Essay Preview: Eminant Domane
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The definition of eminent domain according to Websters Dictinary is “the power of a government to take private property for public use; the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution and articles in many state constitutions allow this practice provided that just compensation is made”. (1) Recently the subject of eminent domain has become the subject of much debate because of a recent Supreme Court decision called Kelo v. City of New London. In this case the Supreme Court has interpreted the 5th Admendement to mean that Government has the right to use the power of emanate
domain to transfer land from one private owner to another to further economic development in blighted areas.
The Kelo case, as it is now referred, was the city of New London, Connecticut trying to evict homeowner Susette Kelo and six other families who were trying to keep the municipality from condemning their homes for use as part of a redevelopment project. This project is to be a $270 million global research facility built by the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. (2) Kelo and her neighbors filed suit, arguing their property rights were being violated by developers who had a lot of political power and that it is not just for the government to seize property for a private companys economic gain. In the past property had been seized under eminent domain for the purpose of public good, such as widening of roads, schools and public parks, however now many fear that any large company will now have the ability to “buy” their way onto private property.
The Supreme Court however decided that the city could go forward with the project and condemn the homes. Justice John Paul Steven wrote for the majority stated that “Promoting economic development is a traditional and long-accepted function of government.” (3) However writing the decent in this case Justice Sandra Day OConner stated that \”Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.\” She argued that the decision eliminates \”any distinction between private and public use of property — and thereby effectively [deletes] the words \for public use\ from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.\” (3) In this essay I will be defending the position that Sandra Day OConner took because I believe that the Supreme Court made the wrong decision in the Kelo case.
One of the fundamental rights that average American believes in is the right to property ownership. As a personal example my Grandfather immigrated to this country from Hungary, unable to speak the language and with very little money in his pocket. In his own country that he had left behind the Communist Party had taken over, denying land ownership to the citizens. One of the promises that my Grandfather made to himself was to make a better life for him and his family in the United States and one the criteria for this better life was land ownership. For the first several years he worked in the coal mines until he mastered how to speak English. Once his ability to Speak English was on par with the rest of America he was able to get a better job at Dairylee (a milk company, first as a driver and then he became a manager. Because of his determination and the opportunities offered in the United States he was able to purchase land. And when he died, he died knowing that not only had he given his children a better life in this country, he had died that as a land owner. One of the fundamental beliefs that were instilled in me from my family is that land ownership equals citizenship.
Property rights advocates in the United States contend that in the past government has abused their ability to exercise the power of eminent domain in the past, and this was before the Kelo case gave them the ability to seize land for economic development. Property Rights Advocates who a large percentage are farmers. Farmers are concerned about eminent domain because many have had their
land been seized
due to questionable land takings.(4)These Advocates have been fighting to have safeguards put in place to protect against government abuse. Some of the suggestions have been to require that government officials document the need for the land and allow public acess to comment on the proceedings before the property can be seized
. This would allow the community to not only shape their own neighborhood but also allow them to have a voice in the definition of their
There are some companies who have joined in the fight against the Supreme Court decision. BB&T Corporation has stated that they will not make loans to commercial developers planning private projects on land seized from private homeowners by local governments. According to the chairman and chief executive of BB&T, John Allison, “The idea that a citizen\s property can be taken by the government solely for private use is extremely misguided, in fact, it\s just plain wrong.” (4) This demonstrates a large support that is now growing in the business community. BB&T is the countrys ninth largest bank and they are using their commercial lending power to support the rights of private ownership.
Large corporations are going to change their lending views when shareholders, who are also private land owners, express dissatisfaction with lending to these types of developers. From an economic stand point these types of developments are not necessarily a sure money maker if they are going to be tied up in litigation, so that is another factor shareholder will take into consideration.
In Riviera Beach, Florida there is a situation where a developer of a multibillion dollar project is considering suing the city for not using their power of eminent domain. Viking Inlet Harbor Properties is a resort-development firm has spent $50 million dollars acquiring
property in a redevelopement zone. Now they are at a standstill in the propject because there are properties in and around the area that they want to develop that are being held by private land owners. The president of Vicking Associates states \”Now I\m stuck with these properties but can\ develop them because I can\ fill in the puzzle pieces,\” Clark said. \”The city spent millions of dollars putting together its comprehensive plan, and we spent well over $1 million in engineering, architectural and planning fees. Our plan now becomes virtually