National Heritage Areas Do Not Impact Personal Property Rights
We have been asked whether or not the National Heritage Area designation would restrict individual property rights, and would restrict local land use decisions.
If either were the case, we would not have the support of the elected Boards of County officials from 14 Counties and 15 Towns/City Councils. In every instance, the facts, below, have been presented in public forum, and the opposition has been allowed an opportunity to present alternative evidence,. Yet, in every instance, these elected bodies have considered all facts, heard all opinions, and have found that the proposed National Heritage Area designation does nothing but support the current businesses and the citizens of the region, while sharing the unparalleled heritage with others from throughout the country and the world.
Among the significant economic analysis which serves as a basis for this conclusion is an independent study conducted by the United States General Accounting Office report (No. GAO-04-593T). This study looked at what impact National Heritage Areas have had on personal property rights. The study found that National Heritage Areas do not affect the rights of property owners.
Page 17 states:
"To determine the extent to which, if at all, private property rights have been affected by these areas, we discussed this issue with the national coordinator, regional officials, the Executive Director of the Alliance of National Heritage Areas—an organization that coordinates and supports heritage areas’ efforts and is their collective interface with the Park Service—the executive directors of the 23 heritage areas that were established at the time of our work, and representatives of several private property rights advocacy groups and individuals, including the American Land Rights Association, the American Policy Center, the Center for Private Conservation, the Heritage Foundation, the National Wilderness Institute, and the Private Property Foundation of America. In each of these discussions, we asked the individuals if they were aware of any cases in which a heritage area had positively or negatively affected an individual’s property rights or restricted its use. None of these individuals were able to provide such an example."
This not withstanding, the JTHG Partnership has been very clear, from the onset of this effort, that it respects all homeowners’ and all elected bodies’ right to control land use decisions. Accordingly, the JTHG Partnership, in concert with the lead Congressional Sponsors of the legislation, have made every effort to ensure that both our American heritage and our American rights are respected within the legislations written. The JTHG Partnership has no intention of infringing upon personal property rights.