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When laws and regulations are made without sound basis something is wrong

By Tom Glendinning
Posted Friday, June 21, 2013

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Pittsboro, NC - In Chatham Chatlist number 4608, there were three posts in response to comments I made last April. I am greatly flattered to draw the views of a very successful local entrepreneur, Lyle Estill.

My dear Lyle,

You once impressed me with a comment on your own industry of alternate fuels when I asked what you thought of its regulation. You said, and I paraphrase because it has been years since that conversation, that the market ought of be free to determine the fate of the alternate fuel.

That left a deep impression with me that you respected the common sense of the American citizen and the marketplace.

You are from the socialized country of Canada, at least more socialized than the US. Its medical system costs less for drugs and procedures than ours do. Some US citizens cross over to buy drugs. Some Canadian citizens come to the US to have procedures done in a more timely fashion. In this respect, our systems work differently but to good effect.

The disparity in Canadian socialism and the free market view you expressed was slightly confounding, but understandable, since you have been so successful as a businessman. You have also been seen at conferences and summits dealing with government subsidy and regulation of alternate fuels. The general subsidy and tax credits for ethanol has cost America a great deal in hidden fuel costs, higher meat prices, higher food costs and federal subsidies paid by the taxpayer in making up for this system as well as the bio-diesel tax credit.

Thus, I have little doubt that you benefit from regulation. We pay for that benefit without the ability to change it for political reasons.

A few points. If we are paying more and have less money, we can not buy more goods, produce more profit, expand the economy and afford a better lifestyle. This, all because the government has chosen who will win in the marketplace. That model is repeated over and again in several areas of governance, not the least of which is local tax subsidies for attracting industry.

One example I will cite is the Guildford County tax break offered to Honda Aircraft Engines to locate there. These breaks amounted to $ 50 million for hiring 50 jobs. Soon after opening, Honda shut down the plant due to recession, leaving the taxpayers without the promised jobs. Now, Honda has reopened, but the promise did not hold for the jobs through hard times. Each job cost $1 million. Meanwhile, in Chatham, I propose a business which will provide 50 jobs with no local tax relief or subsidy. Where is the justice in government choice of winner and loser?

There are other examples of the questionable value of tax breaks, subsidies and special bills favoring one business over another by government. Essentially, they create a monopoly administered by government and counter to the free market.

I admit that the free market needs some restraints. The UMW(United Mine Workers Union) was founded in Ohio at the cost of the life of its leader and many miners. Child Safety laws govern industries which used to abuse children in the workplace. Basic safety rules benefit almost everyone.

However, when a regulation is made without sound basis, governs something which does not need regulation, or penalizes a business without proof of harm, something is wrong.

Some OSHA/NCOSH regs are simply over the top. They effect insurance coverage and normal, day-today operations, costs and relations with customers. Some create a hostile relationship between employee and employer that is not required. But they all direct attention to a class warfare and pit workers and customers against businesses. This is the ideal of Marxism, not democracy.

I will cite one of the first instances which raised my awareness of hyper-regulation, inspection and penalty. One of my fellow contractors won a bid for highway work in the state. After installation of the seeding and planting, he had to maintain the site for the prescribed period of one year. He sent one licensed man to spray plantings to kill weeds. There were three inspectors there to monitor and report on the operation. The cost of such “supervision” was approximately $300 for a $50 operation. Business owners and contractors will appreciate that story.

Another example is the Chatham County lighting ordinance. If found guilty of “overlighting” an area, the fine is $50 per day listed as being in violation. If a second violation occurs within six years of the first one, the fine is $100 per day listed in violation. If one occurs within six years of the second one, the fine is $500 per day. If the county can levy fines, it must also have the expertise to monitor the lighting of each commercial facility in its boundaries with a standard of performance. We do not have that monitoring equipment not the expertise to judge it.

The same condition exists for hazardous and nuclear waste. This local law was put into effect in 1982 and was reasonably written. But if we do not have proper nuclear waste monitoring equipment and the expertise to judge results, why can we impose a civil penalty on a waste handler? That is a federal and state responsibility. Only they have the labs and scientists.

A similar rules for the watershed ordinance poses the same question. If definitions of waterways are so parsed that their legality would be challenged in court, on what basis do we have these rules if they can be so easily contested?

Another area of regulation effects personal property rights. In the adoption of an ephemeral streams level of enforcement, the personal real estate effected is not properly mapped. Yet most parcels have ephemeral streams on them if they exceed five acres to ten acres. The rules would impact the use of property by the owner without just compensation. That rule violates the fifth amendment to the Constitution. Whistleblower rules can violate the sixth amendment via enforcement procedures.

A published map of the county shows perennial streams, partially mapped. If the setback of fifty feet is imposed on that map for each perennial stream, less than 10% of the county is taken. If intermittent and ephemeral streams are added, landowners/taxpayers would lose a speculated amount of 40% of their land. The smaller the parcel, the more land is lost for personal use of buildings or roads, all controlled by local permit.

In this case, land is taken without just compensation, the least of which would be a reduction of property tax equal to the taken land at $0 value.

This same taking occurred with the major corridor zoning and the river corridor exclusion. The major corridors took 1500 feet of land on each side of the major highways, reducing their use to residential. The river corridor is 2500 feet, or one-half mile on each side of the designated rivers, the Haw, Rocky and part of the Deep. The river zoning does not remove development or building rights in total, but limits them to Conservation Developments and higher restrictions on impervious surface and density.

In neither case is the landowner/taxpayer compensated for loss of use or the difference in standard development potential and Conservation Development costs. The state setbacks are clear for perennial and intermittent streams, either 50 or 30 feet, respectively. If our local rule was 100 feet, that would be twice the state rules. But I can not support 50 times those setbacks.

Water supply areas are protected by 2500 feet for water uptake units of local government. That rule is reasonable. Chatham, however, has expanded the rule to whole river corridors effecting hundreds of acres of private land in excess of state and federal laws and rules. The main pollution originates outside the county, so this rule only penalizes Chatham landowners.

I do hope that senate bill 612 is passed. It is called the Fast Track Permitting bill. Its wording includes the standard that local governments may have no laws or regulations stricter than state or federal laws. If it passes the House, it will be the law. If it does not, I do hope that our commissioners will repeal the rules laid by the last board and return the use of our land to us.

That action would respect the part of the state constitution guaranteeing that we may enjoy the fruits of our labors, the use of our land for which we paid and on which we labored. If a Conservation Development is so desirable, then support it with an incentive, not a restriction.

Yes, Lyle, our rights are protected by some laws and regulations, but denied by others. Protecting our rights is the duty of our lawmakers, on both sides of an argument. So which side of the law are you on? Limit personal rights and privileges for an ideal and for profit or defend liberty and personal rights under the guiding principles of the law of our land? You already know my answer.

I thank both of you for sparking my interest and helping to define my views and arguments. It is a privilege to answer to such high expectations and standards. It is a pleasure to hold such civil debate on this forum of the Chatham Journal and the Chatlist.

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When laws and regulations are made without sound basis something is wrong