Letter to the Editor: Rights based ordinance is viable

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Dear Editor,

After learning about the many communities that have been prevented from protecting themselves through zoning law because of corporate pressure, I felt a zoning ban on metallic mining was not a viable way to protect our county. It’s insane that a community can be sued by corporations for loss of future profits – called the takings clause – an industry friendly, undemocratic court interpretation of the 5th Amendment.

The rights-based ordinance is not a land-use/zoning law. It doesn’t propose regulation or banning of metallic mining in Buckingham County; rather it insists we protect the rights of the people and communities here to be free from toxic trespass and to prove it safe first.

Email newsletter signup

It empowers our local elected leaders to do just that. Through the centuries, the courts have unjustly and increasingly empowered private corporations with rights originally meant for humans. Meanwhile, public corporations like our county government, have been left behind, as have we, the people. When communities are forced to give up their health and safety to power and money, our representative form of government is also sacrificed.

Again, the rights-based ordinance will not ban gold mining in Buckingham County, but rather it insists that the rights of the people in this county should not be set aside. It’s not a new environmental law, but a civil rights law for all of us.

The rights-based ordinance takes its authority from:

• 9th Amendment of US Constitution: The rights of the people are not limited to just the rights listed in the Constitution.

• 14th Amendment of US Constitution: No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities (rights) of citizens of the United States

• 5 articles from the VA Constitution

In a memo dated August 2, 2022, Mr. Wright, the county attorney, advised our elected leaders that there was no VA Code giving authority to the rights-based ordinance. But in VA Code 15.2-1102 municipalities are given “permission” and granted general powers “which are necessary or desirable to secure and promote the general welfare of the inhabitants of the municipality”. Here is Virginia law giving authority to Buckingham to pass the rights-based ordinance. Its clear intention is to protect public safety and welfare. (County Attorney) E.M. Wright’s memo had no solutions to our problems and was replete with bad advice for the supervisors.

I ask for the County Gold Mining Committee to reconvene and to discuss this, which is what I had hoped would happen in the first place. Better yet, I ask Buckingham Supervisors to acknowledge that this Virginia Code gives the rights-based ordinance the legal support the county attorney said it didn’t have. Send it to a public hearing and adopt it now!

Frank Schawaller