Under the common law, from the 1500’s until today, the law has allowed past property owners to place limitations on the uses of real property in the future through the use of covenants (promises) as set forth in real property deeds as well as use of the fee defeasable estates (i.e. “To John Doe, so long as the property is used as a tobacco farm”) and the evolution of zoning statutes and practice. Thomas Jefferson argued vehemently that no past owner of real property (dead or alive) should be allowed to restrict a future owner of real property concerning its present use; however, the Virginia State Legislature disagreed with him and land use limitation continues today. Jefferson described this practice as “Allowing the dead to control the lands of the living.”
Was Jefferson right, or should we maintain the practice of allowing past property owners to place land use limitations in deeds of lands sold or gifted? Further, should the government be allowed to determine how a private property owner uses his/her respective land?