Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Imminent Domain

Imagine, you have just bought your dream home. It’s a cute little cottage or a seven bedroom monstrosity. That doesn’t matter one little bit, it’s YOUR dream. Ok, you have your dream home in your dream home’s perfect location.

Isn’t it a nice dream? Home ownership is the clarion call of the American populace. It’s a extension of our British roots when those fun loving Brits forced the Magna Carta to be signed. The concept of private ownership is firmly planted within our collective consciousness. In fact the concept is so important; two separate amendments deal with the seizure of property. The Fourth Amendment details that search and seizures must have probable cause and must be clearly defined (i.e. you can’t have a seizure warrant for a television an then seize the couch). The Fifth Amendment says that a citizen and can not “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Why do I bring all this up? It’s simple; the American government has forgotten exactly what public use means.

There is a town called New London, Connecticut. This town handed its power of eminent domain over to a group called New London Development Corporation (NLDC), which is a private organization, which then began the process of condemning homes and attempting to force residents from their property.

Now, if this had been for a road, I would not have said a thing. If this had been for a school or a library or some similar structure, I would have been happy. Any building or structure which would have been publicly owned and if the land owners were given a fair compensation I would have been happy. Unfortunately this use of eminent domain is for a condominium and an office complex.

Yes you read that right. This city is basically forcing these residents to move, so that they can then give the land to property developers. As well in a ruse to force the property’s value lower the NLDC had some of the properties condemned, regardless of the fact that the land owner in question purchased the home in 1997 (all this fun started in 2000) and had been restoring the home for three years.

And it is not just this one little town in Connecticut. After all, Connecticut is filled with liberals in power so you expect utter stupidity to appear in its halls of power. Other such cases include:

  • Norwood, Ohio, is using this power of "eminent domain" to evict people from their homes and businesses so a Cincinnati developer worth $500 million can have the property for an office-retail complex.
  • Bremerton, Wash., removed a woman in her 80s from her home of 55 years supposedly to expand a sewer plant, then sold the land to an auto dealership.
  • Mesa, Arizona, attempted to force Randy Bailey to give up the brake shop that he purchased from his father. The reason was to raze the building and then give the land to a privately owned hardware store. Mesa also decided to pay the hardware store’s permit fees, insurance, fees and most impact fees out of the tax coffers.

What is sad is the Institute for Justice has a whole host of similar complaints. The concept of eminent domain needs to be redirected from this concept of using taken lands for the public good, and put it back into the concept of using the purchased lands for public use.

Until we get eminent domain back to its constitutional standards, let’s just hope you don’t live somewhere where a developer with political clout wants to build.

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