Property rights debate important |

Property rights debate important

(Editor’s note: The following essay was written by Truckee High School senior Shellie Snell for a Sierra Environmental Studies Foundation essay contest for which she won first place.)

On Dec. 15, 1791, the new United States of America adopted the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, confirming the fundamental rights of it’s citizens.

The Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights is familiar to many people as being the amendment that one can plead to if asked to be a witness against one’s self. What some people do not know about the Fifth Amendment is that it protects “private property from being taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Similarly, article 1 section 19 of the California Constitution provides that private property may not be taken or damaged by the government unless it pays “just compensation.”

Under this constitution, property and business owners are entitled to have just compensation determined by a jury. There are many factors that determine if a property or business owner is entitled to just compensation. If you are interested in learning more about what determines if or how much compensation you are entitled to, go to

California’s Eminent Domain Law, unlike the laws of most other states, provides that a business owner may be entitled to any loss of business “goodwill” caused by the taking of property on which the business is located. Eminent Domain is defined as “The right or power of the state to take private property for public use, or to control its use, usually at an adequate compensation.”

There are many steps that the government goes through to acquire someone’s property by eminent domain. There are situations in which the property owner has to take matters into their own hands, such as, if the amount of the government deposit is disagreed upon by the owner. If this occurs, the property owner may apply to the court for an order requiring an increase in the amount of the deposit. This occurs only when the difference is substantial. It is often a good idea for the property owner to try and settle the amount before the trial. There is one property rights issue taking place in Nevada County that is causing some controversy.

The issue is Natural Heritage 2020, a preservation program approved by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors (NCBS) in May of 2000.

County planners are expected to complete the program description and begin implementing it by the end of this year. The basic idea of NH 2020 is to benefit land usage by designating some of Nevada County’s private properties as open space buffer zones, wildlife habitat preserves and wetland areas. One of the organizations that are against NH 2020 is Citizens for Property Rights in Nevada County (CPR-INC), an “organization that was created to protect property rights as guaranteed by the constitution.”

CPR-INC’s Web site explains that they “want to open space and wildlife protection just as much as the May 2020 advocates. However, we also need a fair, open, and balanced process, which includes all affected groups and individuals.” There are many reasons that CPR-INC wants to fight NH 2020.

Some reasons they are against this issue is it forces more government controls on private property. Farming, ranching, and other land uses will become more difficult, costly, and less practical. The NCBS will not discuss compensating property owners for losses of land value or land uses from NH 2020.

If you want more reasons go to There is much more to the Fifth Amendment than more people are aware of. There are also different interpretations from state to state as to what this amendment entails. There are also many benefits of the Fifth Amendment that protect our country’s private property owners. There are also many factors that determine if, and how much a business or property owner is entitled to in cases of the government buying property for public use.

As you can tell by the issue with NH 2020, there are still issued that occasionally need to be worked out by private property owners and the county, state, and sometimes federal governments.

If you want to support CPR-INC you can go to its Web site mentioned earlier and fill out a form. If you don’t agree with CPR-INC you can contact the NCBS to ask what you can do to help NH 2020.

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