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Ilya Somin on John Olerud and Private Property Rights

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John Olerud bought a house with an obstructed view, then had a local government body order his neighbor to cut down the trees. Ilya Somin doesn't think that's okay.

John Olerud, Tree Killer
John Olerud, Tree Killer

One of the non-sports-related blogs I read is the Volokh Conspiracy, a libertarian-right blog staffed primarily by law professors that primarily discusses legal issues.

Ilya Somin, one of the regular contributors there, has a post up about former major league first baseman John Olerud's successful efforts to have the Clyde Hill Board of Adjustment order his neighbor to cut down a pair of rare trees on the neighbor's property, on the basis that it obstructs Olerud's view of the Seattle skyline.

Somin believes (and I agree) that it is an example of overreaching by the municipality, although it isn't technically a "taking" under the Fifth Amendment.

The most troubling aspect of this, to me, is that Olerud bought the property with the trees already there. It isn't like his neighbor planted them under the cover of night, springing them on the unsuspecting Olerud.

No, Olerud bought the property with the obstructed view, then fought to have the offending trees removed. While Olerud has to pay for their removal, he's still looking at a windfall (based on his testimony before the Board) of around a quarter of a million dollars, based on the enhanced value of his property.

This story has been kicking around for a while, and I think part of the reason it bothers me is that it smacks of someone using their fame to get special treatment. If John Olerud isn't a local celebrity athlete, but is instead just a doctor, or a lawyer, or someone else who people don't clamor to get autographs from, does this happen?

I don't know. Maybe I'm over-reacting. But the whole thing just rubs me the wrong way.