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Private Property Rights, Historic Preservation, America & the Rights
of the People

Message from the Executive Director

By Bruce Coons

Sometimes when we are advocating for preservation we will hear the old refrain "I have the right to do whatever I want with my property" or some similar argument. I always wonder what country they think they live in, obviously it is not the United States of America.

This supposed right is a myth and has never existed since the first colonies were organized and the first towns were laid out.

The Supreme Court has always affirmed and reaffirmed that communities have the right to decide what they are going to look like (i.e., the majority of the people, not one person dictating to the rest). This is the foundation of all zoning and preservation laws.

It would be hard to find anyone who would condone a property owner tearing down a home, say, in the middle of a new housing development and putting in a convenience store, because the property owner asserted he could make more money and make better use of his property. By that same token a property owner does not have the right to tear down a historic building and put up 'a lot line to lot line' McMansion and destroy the character of the neighborhood and our country's heritage.

Where the individual does not have the right to do whatever they please to their property, the community does. The community has an absolute right to decide what it is going to look like and what is important to maintain or enhance its character and its environment. The only countries where an individual can do what he wants without regard to his neighbors and communities are countries that accept bribes and do not follow the rule of law.

That is not the country I live in. That is not the American way. That is not the kind of country that was envisioned by the founding fathers or what has been fought for since we began. This country is ruled by "We the People" not one person; we are not a kingdom or a dictatorship. We all decide what is important.

2003 - Volume 34, Issue 2

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National Security Executive Order


President's Message


Private Property Rights


Historic Districts


Deadline Extended


Mary F. Ward 1925-1999


How to Be a Preservationist


Desert Drugs is History


Highway 101 Association


Remembering Larry Booth


People In Preservation Awards


Attention Coronado Craftsman Era Homeowners

San Diego Old House Fair


Spring Catalog 2003


Theatre at the Whaley House presents Round Cape Horn Must Go!

Whaley House Garden News


Volunteer Profile


Arts & Crafts Weekend 2003 - In Review


Strength in Numbers


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