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Eminent Domain and Loss of Common Sense

September 23, 2010

Few topics get my boxers in a bow worse that Eminent Domain.  It is a nasty part of government that I have never agreed with.  I believe in private property rights, and the right to sell property on the open market to a willing buyer who will pay your price.  Is that so hard? (Current market conditions not withstanding, although some have inflated opinions of value)

We have a local case here in my hometown of Winston Salem, NC, that has me looking with a rather jaundiced eye at our public servants.  Our city has proven that it is willing to stick its neck, and dollars, out in so called Public Private partnerships, the prime example being the wonderful new ballpark that just hosted its first season.  I am still a big supporter of that ball park because I believe long term the city will come out ahead on this particular deal.  So why pray tell, can the owners of the old train station not get the same consideration for their project?  Why does the City of Winston Salem have to steamroll over a perfectly good development idea, mixing public & private investment, with a little risk thrown in?  Full article here: Why does WS think that it cannot work out a deal like was done for the ball park?  I agree that maybe the Clark Campbell Transportation Center is a bit over capacity.  I see that there are no rail lines that feed it.  Why are you considering taking private property, that is generating tax dollars, away from someone that WANTS to RISK MONEY to build and develop the area into something that would serve a grand purpose for that neighborhood?  Why must you have it RIGHT NOW?  Is it just so you can say, “We have a station.  We have to tear it down because it has sat for years because we did not have the money to maintain it, but by golly we have it.”

Why take on this building now, on your own, when someone else is willing to be a partner?  It seems to work for the ball park.  I am not convinced that passenger rail will come to us.  Redevelopment is a good idea for that area, but partner with the current owners, who saved that old building from the wrecking ball.  You lost your chance Winston Salem, back in the 1970’s.  Don’t stomp your own citizen’s dreams to rectify a mistake you made in the past.  You can work it out, if you try.  Ask Billy Prim.

I have yet to hear a good reason why Eminent Domain needs to be used in this case.  The Davis family has a good plan.  Trust your citizens to do whats right with their property.

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 24, 2010 8:50 pm

    Those of us who have faced the threat of eminent domain know two things: It is a sobering experience and private property owners do not stand on a level playing field legally, politically or economically.

    The challenge is that more eminent domain is on its way through many back doors. In addition to economic development takings using the Kelo or “blight” approach, we are in the midst of natural resource development takings in pursuit of shale gas (as in Barnett shale, Marcellus shale, and more).

    The pursuit of these gas-rich shales brings with it more pipelines and more underground gas storage fields — and that (pipelines & storage fields) always means eminent domain. And in Pennsylvania, the gas industry and some legislators are talking up “forced pooling” which will permit gas companies to seize gas under your property, even if you refuse to sign a lease.

    Unfortunately, the otherwise excellent Institute for Justice of Kelo fame declines to intervene in energy/utility takings because, they told me, of the “public good” premise. Instead, the Institute should reconsider and offer support in this expanding “market” for eminent domain abuse.

    But property owners can fight back. Our two-year battle against Houston-based Spectra Energy which seized our property rights for an underground gas storage field led to the development of a website which has begun to attract whistle blowers inside the energy industry. If you want to learn from our experience and understand this type of eminent domain, refer to this post: Spectra Energy

    Or here:

    Private property rights are so fundamental that founding fathers such as Samuel Adams described it as an “essential” right and wrote, “that no man can justly take the property of another without his consent.”

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