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Opinion: The Freedom of the City is Not Negotiable

14 November 2018   Jim Lamerson

"There has always been a difference between wants and needs."

During a July 25, 1961 speech, John F. Kennedy said, “The freedom of the city is not negotiable. We cannot negotiate with those who say, ‘What is mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.’” The right to own private property is one of the Constitution’s guiding principles and it is my oath of office that drives the will to defend an individual’s private property rights. As a municipal corporation, the City of Prescott also has private property rights, protected by both the Constitution and the Supreme Court. Similar to the necessity of procuring an assured water supply the City of Prescott floated a bond in order to purchase both Willow and Watson Lakes. It may be time to discuss whether the residents of the City of Prescott would choose to purchase that portion of the Dells property subject to development. 

It appears clear to me, there are some who think by using the heavy hand of government, we as a community can simply take others’ private property, with or without compensation. What if they bought an investment to be developed in the future? What if their private property was an heirloom, or it’s simply not for sale? Or they want their property used in a specific manner? Who really has the right to set the fair market “price” on private property, especially when the public is not in peril? It appears easy for some to tell others what to do with their private property. It also appears to me that if the citizens of the City of Prescott were the rightful private property owners of that portion of the Dells subject to development, we then as the city would have exercised our freedom to purchase property we do not want developed. 

I believe private property owners have the right to solicit negotiation with the public body when they need or want something from the public body. The public body has the same right to negotiate with a willing seller. The development agreement process and buy-sell capability affords both private property owners and public officials the opportunity to negotiate on behalf of their special interests. Because the property owners of Arizona Eco Development now wish to develop something different than the previously assigned zoning doesn’t eliminate the opportunity for the public and the private property owners to negotiate for something different.

There has always been a difference between wants and needs, the haves and the have nots. Simply because some choose to use another’s property doesn’t give them adverse possession rights. The generosity and good nature of many of Yavapai County’s private property owners and ranchers has been taken for granted and advantage of for years. While some people respect other’s property by not trashing it, cutting or breaking down fences, indiscriminate wood cutting, plant and tree removal, etc., without specific permission to be on the land or doing what they are doing on the land, they are still trespassing. Biking, hiking, camping, picnicking, etc. are all good things to do, but do it on defined public land or your own property. Simply because your house isn’t posted “No Trespassing” or fenced off doesn’t give another person the right to come in, sit on your couch, watch your T.V., and use your fridge. It’s appalling how many people think they have a right to use another’s land simply because it’s not posted or fenced off.  

There are processes in place to better assure both parties will be best served. I for one am pleased the current, rightful owners of private property adjacent to the city are at the table negotiating with the city rather than rolling out the blades and cats doing what they have the legal and constitutionally protected right to do, including septic tanks, exempt wells, and standards different than that of the City of Prescott. Because development standards in the City of Prescott are different than that of the county and/or neighboring communities, it is my opinion the subject property would be better in the City of Prescott with city oversight as to its final purpose. I, for one, prefer a righteous procurement of the property so that it will be subject to recreational use and preservation within the city limits of Prescott. The outlying question is how can this occur in keeping with Prescott’s historical, cultural, and environmental ambiance?