Amendment Would Eliminate Private Ownership of Real Estate

February 21, 2020

by Rob Roper

PR.9 is a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would essentially and in effect ban the private ownership of real estate in Vermont. It’s short. You can read it all (except for Section 3, the effective date, which I cut for some brevity) here:

PROPOSAL 9. Sec. 1. PURPOSE This proposal would amend the Constitution of the State of Vermont in order to provide that the citizens of the State have a right to a clean environment. Sec. 2. Article 23 of Chapter I of the Vermont Constitution is added to read: Article 23. [Right to a clean environment] That the people have a right to clean air and water and the preservation of the natural, scenic, and cultural values of the environment. The State of Vermont’s natural resources are the common property of all the people. The State shall conserve and maintain the natural resources of Vermont for the benefit of all people. (Bold/Underline added).

The first part is scary vague. What is a “right to a clean environment”? Does that mean I am entitled to taxpayer funded trash pick up? A court will decide, I guess, cuz I’ll bring that suit myself! That I can sue my neighbor for grilling out on his back yard barbeque? Or my neighbor can sue me for driving a low MPG truck? Who knows? But you can bet there will be a whole lot of suing going on if this were to pass.

The last part is even more frightening. “Vermont’s natural resources are the common property of all the people.” That means the trees on my yard, the water in my rain barrel, the soil my grass grows on as well as the grass, my pond (if I had one), if I strike gold, or want to quarry granite or slate — all of a sudden none of this is mine anymore, but the property of “all the people,” and what do with it is not my prerogative anymore, as these things “shall be” conserved and maintained by the state, not for my benefit, but for the benefit of all people. Farmers… you might want to pay attention to this!

It could end all new housing development because the state’s constitutional obligation would be to preserve the “natural and scenic” resources of the state. So, somebody wants to build a not-natural house in the empty lot next door that would mess up my (Cough, cough. I mean “the people’s) scenic view, 1-800-LAWSUIT!

PR.9 is straight out communist. The only thing missing is a section mandating that we all call each other comrade. And perhaps the most alarming part of this whole thing is that fifteen senators – enough to pass it through that body with the Lieutenant Governor breaking the tie (and you know he would) – actually SPONSORED this insanity! Didn’t see a problem with it at all.

I had an exchange with the lead sponsor of PR.9, Sen. Chris Bray (D-Addison) on Facebook over this.

Sen. Chris Bray (D-Addison)

ME: Chris, the amendment you are pushing appears to ban private property. Are you out of your freakin’ mind?

Christopher Bray:  Rob — I’m a little surprised at your response, given how well you know me. The provision in no way bans private property. Let’s talk in person about how similar constitutional provisions work (and have worked for decades) in other states. And consider as well — we have a federal clean air act and clean water act; did they ban private property? The simple truth is that air, water, and wildlife are not private because they are held in trust by all of us — because they are a shared natural resource base upon which all life depends. I look forward to a longer conversation — and perhaps you can help us improve the proposal.

ME:  The trees on my property are a natural resource, as is my well, as is my lawn. This amendment would declare all this the common property of all the people, under the control of the state. If it says or implies something different than that, explain how.

That was two days ago. Still no response on line or in person.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Irene Stewart February 21, 2020 at 7:59 pm

Rob, so if one of the trees on my lawn falls, the State of Vermont will cut it down at their expense and haul it away, since it is their tree, a natural resource? Oh, you are so right. Lawsuits – one after another. Lawyers will be busy with this insanity. But again, the legislature is insane, especially passing the climate bill yesterday. This will cost Vermonters dearly.


Rob February 21, 2020 at 8:50 pm

Maybe. Or they could prohibit you from removing it on behalf of the chipmunk living in it.


James P Nagle February 21, 2020 at 8:45 pm

I agree that the wording in P-9 is a blatant attempt to collectivize the natural resources of the entire State. With the Feds and State owning 8% of Vermont’s land, and another 1.8 million acres in “Current Use” and and yet more land in permanent conservation easements, almost 40% of Vermont’s potential resource wealth is locked away from her Citizens. Our wealth, our prosperity and our posterity are directly tied to the land and private property is a cornerstone of Western civilization. Article 1 of Vermont’s Constitution clearly states “That all persons are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent, and unalienable rights, amongst which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety;” Private property is private and under the direct control of the owners for their benefit. Through taxes the lands have been socialized, and some would say the State collects way more than their fair share. This bill is a veiled attempt at bringing UN Agenda 2030, Sustainable Development planning into Vermont without the public truly understanding the ramifications of such a law. I do not support this bill or any bill that seeks to subvert private property ownership .


John J Welch February 21, 2020 at 10:30 pm

Has anyone within the hallowed halls of the Vt. Senate taken the time to ponder the fact that such a State Constitutional Amendment would likely run afoul of the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? Such an Amendment would likely be tantamount to bases everywhere throughout the State in support of mass condemnation actions as a means of protecting the substantive due process rights of landholders here in Vermont per the provisions of . e.g. the said 5th Amendment..


Shawn Benjamin February 21, 2020 at 10:38 pm

Windmills…maybe this is how the people of VT turn this law against itself.


Roland Metivier February 22, 2020 at 12:03 am

All of you who have not read Atlas Shrugged by Ann Rand should read it. These types of things are what caused the demise of Communist Russia and all the other communist (read socialist) governments to collapse on themselves. It also started a revolution on this side of the big pond.


William Hays February 22, 2020 at 1:16 am

This “Super Loon” Chris Bray has come out of the rancid progressive woodwork. Is he an actual citizen and human being? Horrilbly scary, methinks! Take a shave and get a life, CB. It’s not too late.


Patrick February 22, 2020 at 1:29 am

This is the innocuous way it starts and progresses to exactly what Rob describes. The progressive elites want Vermont to be a bedroom community for the affluent…
We are just servants for the nobility. Until we break the states stranglehold on our education system the indoctrination will continue so these statists will continue to control our lives.


Steve A Jackson February 22, 2020 at 2:32 am

Banning private property is different from regulating it and may not be the law’s ultimate goal. In other words, you may still own your property but government regulations, especially vague regulations, can remove the private property owner’s freedom to enjoy it which is the ultimate goal in a state already burdened with over-regulation.


Barb Rainvile February 22, 2020 at 10:30 pm

Like most things that are proposed in Montpelier by the Progressives and Democrats the unintended consequences are enormous. A simple thought process, a skill that many seem to lack, can demonstrate or suss out the consequences that will result. The P/Ds have the same following as Bernie….free, free free….and let someone else pay – with your money, land, or personal rights.


Wayne Hammond February 23, 2020 at 1:53 pm

Sounds like they’re trying to write Act 250 into the constitution. You’ll still own the land (for property tax collection purposes) but you’ll need to get local or state permission before you do anything with it.


J Paul Giuliani February 23, 2020 at 2:00 pm

You gotta be kidding me!


gdp February 24, 2020 at 5:14 pm

The highest and best understanding of Property is individual/joint ownership in fee simple absolute, to the exclusion of all others, including the state. Property is not an evil. It is a good, rewarding and imposing personal responsibility. Being a right, it is more than presumptively legal, and there not by legislation, but by vested use codified in Constitutional declaration, therefore transcending mere majoritarian rule for convenience sake. Indeed Cap 2, Art 1, denies the legislature any independent basis for action. Within the bound of law, it is only limited by wrongful use, and, according to our Constitutions (US & VT), compensation for State USE (not, contrary to Justice Douglas, ‘purpose’). Given the definition, Rep Bray’s representations appear at least disingenuous. Nobody can deny a legal construction of the proposed amendment authorizing a deprivation of property from the vagary of a ‘clean environment’, and there to an override of Cap 1, Art 2 of the Vt Constitution. This, like the proposed legislation (H868) undermining the Constitutional separation of town and State, is a very dangerous derogation of our right of property and express Constitutional structural protection against abusive State action, such as here the case. The gradual erosion of property right to mere permitted interest thru incremental state intervention declaring speculative general abstraction as a basis for deprivation, even thru unelected bureaucrat, but at least State administrative oversight, to the detriment of towns and property owners, is a malaise that must be reversed if Vermont is to sustain a polity where individual right has any vivacity and prosperity any hope. Time to wake up folks. Take back our towns and our rights. Reject the false religion of environmentalism and the crude materialism spawning the foreign governing notions that have prompted it.


Jon Christiano February 24, 2020 at 7:18 pm

Regrettably, Mr. Bray is a State Senator not a Representative, and therefore even more dangerous.


Philippe st george February 26, 2020 at 10:48 pm

These ridiculous stupid attempts at destroying our way of life and taking away our personals freedoms are one of many reason we need have only two reps and senators per county regardless of population . That would restore a Balance of power and stability back to Montpelier. They will cry foul not fair neither is act60 but we got that shoved up our HMMM thanks for listening
Philippe r st george
St Johnsbury


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