PLF and Goldwater Institute vindicate private property rights in Arizona

April 02, 2012 | By TIMOTHY SANDEFUR

On Thursday, March 28, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law H.B. 2319, a bill which eliminates a nasty procedural hurdle for property owners who seek just compensation under that state’s Private Property Rights Protection Act (Proposition 207).

You might remember that some years ago, PLF filed the first lawsuit seeking just compensation under Arizona’s Prop. 207, a law that guarantees property owners’ right to compensation whenever the government destroys their property rights through regulations. The city of Flagstaff adopted an “historic overlay” ordinance that basically imposes a second layer of zoning on property located in one particular neighborhood (but which, conveniently, does not apply to city-owned historic property in that same area). Last year, the Arizona Court of Appeal declared that before a property owner seeks compensation, he or she must first give the government a “notice of claim.” That may not sound like a lot, but Prop. 207 contains its own “notice of claim” requirement, and the court’s decision meant that a home or business owner would have to file two separate notices of claim. And the older “notice of claim” requirement included a one-year statute of limitations—much shorter than the three-year statute of limitations provided for in Prop. 207.

In other words, the Court of Appeals applied a second procedural obstacle to property owners and shortened the time a person can seek compensation from three years to one. And on that basis, the trial court dismissed a lawsuit PLF attorneys had brought on behalf of Flagstaff property owner Paul Turner and his company, Aspen 528, LLC. We appealed that—and oral argument in that appeal is scheduled for April 10. But in the meantime, our friends at the Goldwater Institute—Arizona’s free-market thinktank, which supported us as amicus in the case—helped prepare legislation to eliminate this bizarre loophole, and that bill was signed into law this week. The law expressly overturns the Court of Appeals’ previous decision and makes clear that Prop. 207 stands by itself as a meaningful protection for the rights of Arizona’s property owners.