« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
The CHAIRMAN. I see. So you had one at $10,000, then you had another formal appraisal at, what, was it $6,000?
Mrs. EDWARDS. The first appraisal that the city had done was $600 an acre.
The CHAIRMAN. In other words, you had the appraisal not by the city at $10,000, then the city appraised it at $600 an acre. Was that after the wetlands?
Mrs. EDWARDS. Well, there was three appraisals done. The city had the first one, they had it appraised at $600 an acre. And then we hired two appraisals, and one of them came in at $10,000 an acre, and the other appraiser somehow it was put in wetlands and he had it appraised for $1,000.
The CHAIRMAN. I see, that's what it is. Were you ever offered a fair price for your land
Mrs. EDWARDS. No.
The CHAIRMAN. One of the things that I find most disturbing about uncompensated taking is the appalling number of the people, who like you, have purchased their land to support themselves for their retirement years, and then they turn around and have their life savings snatched from them, which is what you're saying here today. Now for years people in America always said you can't go wrong with real estate, but now it seems that you can.
Giving everything that has happened to you and your family, what advice would you give to someone today who is planning for their retirement?
Mrs. EDWARDS. What did I tell you before?
The CHAIRMAN. No, no, no. There is a limit. Well, your experience hasn't been a very good one, I have to say. I think that what you said in your opening statement really told the story of why you need this bill, and you did it eloquently.
Mrs. EDWARDS. Oh, we do need it, Senator Hatch, so bad.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, let me just ask you one more question: you think that had this bill been in effect at the time that your property was taken from you the way it was, that it would have helped you to defend your rights?
Mrs. EDWARDS. Oh, very much. Very much. Because they went on my property and I didn't even know what they were on there for. I couldn't find out what they were doing. They were down there digging test holes and surveying. And so I called a representative for the city and I said if you don't tell me what is going on my property, I am going to go down there with a gun and I'm gonna chase them all off. So then they came and talked to me.
The CHAIRMAN. I think I would have talked to you too. Now, you're saying that they took your property at a small price per acre because it was a wetland? That's why the low price?
Mrs. EDWARDS. Yes.
Mrs. EDWARDS. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. And how much did you estimate the value of that trailer park was?
Mrs. EDWARDS. Eight-hundred thousand dollars. The CHAIRMAN. And it's still operating today? Mrs. EDWARDS. Well, it hasn't been going lately, I don't know. They have got it partly built and nothing is being done on it. And so I don't know. It is just kind of sit still. I keep thinking, well, if I get a trailer court, won't-trailer court, won't that be fun.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you know who owns the trailer park or what's
Mrs. EDWARDS. I'm sorry, Senator Hatch?
The CHAIRMAN. Do you know who is going to own and run the trailer court on your property, on your
Mrs. EDWARDS. No.
Mrs. EDWARDS. Yeah, it is the State of Utah that they are giving it to. See it is right to the side of the State park now that they have down there now.
The CHAIRMAN. I see. Well, see what I'm having trouble with is how they can basically take your land from you at a low price because it is wetlands, and turn around and build a trailer park on it.
Mrs. EDWARDS. And give it to the State of Utah. The CHAIRMAN. And operate it as though it is not a wetland. Mrs. EDWARDS. I've asked that every place I've gone and nobody tells me anything. And see, they took ground off the State on the southside of the river, and then they came over and took my ground to replace what they'd taken off the State park.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, I appreciate your testimony.
Mr. Gardner, let me just extend a special thanks for you coming all the way up form St. George to testify here today, and on such short notice. I appreciate your willingness to spend your own time and money to help me get the message out about the terrible problems that these uncompensated takings really are creating for good, honest people.
If I get your testimony correctly, all you're saying is that if the Government wants your land they can find a way to take it. All they have to do is trade you some land which is equal to what they took away from you, right? Mr. GARDNER. We're willing to cooperate on that basis.
The CHAIRMAN. In other words, you're willing to give them the land that they claim is critical habitat if they'll trade to you land of coequal value as of the date of the trade?
Mr. GARDNER. Without reference to the endangered species, yes.
The CHAIRMAN. OK; now, do you think that this bill would help you if it was enacted to get a fair exchange for your land?
Mr. GARDNER. Absolutely. As I indicated, part of that land was maybe willy-nilly identified as critical habitat when in fact much of it is not. And HCP involves 55 to 65 square miles of Washington County, and of that, much of the land is BLM land, part of the State land. There are 35, I think, different private property holders in there.
The CHAIRMAN. So you're not the only one
Mr. GARDNER. I'm not the only one.
The CHAIRMAN (continuing). Complaining about the way they are handling it?
Mr. GARDNER. Absolutely. And it all hinges on this big super exchange. And for us to participate in it, we didn't feel like they needed our property. We like our property where it is, we like the location. It has got water through it, it has got power through it. It is ideally located for what we wanted to do with it. But we told them we were more than willing to cooperate to accomplish the HCP if in fact they would trade on an equal basis.
The CHAIRMAN. But you would prefer to keep your own land the way it is?
Mr. GARDNER, We're comfortable with that.
The CHAIRMAN. If you had the right to keep it and develop it the way you planned to do it, that's what you would do, right?
Mr. GARDNER. That was our preference.
Mr. GARDNER. We haven't been ablewe've had materials sitting there for 7 years to build corrals with, a feed lot, and it is just kind of sitting rusting in piles.
The CHAIRMAN. You can't build your corrals?
Mr. GARDNER. Well, we haven't known what to do, because we've been in limbo, exactly as you said. Negotiations have been going on with a lot of delays, a lot of—as I indicated, the arrogance of the department. I felt very concerned that they felt like they had perpetuity to deal with the issues. And in the meantime, my little brother has passed away. He was the one who was really aggressive in putting the feed lots in, so that's not gonna be his dream, obviously. But it might be for the rest of the family, if we can get that done.
The CHAIRMAN. Any reason—the reason you have not built your feed lots and corrals then is you are afraid to do so because youthey would
Mr. GARDNER. Well, two reasons, I guess. I'm not opposed to going up there and pushing dirt and putting them in. I think under section 7 we might be able to get something done because there's not that very many-not very many turtles there. However, the Fish and Wildlife Service has used a lot of threats with other property holders in the area, threatening letters to indicate thousands of dollars in fines if they proceeded to do anything without the right permits.
The CHAIRMAN. And if you happen to kill one of the desert turtles?
Mr. GARDNER. Twenty-five thousand dollars per head.
The CHAIRMAN. In other words, if you accidentally—your horses trampled on-or cattle trampled on a desert tortoise and they found that tortoise dead on your land, you'd have to pay $25,000 a head?
Mr. GARDNER. That's correct.
The CHAIRMAN. You heard of what happened at Tuacahn when they were building that?
Mr. GARDNER. I know that story very well.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, I appreciate your problems that you have, we have got to resolve them some way. I think this bill will go a long way towards the resolution of these problems.
Mr. GARDNER. Very much so, thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Let's go to Mr. Smith. I want to thank you for coming and telling us about the unfair treatment you believe you've received. And I do believe that it is a real problem in the bureaucracy in Washington, and that they back there have completely lost touch with the people and these type of problems. And, you know, instead of being servants of the people, they seem to be the lord and masters.
Well, I just want to make clear that everybody is clear about the injustice that happened to you. You have property which you bought 20 years ago, right?
Mr. SMITH. Yes, Senator.
The CHAIRMAN. Which the Corps said—that is the Corps of Engineers said was not a wetland in 1982?
Mr. SMITH. That's correct.
The CHAIRMAN. OK; so you start off, the property you bought in good faith to develop yourself and it was declared not a wetland by the Corps of Engineers itself?
Mr. SMITH. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. OK; then all of a sudden in 1993 they say it is a wetland and they turn around and blame everything on you.
Mr. SMITH. Yes, the representative explained it. Their quote was is, “no wetland maps," and that situations change.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, given the closed door manner in which the Government has dealt with you, is there any way that you could have protected yourself or even have prepared for this problem?
Mr. SMITH. I have no idea how. I'm simply perplexed. I don't understand the whole process.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, I've asked the others and I'd like to ask you as well: Do you think this bill would be of help to you?
Mr. SMITH. Absolutely. My property would be is of such low quality wetland, even if they choose to call it such, that the 172 acres would be of no value to them.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, I think what is important here is that these are three isolated instances in Utah. But there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of these instances, and thousands of potential problems like this with the accompanying fines, or low values, or poor exchanges, or whatever it is, for lands that really have been thought to be worth a lot of money, worth a lot to the families, worth a lot for retirement. People have worked and saved all their lives and built up these assets, then they turn around and find that they are almost valueless because of a government deci, sion, in many cases an unjust and seemingly unwise decision. And you are just three illustrations of how bad it really is.
I just want to thank all three of you for being here, because it really bothers me a great deal. Someone who supports the protection of endangered species, who wants, you know, wants to protect our wilderness areas, who wants to do what is right environmentally. Frankly I do not go along with this type of stuff. I think it's wrong. I think it is wrong for you, it is wrong for our country, it is wrong for our State, it is wrong for our communities.
And I just want to thank each of you for coming because through your testimony here today hopefully we can—we can help others to see how important this type of legislation really is, to help correct these injustices and to prevent them from happening in the future. So thanks for being here, we appreciate it.
The CHAIRMAN. We are now going to turn to our second panel, which is our final panel for today. And on this panel will be Mr. Ken Ashby, Who is president of the Utah Farm Bureau, a very important person to all of us; Mr. Ronald W. Thompson, District Manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District; and Mr. Richard G. Wilkins, Professor at the Brigham Young University School of Law.
Šo we will begin with you, Mr. Ashby. You are currently serving your 8th year as president of Utah Farm Bureau Federation. I have had a lot to do with you, I have a grade deal of respect for you. I found you to always be honest and to act in the best interest of the farmers of Utah and the State as a whole. You are also chairman of the Utah Department of Agriculture Advisory Board. You served on the American Farm Bureau board of directors, that is the National American Farm Bureau, its select committee on farm credit and is a member of the International Trade Issues Committee.
President Ashby is the owner of Ashby's Valley View Farms, a diversified irrigated farm in Delta. So we welcome you and we will take your testimony at this time.
PANEL CONSISTING OF KEN ASHBY, PRESIDENT, UTAH FARM BUREAU; RONALD W. THOMPSON, DISTRICT MANAGER, WASHINGTON COUNTY WATER CONSERVANCE DISTRICT; AND RICHARD G. WILKINS, PROFESSOR, BYU LAW SCHOOL
STATEMENT OF KEN ASHBY Mr. ASHBY. Thank you, Senator, I appreciate the opportunity to be here with you. We are here to endorse the Omnibus Property Rights Act of 1995. The system for protecting the right to own and use private property has broken down over the last 20 years. We do not seek new rights. We want to reassert the rights that our Forefathers recognized over 200 years ago.
The “property rights movement” of the 1990's is simply a reaffirmation of what was started 200 years ago. The current regulatory climate at all government levels, the right to own and use private property has become an afterthought. Look before you leap and takings compensation legislation are simply attempts to move the rights of property owners up the policy ladder away from this afterthought status.
S.605 is an important step in rebalancing of power between property owners and government. You've listened to some examples of private property owners, let me give you just two other quick examples.
A northern Utah land owner has been locked in a 5-year struggle with the Army Corps of Engineers over the construction of the building on land designated as wetland, despite the fact that a city street goes right past the privately owned property. The Corps' de