An Ozark UpdateBack in August, I wrote about Jane Carpenter and the effort she led to defeat a bogus blight designation in the small Missouri city of Ozark. In a nutshell, the citizens voted to establish a Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority (LCRA) because of a truly blighted trailer park. However, once the LCRA was established, the blighted area ballooned as local officials saw the potential for a major development. Luckily, although the Ozark homeowners are still currently "blighted," the city passed an ordinance in May of last year that took away eminent domain authority from the LCRA. It may turn out that that was an especially good move for the city. Last week, the developer hired for the Finely River Neighborhood District Development failed to make six deadlines in the development agreement.
The occasional irony of eminent domainIt was to complement the Pfizer facility that the city of New London invoked eminent domain on the properties of Susette Kelo and her neighbors. On January 5, Crain's New York Business reported: Assemblyman Vito Lopez, D-Brooklyn, has written a bill to condemn several acres in Williamsburg that Pfizer has owned since the 1800s. He wants the plot taken by eminent domain to make way for affordable housing. But Pfizer denies Mr. Lopez's claim that the drugmaker reneged on a pledge to give the land away for public use once it closes its plant there. The company says that it made no such promise and that it has set development guidelines that include affordable housing, job creation and opportunities for minority-owned contractors. Pfizer has hired lobbyist Joni Yoswein to defend its interests in Albany. A company spokesman says Mr. Lopez's threat of using eminent domain presents "a chilling precedent for future development across New York." In other ironic takings news, the Warren, Ohio, Tribune-Chronicle reported on Friday that Liberty Township may seize a portion of the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corporation's property to give to a developer. MVEDC will not give up the easement strip unless the developer buys the entire property. Quoth the lawyer for the developer: "Frankly, we had anticipated a much more receptive response given your organization’s purpose of fostering economic development and growth in the Youngstown area.’’
The businesses Columbia is stamping out.On Friday, The New York Times published a piece profiling Nicholas Sprayregen, the Manhattan businessman attempting to take on Columbia University's abuse of eminent domain. Despite his financial ability to take on Columbia, it only goes so far--after all, he is battling against a multi-billion dollar institution: “I would have never thought four years ago that I would get involved in a civil rights issue; I had never before considered myself as part of a minority that was being stamped upon.” He does now. “This is about the powerful growing more powerful at the expense of those who have less. Columbia is not a public university; what they’re doing by threatening to use eminent domain is as unethical from a business perspective as anything I’ve ever come across. Property rights abuse is running rampant, but what’s unique in this instance is that eminent domain always seems to be used against the down-and-out, people who can’t afford to fight back in a meaningful way. I can. But I think it’s anti-American that I’m probably on the losing side.” [...] “People like to say this is just about money, that Columbia is the future and me and my business are so yesterday, but this is about right and wrong. Why should Columbia get to take my property? And why, now that there has been a change of zoning, shouldn’t I be able to stay here side-by-side with Columbia and develop my own properties?” Meanwhile, on Saturday, The Times discovered the hidden history of the Manhattanville neighborhood, a history Anne Whitman, the other business owner trying to stand up to Columbia, has been trying to tell for years in her attempt to preserve her business.
Lincoln Square: now on the "voluntary" listFrom the Chicago News-Star: A City Council committee has approved a substitute ordinance that would place many of the businesses on the 4800 block of North Western Avenue on a "voluntary" acquisition list, rather than allow the city to condemn private property in Lincoln Square for private development should property owners refuse to sell. The substitute ordinance was approved Jan. 3 by the City Council's Committee on Housing and Real Estate. While this is definitely a victory for the property owners involved, the cloud of eminent domain has not lifted completely because they are still on an acquisition list: Nancy Smarinsky, representing her husband, David, who owns the Dental Corner practice at 4857 N. Western Ave., told aldermen that she was still uneasy about the substitute ordinance. "I know we were put on a voluntary basis, but it doesn't take us off the acquisition," Smarinsky said. "We can't re-do our bathrooms because we know that four years from now we'll have to go through this again."
Milwaukee to take from one business and give to anotherIntegrated Mail, a Milwaukee direct marketing company, wants to expand. It has asked the Milwaukee city council to take adjacent land from Bee Bus Line. The city council seems more than happy to oblige. The land in question may have its issues, but the blatant seizure of private property for the private benefit of a business without many questions asked is notable, especially as the area is one the city would like to see redeveloped.
City council overrides mayor's veto to establish redevelopment authorityThe Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports on the struggle between the mayor and city council of Monroeville, Pa. The mayor vetoed an ordinance that would establish a redevelopment authority in the city and this week, the city council overrode the veto. Here is the mayor's defense of his veto: "The government of Monroeville has all the same powers of a redevelopment authority, except the ability to finance projects. Therefore, any of the solutions or powers that a redevelopment authority can use, council can use," Mr. Lomeo said, reading from a prepared statement. "It is my opinion, though some might disagree, that the ordinance's attempt to change or restrict the powers of the redevelopment authority has no basis in law. Pennsylvania has a redevelopment authority law, which empowers certain municipalities to form authorities. "The law states the powers of the authority and Monroeville council cannot subtract the items they may find objectionable. We, as a local government, have no power to override any state law. "My third objection is that there is a better way to attract businesses to Monroeville. Monroeville has to review and revise its tax structure."
- Looking ahead to next week...
- "Blight" in Tennessee
- "Baldwin Park is not for sale!"
- Reform Sprouts Up in the Garden State as New Jersey Courts Trim Down Eminent Domain
- Doomsday? No Way!
- Renewing eminent domain authority in Seaside
- Worried in Newton, N.J.
- More on the protest in Glassboro
- NJ Public Advocate Ron Chen Named New Jersey Lawyer of Year for His Work on Eminent Domain Reform
- Protesting eminent domain in Glassboro, N.J.
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