Money Pit

From the Blueberry website (from Gov. Perry's joke about Austin's being the blueberry in the tomato soup of Texas), a tale that punches my buttons from both sides.  On the one hand, the 1890's home in Old West Austin is just the kind of building I love, and few things would make me happier than to have a few million dollars at my disposal to give it a loving restoration.  On the other hand, it doesn't belong to me, and neither I nor its owners have that kind of cash available for the necessary work.  What the owners have instead is a lot of neighbors who wish someone else would undertake the project so they could enjoy the fruits of it gratis.

I run into the same attitude here on my underdeveloped little semi-rural peninsula:  none of us enjoys seeing undeveloped land turned into new housing.  When someone else owns the undeveloped land, we experience it as a neighboring parkland, without the inconvenience of paying taxes on it or forgoing the income from selling it to a developer.  Such a crime to destroy the parkland!  And yet all of us live in houses that were built on previously undeveloped land.  Most of my neighbors prefer to clear nearly all of their previously undeveloped land, even the parts that their houses don't sit directly.  Somehow, in spite of this, they are up in arms when someone else nearby does the same.  Yet it never occurs to them to pool their resources and buy the undeveloped land so they can lovingly preserve it as habitat.  That's always for some other rich guy to do:  the besetting policy sin of our age.

Do I wish more people were passionate about undeveloped habitat and 19th-century buildings?  I sure do.  I wish they cared enough about it to make it a financial priority in their own households, instead of only important enough to try to bully other people about.


Grim said...

In Tennessee there's a third option: you can deed just the development rights to the state in return for tax breaks, so that no one can ever develop the land. Then you can still own the land, and you can still sell it -- or more likely, it can pass to your heirs, since no one can use it for anything -- but your neighbors never have to worry that anyone will buy it and develop it.

We looked at a piece of land in central Tennessee until we realized that it was under such a restriction. I didn't intend to develop it, but I was completely put off by the fact that the terms entitled the state's agents to visit the land without warning for any reason, and to go anywhere they wanted on the property, in order to ensure that their interest in the land was being respected. Almost the whole reason I want to own land is to ensure privacy.

It's gotta be nice if you're the state, though. You could always sell that anti-development aspect back if you wanted to encourage development, even though you promised you wouldn't. And you never have to worry about getting a warrant where that piece of land is concerned again. Eventually, if you were clever enough, you could void the need for warrants almost entirely via this mechanism.

Ymar Sakar said...

Yet it never occurs to them to pool their resources and buy the undeveloped land so they can lovingly preserve it as habitat.

That's normally the task of Organized religions or organized civilian networks.

The organization of humans is a necessary thing, and it often turns evil, hence a necessary evil at times.

That's because if people do not organize, somebody else will, and when they invade, no force is capable of resisting them. And yet if a community organizes, they may Put a Hussein tyrant into power. Then what.

douglas said...

Nature Conservancy works via the model of raising funds to buy land for preservation. Of the environmental groups, they are probably my favorite for that reason alone.

As for the 'no development in my neighborhood' types, I'm hip deep in them here, and I like to refer to them as the folks who want to freeze the world in amber. They only view the world from their narrow vantage point, and have no real sense of history or sense of the future and it's needs. Because what they are really defending is their own view and it's of reference, they usually aren't open to rational discussion either.