I’m libertarian in my thinking, so the developers of a Clayton subdivision ought to be able to build a cul-de-sac if they wish.
But the developers also chose to do business in Clayton, which means they knew what they were getting into. Indeed, one of the developers is actually a Clayton Planning Board member, so he’s certainly familiar with the town’s development rules and preferences.
The matter at hand is whether a street in the proposed subdivision will end in a cul-de-sac or stub-out. In subdivisions that are not landlocked, Clayton planners prefer that streets end in stub-outs because they allow a subdivision to connect seamlessly to the subdivision that will inevitably go up next door. That connection is important primarily because it gives another point of access to police, fire and rescue vehicles in case of an emergency.
So it’s easy to see why Clayton planners want a stub-out on a particular street in the proposed Warrick Park subdivision: It abuts 29 acres of undeveloped land, and those 29 acres abut another 29 acres.
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But the developers of Warrick say their next-door neighbor has no plan to develop her land – ever. And last I heard, she planned to send the town a certified letter to that effect. The land is home to a nice house and a dog-rescue group, and the landowner plans to keep it that way apparently. She even has first right of refusal should the land beyond hers ever go on the market.
Still, a stub-out makes sense because no one knows what the future holds. The neighboring landowner might one day receive an offer she simply could not refuse, and her land could become another Clayton subdivision.
But because I’m libertarian, I’m sympathetic to the developers of Warrick subdivision. Their desire for a cul-de-sac makes financial sense. A cul-de-sac, as opposed to a stub-out, gives the developers another lot on which to build. I know nothing about profit margins in the subdivision business, but I’m assuming every developer sets out to make a profit on every lot sold and every house built.
So if Clayton forces the Warrick developers to build a stub-out, the town is essentially taking their land, and while I don’t know a lot about the laws governing the taking of land for public purposes, I’m pretty sure government has to compensate landowners when it takes their properties.
I doubt very much that Clayton leaders want to get in the habit of paying for land lost to stub-outs, and I sympathize with taxpayers, who would foot the bill for compensating developers for their lands.
But taking land, even for a wise cause like street stub-outs, is taking land, and the libertarian in me says government shouldn’t be able to do that without compensating the landowner.