alaska_flag_80Property rights activists are floating a new regulatory takings measure—this time in Alaska.

A new ballot initiative is being proposed in Matanuska-Susitna Borough, an area north of Anchorage that is expected to experience rapid growth in the coming decades.

Why a “property rights” bill in “Mat-Su”? Tough to say. Property is so lightly regulated there that the borough’s website prominently includes this explanation:

Zoning, Land Use and Building Regulations DO Exist in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Be advised that permits may be required.

That’s right: may. Is there any legitimate need for regulatory takings measure here? Or is there something else going on?

Here’s a theory.

  • (And, yes, this is just a theory.) In some ways it’s not surprising that an intensely local ballot measure is being proposed in rural Alaska. It’s precisely in keeping with the strategy that property rights radicals are rumored to follow. Having been stymied for years at the federal level, they resorted to Plan B, the states. But after an initial success in Oregon, the states have mostly handed them convincing, expensive, and ideologically damaging defeats. That leaves them with Plan C: local areas. Unfortunately for them, even in its earliestgenerations, Plan C has been a failure. But by retreating to the Mat-Su and other far-flung localities, they can hope to regain enough momentum to float these measures elsewhere.

    At the moment, the activists’ website claims that the measure is already qualified it for the October ballot. (That seems fishy since the ballot language seems to be worded for a vote in 2006.) Anyway, word has it that the language is still being hashed out, so it’s not yet clear what Mat-Su voters can expect. The current version does not appear to be retroactive, unlike Oregon’s Measure 37, and it includes the usual exemptions for public nuisances, federal laws, health and safety, and sex commerce. So while the proposed initiative is more reasonable than, say, Initiative 933 was in Washington, it will by its very nature hamstring local democracy and sow the seeds of an unwise development free-for-all.

    Stay tuned.

    (h/t to David Goldberg at Smart Growth America)