, even if it means that the overall economy would gain 10% back from our ridiculously expensive and inadequate system now.
As for neighbors with ugly lawns… I tend to think that letting people have that much control over the appearance of things that aren’t theirs is a slippery slope. The law should cover SOME basics and obvious safety issues, but if you want things to look prim and proper, you should move to a gated community with a homeowner’s association.

mangeek
mangeek
9 years ago

“the florist shop on Hope Street that was being converted to a coffee shop. The neighborhood had to be “consulted”. Why?”
That was a special case. I think the neighborhood had good reason to put limits on what was planned: a big-box drive-thru coffee shop in place of a beautiful historic building, across the street from a busy day care.
Historic preservation and public safety are very different from simple aesthetics.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
9 years ago

Posted by mangeek
“the florist shop on Hope Street that was being converted to a coffee shop. The neighborhood had to be “consulted”. Why?”
That was a special case. I think the neighborhood had good reason to put limits on what was planned: a big-box drive-thru coffee shop in place of a beautiful historic building, across the street from a busy day care.
“That was a special case” that is only an attempt to make the ordinary extraordnary. It is a common situation that just happened to get “face time” in the news.
“I think the neighborhood had good reason to put limits on what was planned” Fine, they have a “good reason”, but do they have any such right. How do they derive such a right in the face of the Fifth Amendment?
The neighbors may have bought because of the neighborhood, but they didn’t “buy the neighborhood”.
If they want to protect property values, let them get a “historic district” declared and share the pain. That means no changes visible from the street. Want to paint you house, your neighbors approve the color. Need an A/C unit for a bedroom, that’s a chnage visible from the street. Get your neighbor’s approval.
In case you ever need it, people of like mind with you usually invoke the Police Power with the claim “access by emergency vehicles will be difficult”. This gives shelter to the elected officials who realize that the property owner only has one vote. I don’t think you have seen this game played enough times.

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