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Don't let government trample on the rights of property owners

If there was a godfather in American Constitutional history, it was the English philosopher John Locke. Locke’s thinking was that political society existed for the sake of protecting property, which he defined as “estate.” Locke’s thinking was endemic in the writing of our founding documents.

On June 12, 1776, prior to the Declaration of Independence on July 4, the Virginia Declaration of Rights was unanimously adopted. In that document, it states that all men have certain inalienable rights, which include the enjoyment of life and liberty with the means of acquiring and possessing property. The philosophy of the Virginia Declaration of Rights has since influenced legions of Constitutions in America and elsewhere.

The bedrock of protecting property rights is predictability. Today, our laws, codes and rights allow us to have order and not chaos in our lives. We make personal and professional commitments based upon them.

Individual property rights have been a strong component in our growth and in our economic freedom. Clear and concise laws define those private property rights, allowing citizens and business to make choices, decisions and investments. Clearly stated codes should not be subjugated to whim. No investor or business or property owner can plan prospectively if the code is ephemeral and constantly shifting.

There is currently in Lake Oswego a proposed Wizer Block development application that is not only a test of the code but also a test of government fairness. There is a willing private property owner who is the seller and a willing buyer of that property. The buyer, a developer, has submitted a plan which in all respects meets the language of the current code. He has based his design and his investment on the consistency and predictability of the current code.

Some are contending that there are other factors to be considered — factors that are not in the current code. Remember, this is a private developer using private resources to bring needed additions to downtown Lake Oswego. If this plan is rejected, is the next person contemplating an investment in Lake Oswego (with all of the preparatory time and money it takes) likely to take the risk when factors will be considered that are not currently in the code?

This country, this state and Lake Oswego have prospered well under the dictum of the protection of rights. We should not arbitrarily overthrow over two centuries of what has worked. Let’s be wary of any government entity trampling on individual liberties and property rights.

Bob Packwood is a former U.S. Senator from Oregon. He lives in Portland.

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