Americans typically love David and Goliath fights, in which the little guy finally defeats — against all odds — a bigger, stronger opponent.
Maybe that’s the rationale behind House Bill 72. It would give developer Goliaths an even bigger edge over individuals trying to protect their investment in their homes and neighborhoods, by requiring a bond be posted in zoning disputes before a circuit court decision can be appealed.
Intriguing as the story line might be, it’s bad legislation.
Likely unconstitutional and certainly unfair, HB 72 is hung up now because the House and Senate have passed different versions. With little time left to iron out the differences, it’s best to let this bad bill die in the twilight zone between the two bodies.
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And it should never be revived.
HB 72 places a huge burden on neighbors who go up against a proposed development in their back yard. It requires anyone who wants to appeal a circuit court decision in a zoning case to post a bond of up to $100,000 before the case can move on to the court of appeals.
This requirement puts a huge burden on individuals and neighborhood associations battling with developers.
Of course, that’s why it’s called a developer’s dream bill. Anything that squelches the ability of pesky homeowners and neighborhood associations to challenge development plans promises to make it that much easier, and cheaper, for developers to ply their trade.
Proponents say the measure is necessary because developers wasted time and money fighting frivolous appeals that have no hope of success. Regardless, if a judge finds an appeal frivolous, he or she already has the authority to impose sanctions on the party wasting the court’s time.
It’s not the job of the General Assembly to decide developers need an edge over neighbors. We have zoning boards and city councils to review these disputes and, ultimately, the courts.
It is emphatically not the job of the General Assembly to limit anyone’s access to the courts. Neighborhood associations typically rely on voluntary dues to pay their bills. Denying them access to an appeal unless they can come up with a $100,000 bond will effectively deny them access to the courts.
That’s just wrong.