Is Your Property Too Attractive?

This is truly frightening. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 today (link defunct) that a city can seize private property for private economic development.

From the article:

Local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community, justices said.

Wow. Five justices really believe that? That, in effect, says not “They can take the land in this narrow instance,” but “We don’t want to touch this issue. Don’t bother us again.” That truly surprises me. I’ve been hearing about cases like this for a couple of years now. I always assumed that if a case was heard by the Supreme Court, they would side with the property owners. I guess I was wrong.

Side note… I admit that I have not studied the rulings of the 9 justices in detail, but I have the distinct impression that I’m siding with the ones that I would normally disagree with on this one. O’Connor, Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas shared the dissenting opinion.

10 thoughts on “Is Your Property Too Attractive?

  1. I personally don’t agree with the ruling either. It just seems wrong… Property owners should have full rights to their property.

  2. Well, there is such a thing as eminent domain, and there are precedents for taking private property when there is a clear public benefit (I think it’s usually for building roads, parks, etc.). I’m not saying I completely agree with that concept (the concept of “renewal” of “blighted” property has been abused before to this end), but it’s a lot easier to argue that a park has clear public benefit than an office complex.

  3. This is going to be a boon for DC and the new baseball stadium. *sigh* Because they can’t just tear down RFK Stadium and rebuild there. Or, I don’t know, just continue using RFK.

    What’s disturbing is that five judges sided with New London city officials on something that was clearly intended to generate tax revenue. They claim they want to also generate jobs – they are getting nailed by the BRAC list – but this is going to be abused. Some developed is going to want a shiny new strip mall and will snuggle with a city official to get it in someone’s backyard. Eminent domain never really bothered me; it’s how the Shoals area finally got the new bridge, and we desperately needed it. This is going too far.

  4. This actually has direct effect on a couple cases going on here in Phoenix. Tempe and Mesa cities both want to build new strip malls and they’ve been fighting with some citizens over the eminent domain issue. I have a feeling we will very soon see some citizens that won’t have their homes anymore.

    In the instance, though, of where Tempe wants to build their strip mall, it really will improve a “blighted” area of town. What currently resides in that area are rundown businesses that just look horrible. The strip mall will at least be nicer to look at.

    Overall, though, I have to side with the dissenting justices. This kind of ruling makes it way too easy for city officials and wealthy developers to screw over the general citizen.

  5. You know, I generally don’t mind eminent domain. [I’m surprised that our old rental house in North Huntsville isn’t getting ED’d to widen Bob Wade Lane now that Martin Luther King Drive has extended Rideou … uhhh, Research Park Boulevard from Jordan Lane over to Pulaski Pike. Going down Bob Wade connects the loop and carries Rideout all the way from Martin Road on the Arsenal to the Parkway north of A&M. Looks like the widening will happen in other ways, from driving it the other day.] It can be a good thing.

    But … eminent domain on the behalf of private land developers? No thanks. I get the desire to expand your tax base, but that’s a second- or third-order effect to provide a greater public good, and in any regard, public use of eminent domain to date has largely been to provide infrastructure.

    I don’t get why these land developers just can’t try to pay above-market prices to these folks to get them to sell. [Other than the fact that these people don’t seem interested at most any price…]

  6. http://www.al.com/news/huntsvilletimes/index.ssf?/base/news/111960466248500.xml&coll=1 (link defunct)
    That article is local reaction to the case. Seemed worthy to link here. Doesn’t look like officials locally agree with the general idea behind this ruling either.

    Ok maybe using it sparingly is ok. I remember though reading in the HT a while back about the city/county not condemning property to finish the road that goes by wal-mart to old monrovia. I think they *could* but for whatever reason they don’t see it as a high enough priority. That and I think part of that road is city and part county may raise other issues? I dunno.

    Along the lines of this case though, I don’t think it is right to condemn property for the sake of generating tax revenue. That seems a little… iffy to me.

  7. Interestingly enough, there was a bill in the Alabama Legislature last year that was going to strictly define “public use” and keep this kind of stuff out of the hands of the chumps in Montgomery. It didn’t pass because of the same reason that nothing else significant passed last year—Paul Hubbert was near death, and without Mr. AEA to tell them what to do, the Legislature ground to a frickin’ halt.

    :sigh:

    Anyhow, I imagine that this will be taken up with greater fervor now. Given that I know our local Representative [and I say “our”, because I’m referring to all of us in the Madison/Harvest/Monrovia area] pretty well, guarantee that I’m going to be up his ass about this. 

    [That said … if nothing comes to stop it, don’t think that Loretta Spencer won’t use this as the next step past Tax Increment Financing in her push to revitalize Huntsville’s city center…]

  8. I own the house and 4.5 acres that sits at Northgate Drive and Bob Wade Road and I have not been informed of when the widening will take place, what or how they plan of doing this. they often leave markers all over my yard.

    Send me some information and keep me informed. Will I need to sell my house, what??

  9. Marty, I used to be a neighbor of yours [I was at the end of Brookwood on the left, so you were probably across the back fence from us]. I expect that you’ll probably have to move, knowing which house is yours. That said, it won’t be firm until they make you an offer via certified mail. That’s how eminent domain works.

    Call the mayor’s office if you’re still curious.

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