One of the best comments on that New York Mosque brouhaha comes from John Podhoretz, Editor of Commentary magazine, in the October 2010 issue:
“The proposal [to construct a mosque near Ground Zero in Manhattan] has ignited a new culture war in the United States in which unusual lines have been drawn—with unabashedly secular liberals sternly admonishing religious conservatives about the transcendent importance of the freedom of religion. Suddenly, even property rights and building “as of right” have become sacrosanct to people and institutions who have opposed private projects in important locations all over New York City on the grounds that, say, they might cast a shadow at certain hours over a few hundred square feet in Central Park. And yet they feel free to express disgust at complaints about a mosque a few hundred feet from where the Twin Towers were destroyed—a building that would certainly cast a shadow over a Ground Zero memorial.”
But that’s how it goes in the land-use biz, doesn’t it? People whose hearts profess to bleed for the plight of the poor are usually in favor of the use of eminent domain for redevelopment which disposesses the poor en masse for the benefit of large corporations. They seem untroubled by the fact that the core feature of redevelopment is for the redevelopers to receive the taken land from which the poor have been evicted (and for which the public has paid top dollar), for peanuts or even free. Like in the Kelo case in which the city plan called for the redeveloper to get a 91-acre waterfront tract of land, cleared and ready for construction, for 99 years for a mere $1 per year. And so the unfortunate Connecticut taxpayers blew some $100 million with nothing to show for ir since the New London redevelopment project was a complete failure. Our liberal acquaintances (and a clutch of liberal professors who took to the pages of law journals in defense of this abomination) have it that this civic and economic disaster was just jim dandy — that the city of New London was well within its rights to behave in this fashion and that its conduct was commendable, and certainly not subject to meaningful judicial review.
It reminds us of the line of the late Dick Babcock, in his time the dean of the nation’s land-use bar, who observed that it is a curious phenomenon that captains of industry who rail against government regulation of their businesses and who take out full-page ads denouncing it, are all in favor of regulating the living daylights out of every blade of grass when it comes to their upscale homes in fashionable suburbs.
So if consistency is your thing, you won’t find it in land-use law.
Welcome to my world, Mr. Podhoretz.