The countless articles and commentaries about the proposed Mosque near Ground Zero never fail to include the proviso “no one disputes their constitutional right to build it……….”. From the always odious Keith Olbermann to the always entertaining Ann Coulter it is de rigueur to make this point when discussing the proposed Mosque. Why we need to constantly reference this point is beyond me. Our original constitutional right to dispose of our property at will is derived from the Fifth Amendments Takings Clause. But as all property owners in America are aware, our rights to do what we want with our property has long been superseded by local zoning boards, the EPA, local historical committees, farm usage regulations, and countless other restrictive powers of Local, State and Federal Government. Plus the Supreme Court ruling in Kelo versus the City of New London expanded the concept of eminent domain to include taking property from one group of private citizens to give to another group of private citizens.
While I deplore this development almost universally, it is not the case that, de facto, there is a constitutional right to build the Mosque near ground zero. It is merely the case that the Bloomberg Administration’s Zoning Commission decided to approve it. If you doubt this, I suggest you try to convert where you now live into a Church.
I am not in the real estate business. But I own a house and an apartment. At various other times I have either owned or considered buying properties. In not one of my personal situations was I not interfered with by some entity of government to prevent me from doing something I wanted to do on any property I owned or wanted to own. It is useful to point out a few items to prove just how limited our property rights truly are. My point is to show that indeed, the Mosque Builders were granted explicit permission to build, but they have no “right” to build. My examples are all trivial (except perhaps one), which is precisely my point.
I wanted to build my current driveway 10 feet to the right of where it is now on my 5 acre lot. My then “neighbor” objected as I apparently violated some “100 foot rule”. When I built my house I wanted slightly higher ceilings. I was prevented because I would have violated a height rule. I have 80 foot trees surrounding my house and have by far the smallest property in my “neighborhood”.
I bought a sofa for my apartment in NYC. It is just a sofa, but apparently on the slightly large size. It could not fit into the very small elevator of the apartment building. There are enormous windows in the building and the “super” suggested we could easily have it lifted it through the 3rd floor window of the vacant apartment across the hall from ours. We were prevented by the city because our’s is a “landmark” block (off 3rd Ave!) and we might have “risked” some damage.