Stop Government Abuses of Eminent Domain
Eminent Domain Abused, Turns Into Corporate Welfare
Eminent domain is sometimes abused by corrupt governments as a way to grant special privileges to private corporations. This shocking, immoral, corrupt behavior is becoming more common.
Here is a recent article on this subject, circulated by a group called FEAR (Forfeiture Endangers American Rights). You can find FEAR on the WWW at http://www.fear.org/
by Vin SuprynowiczAn Arizona judge ruled April 29 that the city of Mesa can seize Randy Bailey's profitable brake repair shop and transfer the property to his larger and more powerful neighbor — an Ace Hardware store looking to expand. The Washington-based Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm which is handling the case for Bailey, immediately appealed the ruling.
The reason this case matters far beyond the Phoenix suburb, where the Bailey family has operated its profitable little business for 31 years, is that cities all across the country "are using the power of eminent domain to take homes and businesses from one set of owners to transfer to more politically powerful ones," explains attorney Clint Bolick, who's handling the case for the IJ. "It's corporate welfare at its most brazen."
In the mid-1990s, Mesa leveled an entire neighborhood — 63 homes — for a resort and water park that never materialized, Bolick reports. "Today the homes are gone, the taxpayers are out $6 million, and the land remains vacant."
That's because local governments — once responsible for protecting property rights — are instead now "playing real estate developer," Bolick charges.
It's important to note that Mesa wants to take the property "not to build a road, a school, or a hospital, but to sell to an Ace Hardware Store," Bolick explains. "Bailey's Brake Service has been family owned at this location for 31 years; it's very profitable. But even if he gets full market value for his property he may be forced to go out of business because of the high cost of relocating."
Environmental regulations which have piled up since the shop originally opened would make it prohibitively expensive for Bailey to relocate, even if he were paid "fair market value" for his property, Bolick explains.
The excuse Mesa is using is that they're allowed to seize property for redevelopment if it's "blighted."
Mesa redevelopment director Greg Marek testified the brake shop is surrounded by vacant land, empty buildings and an abandoned gas station, and constitutes a "legal non-conforming use."
"If you didn't use (the power of eminent domain in this way), you would have downtowns in a mess," claims Tom Verploegen, executive director of the Mesa Town Center Corp., who supports the forced property transfer.
But "There's been no formal finding of blight," Bolick explains. And even if blight had been proven, "The city's policies call for rehabilitation and structural renovation wherever feasible. But it turns out the city doesn't have a rehabilitation or structural renovation program, so they just skip all that and go right to eminent-domain seizure."
Perversely, such indiscriminate tarring with the brush of alleged "blight" can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the early 1990s, the neighboring city of Scottsdale "declared the Fifth Avenue area north of Old Scottsdale a redevelopment zone and waited for a developer to propose a replacement for the thriving small shops and art galleries," Bolick wrote in a March 4 commentary for the daily Arizona Republic. "Under the cloud of eminent domain, the area has had difficulty attracting long-term tenants or new investment."
A state lawmaker plans to introduce legislation in Phoenix to curb such uses of eminent domain.
"This should frighten everybody in the state," Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, told Arizona's East Valley Tribune. "One of the fundamental rights we have, and what separates us from socialism, is private property rights. To me, freedom and property ownership are inseparable. If you lose one, you lose the other."
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