Homeowners Should Fight

To Protect Their Rights

I learned over time two fundamental laws of local governance: (1) A person's rights will quickly disappear if they are not protected and, (2) government will attempt do whatever special-interest groups lobby it to do.

Permit me to offer two recent local examples.

The District's DUI rule: The background here is that the whole country, including the District, set the law for the permissible alcohol limit for drinking at 0.08. But the District then implemented its own different regulatory policy for enforcement purposes. It was not until years later, after an individual finally came forward and protested this abuse, that the policy was just recently changed.

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors' Resource Protection Area (RPA) rules: In this instance, the General Assembly passed a law in 1988 in an attempt to improve the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay by which, for example, perennial streams would have certain protective buffer areas. These benign perennial stream "protective buffers" were subsequently redesigned by the regulatory bureaucracy as confiscated RPAs. The law defined the applicable perennial streams as having a continuous water flow every day throughout the year.

But the Board of County Supervisors then implemented its own regulatory policy for enforcement purposes. Here, our board is abusing its implementation of the law by reclassifying nearly any ground depression as a "perennial stream" and thereby triggering illicit property confiscations from the county's homeowners.

As a responsible citizen I believe in DUI laws. As a conservationist I support legitimate water quality laws. But it's the abusive and unconstitutional implementation of these types of laws that causes concern.

The Virginia legislature should have envisioned that the counties would have to pay to enforce Virginia's Bay Act, i.e. buy the "buffers" or RPAs. If the county feels that this is the best use of its funds, it can buy up every so-called perennial stream and the 100 feet on either side of them. At some point, either the county will run out of money or the cost of these so-called RPAs will not be deemed a rational purchase. This is even more pertinent in considering the General Assembly's 2003 findings that RPAs do nothing to substantially improve water quality. Consequently, the latter rather than the former should logically and properly determine our board's decision on this issue.

If all homeowners don't fight this infringement on their freedoms, they will lose them. If they do not stand up for their rights, they will lose them. And if they do not vocally and in writing protest to our county supervisors, then they have already begun the slide down a slippery slope.

What will our supervisors do next? Dominate and control the trees and bushes in your yard because their special-interest friends in real estate development have otherwise stripped the county bare? Issue tickets for grass or garden violations because of their special interest friends who have a political agenda for their own ideal of the utopian home?

For our supervisors to attempt to tell homeowners they have the county government's permission to continue to "own their home property" and "pay the full tax burden on it" but that the county's corps of bureaucrats will completely control, dominate, inspect, invade, issue $10,000-per-day fines, demand county ordered maintenance at homeowner expense, and dictate every other aspect of what homeowners do with their homes it's just wrong.

Don't think it can't happen!

Rich Soby

Prince William County

Concerned Citizens,