Thursday, July 14, 2005

Referenda Postscript

Just another thought on the referenda issue as discussed in Tuesday's blog entry.

Davis Callies, another noted land use attorney, wrote in Land Use Law & Zoning Digest in 2003 about a decision about a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in City of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio v. Buckeye Community Hope Foundation. The issue dealt with the city's subjection of a site-plan ordinance to the referendum process. The Court held that this was not arbitrary government conduct in violation of substantive due process. What the Court did say, interestingly, was that the people retain the power to govern through referedum, "with respect to any matter, legislative or administrative, within the realm of local affairs."

Callies wrote, "...the Court has now extended due process approval of referenda beyond traditional legislative acts for the health, safety, and welfare of the entire community, to administrative acts affecting but a single parcel. ... While the referendum may well be an appropriate vehicle for deciding issues of community policy, it is an unacceptable vehicle for adjudicating the rights of individual litigants. As Justice Stevens observed twenty-seven years ago, [in City of Eastlake v. Forest City Enterprises] 'the essence of fair procedure is that the interested parties by given a reasonable opportunity to have their dispute resolved on the merits by reference to articulable rules.' That won't happen in decision-making by referendum. Direct democracy cannot be stretched so far. Nor was it ever meant to be."

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