Last night I was ranting about property rights and eminent domain over on American Guesser. I observed that with the recession, we need to be on the looking for developers and politicians threatening to take private property away to make room for privately-owned projects.
And then it struck me: Are the powers-that-be planning on using eminent domain to grab the land needed to build the spiffy new and taxpayer funded expansion and renovation at the Pere Marquette?
So, I whisked off some letters to members of the council:
The first to reply was Gary Sandberg:
Question: Will the city use eminent domain to make this project happen?
In any earlier discussion, the use of eminent domain has never been mentioned. With the purchase of the Zuccarini /Abraham property by conventional means, I would think that eminent domain is not necessary. The only other potential use would be for he purchase of the underlying land at the Pere Marquette which for nearly a century had been under a land lease I believe. I asked Gary Mathews about what he “HAD” (note tense) purchased with respect to Pere and he stated that he had purchase agreements on both the building and the land. I suspect the presence of the term or power is more indicative of boiler plate and sloppiness of parties drafting the give-away than a power necessary for the development.
Question: Has there been any commitment with the developer to use eminent domain if they have trouble reaching a deal?
Not by the Councilperson, but I have NOT committed to anything more than the availability of any additional H tax from the Hospitality Zone for the local subsidy. In as much as meetings have been ongoing since and before Henry Holling was officially employed by the City as interim City Manager, yet he was involved and attending these meetings, I suspect that whether I have not made any commitment is mute,
Question: If eminent domain comes up for a vote, will you vote for it? Why or why not?
NO! I do NOT believe that the use of eminent domain for private development is legal. I do NOT believe (or have drank the kool-aid to make me believe) that the construction of a hotel, a skywalk, or a parking facility is public benefit. I also do NOT believe that economic development projects meet the legal threshold for public purpose. So NO!
I couldn’t agree more. It’s easy to understand why he has fans.
Patrick Nichting, 5th District, also replied, but he was much more brief:
I have not seen the development agreement so I can not comment as to its content.
And then Barbara Van Auken, 2nd District, replied:
I know of no plans (or need) to use eminent domain. The City could not use eminent domain for this project in any event, as it involves a private versus public development. Even if the Supreme Court hadn’t ruled as it did in such matters, I wouldn’t support use of eminent domain for a private development.
And Mayor Jim Ardis put the issue to rest, as far as this project is concerned:
Eminent domain is always a possibility, but it won’t be necessary as the developer and property owners have already agreed on a price for the property.
Well, that’s that then.
UPDATE: Eric Turner replied:
One thing about this council is there is a belief in avoiding Eminent Domain we truly believe in and support property rights and will do all we can to avoid Eminent Domain. Hopefully we can agree by way of fair negotiations. As a council we are willing to work with all involved to avoid the negatives I.e. Eminent Domain.