State Senator Tom Tiffany on Friday attempted to separate liberal myth from the reality of the “Homeowner’s Bill of Rights” he co-sponsored with Rep. Adam Jarchow. While some websites like urbanmilwaukee.com claim this initiative is scheming to take power away from local governments, the bill has measures in place that protect homeowners and keep local control. Media Trackers Communications Director Jerry Bader spoke with Tom Tiffany about misconceptions being spread by the left and why this initiative is important to Wisconsin homeowners.
The “Homeowner’s Bill of Rights” was introduced by Tiffany and Jarchow at a press conference on the land of Dave Meixner, whose property was at risk of being taken in the name of eminent domain. In the press release Tiffany and Jarchow spoke of the reasoning behind the initiative:
“Home-ownership is the foundation of the American Dream. Studies consistently show that homeowners enjoy a significantly higher net worth than non-homeowners. That is why we believe more should be done to protect and encourage families to become homeowners. Unfortunately, the creep of overbearing government at all levels has imperiled property rights and home-ownership. It’s time for reform that protects and defends home owners and by extension, the American Dream. We support the following goals that make up the Home Owners Bill of Rights.”
The Citizen Action Northeast Wisconsin cooperative is one such group in opposition to the bill, and said in a tweet that in the bill “public comments, hearings, or concerns would no longer matter,” and would take away the “town, village, city or county board’s decision making power.” Tiffany called these misconceptions:
“Nothing could be further from the truth, there will be public hearings yet on these issues, people will be able to voice their opinions, we’re just saying to the elected people who make these decisions, that you have to use facts and evidence to come to your decision you can’t just use speculation… ”
“…Decision makers should have to use facts and evidence, and that’s what this bill provides for, and that’s the part that a few liberal groups are trying to poke at this point to try and see if they can derail the bill, because they like it, when they bring in ten activists who shout to the rooftops and be able to stop a project that most people are probably in support of. This just makes sure they are bringing facts to the table”
One complaint of the bill was that it would take away control for local governments in dealing with conditional permits. Tiffany stressed that this needed to be changed because there have been instances in the past where a local municipality will refuse a permit even after all of the conditions are met. Tiffany pointed to the real life situation of the AllEnergy sand-mining company that agreed to meet all thirty-eight conditions that the county put forth, and was still denied the permit. The case was brought to the supreme court, and was voted 4-3 against the company. Tiffany explained how the conditional permit system would operate:
“This substitute amendment would require city, village, town, or county, to issue a conditional use permit to an applicant who meets or agrees to meet all the requirements and conditions specified by the political subdivision. So you have permitted uses, prohibited provisions, and then you have the conditional use permit where you have to meet conditions.”
He continued: “What we’ve seen around the state sometimes is an applicant will agree to meet all the conditions under the conditional use permit, and then the local municipality turns around and says nah we’re going to deny you the permit because we just decided we don’t like this. That takes away the certainty for the applicants if they agree to meet all the conditions, which is exactly what this bill says, then you shall get the permit. I think it’s really very much common sense.”
Another concern among critics is that the bill would exempt some private ponds from DNR regulation. Tiffany stressed that this would only apply to ponds that were five acres or less and not connected to a navigable water way. He said on the topic, “If you need to dredge that out occasionally because it may silt in, you should be able to do that without a permit.”
Tiffany stressed that this is a common sense bill and that they have been working with many organizations and groups in the creation of the bill:
We’ve really diligently worked with local government groups, the municipalities, the towns, and counties, those organizations and they ultimately, while they were opposed all the way up to a week ago, they were at neutral, because we negotiated a compromise with them. I think it’s a really good compromise that provides some certainty for homeowners, while also protecting that local control that people value.
The full interview with Senator Tom Tiffany can be found here: