Hands off private property like gas golf carts

Terry Garlock's picture

Last week I wrote of the prospect of banning gas golf carts in Peachtree City because some say they are noisy and stink, and that it seems symptomatic of the nanny-state drift of expecting government to solve our every petty problem.

What about the private property rights of those who own gas golf carts? When should government be compelled to intrude into a citizen’s private property?

One unique aspect of our country’s founding was the sacred rights of private property. Fearing government’s heavy hand, the founders created a Bill of Rights with 10 amendments to the Constitution outlining various protections citizens would have against an intrusive government. Six of those 10 amendments touch on the protection of private property, with the Fifth Amendment providing the most relevant piece in what is called “the taking clause,” which reads “... nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

I am not suggesting in any way that a ban on gas golf carts in Peachtree City would be illegal or unconstitutional. But I am hoping to prompt a little thinking about private property rights as central to our freedom, and that infringing on those rights should only be done when the need is compelling.

The taking clause gives government the legal “eminent domain” tools required to do things like build highways by taking private property from unwilling owners and giving them “just compensation.”

But that process has been abused. Some local governments have used eminent domain to wrestle away from owners their land that may have been in their family for generations merely to boost tax revenue. They give or sell the taken land to an alternate private owner for the purpose of development with the expectation that a higher use of the property will generate increased tax revenue back to the local government.

Peachtree City is doing nothing like those outrageous land grabs, but bear with me in thinking through how private property is under assault in America.

One of those land grab cases went to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in a highly controversial 5-4 decision in June 2005, the court endorsed the land grab in the Kelo vs. City of New London case.

The city of New London, Conn., condemned a 90-acre tract, a residential neighborhood of blue collar homes, to give a 99-year lease to a developer for $1, so the developer could build a waterfront hotel, office space and high-end residences, all of which would pay to the city a whole bunch of new taxes.

The city won the case, paid off and evicted the blue collar homeowners and razed their homes, but the developer failed to get the financing they needed and the 90 acres remains an empty lot.

Justice Sandra Day O’Conner wrote for the dissent, “Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.” From a legal standpoint the case remains controversial because, critics say, it misrepresented the Fifth Amendment’s “public use” into the “public purpose” of boosting tax revenue or urban renewal.

But that is about private property in general. More relevant to the issue of Peachtree City banning gas golf carts is that regulatory actions that edge ever closer to a “taking” of private property without just compensation have historically been very grey areas.

I am no lawyer, but my guess is that Peachtree City is probably well within their regulatory authority to issue a ban on gas golf carts if the City Council so chooses, even though the value of those gas golf carts would decline immediately in the local market, never mind the intrusion into a citizen’s right to choose the type of golf cart they wish to own.

The city can probably do as it pleases with golf cart regulations, and the only thing stopping the City Council would be their own restraint from stepping on the private property rights of some citizens.

In last week’s column I wrote that I personally don’t like gas golf carts, but that my neighbor should be left alone about his gas golf cart even though he is in the 5 percent minority.

I was speaking metaphorically about my neighbor because I actually don’t even know anyone who owns a gas golf cart.

I am speaking out on this issue not because I have a personal interest in a golf cart, but because I want my government, even my local city government, to restrain themselves from using the heavy hand of authority to reach into the private property of citizens unless there is a compelling reason to do so.

The complaints of one group of citizens that gas golf carts are noisy and smelly is no compelling reason to intrude into the personal property of other citizens, even if they are in a small minority. And if we step on those rights, at the same time we will be stepping on the interest of local businesses involved in gas golf carts at a time we should be promoting the growth of local companies.

[Terry Garlock writes columns occasionally for The Citizen. His email is tgarlock@mindspring.com.]

CherylS
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Banning Golf Carts

Golf carts were in Peachtree City long before the folks complaining about them were, I'm sure. I think it's one of the things that makes Peachtree City unique. If the folks hate it that much, let them move.

matt.barnes
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Why stop with Gas golf carts?

Can we also ban cyclists and especially bicycle races? Because they irritate the hell out of me and apparently if a few people in this town get irritated by something we just ban it all together.

Last weekend I went to drop something off at a friends house and got caught in a 40min detour because of that damn race. Really it shouldn't have taken 40 min to detour it but since the police officers didn't even know the exact route they kept detouring me to more road blocks.

Cyclist
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Ban bicycles....

Noooooooooooooooooooooo!!!! Besides, the annotated one wants to expand there use. So there!!! ☺

matt.barnes
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sorry cyclist

I don't know what you're stance is on the gas golf cart thing but I do not like cyclists on the road. However just because a bunch of people and myself don't like something doesn't mean it should be illegal and that is what this gas golf cart thing is really about. A few people don't like them so screw everyone who does.

Spyglass
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The ones who own them

can keep riding/driving on them until the wheels fall off, as far as I'm concerned. I'm not for any grandfathering expiring on the currently registered gas carts.

Cyclist
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Actually matt,

I side with the gas crowd but then I don't live in the big city so my opinion carries about as much weight as......well like CHR$' posts.

Spyglass
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Apples/oranges..

But feel free to try again.

matt.barnes
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Spyglass

Not apples to oranges. Bottom line the people who want gas golf carts banned want them banned because they are a nuisance. These bicycle races are also a nuisance.

I have seen you post on this several times. I think your two main points against gas golf carts are safety and the nuisance factor. Gas golf carts are not any faster or more dangerous than electric. Go to buggiesunlimited.com you can get speed upgrades that will make a cart go 25+ miles and hour for both gas and electric golf carts. As far as it being a nuisance, I never see gas golf carts on the path and I drive my g-ride daily. At most I see one twice a week and I have been paying attention since this became an issue. That stupid bicycle race was ten times the nuisance. So, why aren't we talking about banning those races?

Spyglass
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Feel free to organize a race..

use gas golf carts if you want to (your participation should be off the charts). The bike portion of the Triathlon was/is on the roads, not the cart paths.

All this said, reasonable people can and do disagree at times. My stance is the City already regulates the usage of the paths and they are just tweaking the usage rules.

matt.barnes
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I don't own a gas golf cart.

"My way or the Highway" is not civilized.

I don't own a gas golf cart. But If i did...

PTC Observer
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Terry Garlock - Property

You are absolutely correct, the only true justification for representative government is the protection of individual property rights.

Property is a tangable result of one's life and liberty. If government simply becomes an agent for a mob of robbers then as Jefferson said: ".....it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

We should do this through our right to vote and change the government. We must sieze our government back from those that would rob and enslave us for their own self-interests.

So much for the incremental issue of gas golf cart ownership.

Courthouserules
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Property: observer

Personal property of Mr. Jefferson:

Many slaves!

Unfortunately the mean old government took them away from him--even his own personal sons and daughters!

If I had been Jefferson, I would have organized a group to take over the government and get my slaves back! Oh, that happened after he was dead, didn't it?

To take action depends upon whose ox is being gored by a bull. Yours, forgetaboutit---mine, yes, get on it!

Spyglass
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No ban of private property...

You are free to use your gas cart on all your private property.

PTC Observer
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Spyglass - But

not on 'your' public property?

Spyglass
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Correct, the City regulates cart path use already..

I see no problem with this issue myself. I would tweak it to say that if you own a gas cart now, you may use it on the Path System until the wheels fall off. No 10 year rule..I would not be in favor of it passing any other way.

secret squirrel
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Terry: Hyperbole much?

So you're actually drawing parallels between the Kelo decision and PTC's action in response to an overwhelming majority of its citizens to ban the use of (read: not ownership, just use) gas carts on city-owned pathways? That's not making a mountain out of a molehill. It's comparing a grain of sand to Everest. And it diminishes the threat posed by the Kelo decision. The travesty that is the Kelo decision merits more respect than to compare it to a restriction on where you can operate a gas-powered golf cart.

And incidentally, Mr. Morgan: three of the five justices in the majority on Kelo were appointed by Republican presidents.

hutch866
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Squirrel

As I understand it, there were around 1500 responses to the poll, even if all were against the gas carts, that is a LONG LONG LONG way from an overwhelming majority of PTC citizens. Then again, maybe your math is better then mine.

scribbler
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Well said, Terry.

Well said, indeed.

Courthouserules
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I personally don't like NASCAR racers

.......but my neighbor should be allowed to race his on our street without city interference! It is his personal property!
Now I have another neighbor who has an M4 automatic, his personal property, which he shows often, and speaks of even oftener! I personally don't like those things but that is not the point, is it?

I personally have a jet engine on my golf cart. Of course it has a speed control which requires a key to engage, which I am the only one who has the key! The following trailer holding the jet fuel, which is behind the golf cart, is personal property, and would be no problem as long as it doesn't explode. I won't explode it--it is my personal property.

I noticed another neighbor who has installed JATO bottles on each side of his motorcycle. Those speed enhancers are his personal property along with the motorcycle, without a standard muffler of the total noise.

The "heavy hand" of the city of course can make all my personal property stuff illegal, of course, but they shouldn't! Unless there is a compelling reason, which they can determine what is compelling.

All of this is metaphorical of course, I have no such actual neighbors, but I'm sure they exist! Just don't mess with my garden out back (my personal property)Each one of those stalks will produce $500 worth of medicine I need desperately (my personal property). Metaphorically speaking of course--I have no such garden!

Robert W. Morgan
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I actually agree with your point, I think

Assuming your point is - hands off my personal property unless I endanger others! The government's nose has been shoved under our tent with the supreme court siding with New London - very bad decision and one that will be overturned someday after Prezbo is neutered and someone else appoints justices.

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