Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It’s About Property Rights Alright - "OUR" Property Rights

A Mecklenburg lawmaker and co-sponsor of a bill that will unleash a torrent of digital billboards on North Carolina is quoted as seeing it as a property-rights issue, comparing swathing trees in front of outdoor billboards to cutting the grass in front of your house.

Even if there weren’t many reasons why his bill is disastrous for North Carolina, he’s focused on the wrong property rights.Capture

While the billboard companies buy, rent or lease tiny pieces of property on which to plant poles and hang huge, blinking digital billboards, they are ripping off millions of other property owners without paying a dime:

  • For the proven economic value of the “green” infrastructure they destroy,
  • For the scenic tourism they destroy,
  • For the unique-sense-of-place which draw residents and visitors to our cities and towns.
  • For the blight they reveal and to which they contribute along roadsides by swathing trees from the public’s right-of-way in many areas and blocking out view-shed in others,
  • For the clutter they create that can provide a screen for criminal behavior as noted in the “broken-windows theory” and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)

These public property rights are priceless and far beyond any value an outdoor billboard can provide in return, even if these companies were actually required to pay for use of the property they mask and destroy.

North Carolina’s tree canopy is one of its most distinctive attributes and less than half remains. The trees are economic infrastructure because they clean the air and water and serve as the backdrop for the state’s $17 billion tourism sector.

It is time we started valuing trees and learn from states that are lopping off entire mountain tops, as nearly 500 have been to-date, typically taking less than a day and the return…a measly 6% of the coal deposit there.

If legislators want to put North Carolina’s scenic beauty and tree canopy up for sale and turn the state into a drive through the yellow pages, at least they should practice good business and charge what they are worth in return – priceless.

North Carolinians deserve full value!

For more information on the “billboard bills” click here.

To express your outrage, click on the links below:

Senate Transportation Committee

House Transportation Committee 1

House Transportation Committee 2

No comments: