"The state Senate's Eminent Domain Study Committee headed by Sen. Jeff Chapman (R-Brunswick) got a tough welcome Friday from Stockbridge City Manager Ted Strickland.What does Strickland mean by "outside interests?" Isn't it the case that local governments get their governmental power through the state government? If so, then it would seem that members of the state legislature are not really outside interests.
Chapman brought the committee to town for its latest public hearing because Stockbridge has become the epicenter of the fight over using eminent domain — condemning property — in Georgia.
The city, like many around metro Atlanta, is hoping to create a new, vibrant downtown that will attract a second wave of development. City leaders envision new shops, offices and residents in houses and townhomes on 22 acres that the city and the city Urban Redevelopment Agency are purchasing or condemning.
That is what attracted the ire of residents and state politicians —condemning the property of others to sell to private developers.
Strickland told committee members that several of them who visited a City Council meeting in September made 'disparaging remarks' and used 'outrageous rhetoric' when they commented publicly about Stockbridge's plans.
'It is wrong for outside interests to tell the City Council what they should do to help our community thrive and prosper,' Strickland said."
"He said the city had worked hard for more than five years to bring new prosperity, which many residents support, and asked the committee members, 'Should one property owner prevent the redevelopment of downtown, which would benefit thousands?'It seems to me that the number benefitted (thousands) is not quite the correct criterion. Thousands could benefit and benefit privately. The redevelopment discussed here seems to involve private businesses, etc. On the other hand, roads do seem to benefit many, perhaps even most, in a community. The criterion that should be used is one that means people in the community share in what city government provides after the use of the power of eminent domain. If the property that is taken turns out to be put to actual public use, e.g., city streets, then it seems to me the relevant criterion would be met.
Shannon Goessling, a lawyer for the Southeastern Legal Foundation who is representing one of the Stockbridge condemnees, answered the question when she addressed the committee.
'Yes,' she said. If her clients Mark and Regina Meeks don't want to sell their flower shop, they shouldn't have to, she said. 'We don't need our government to be entrepreneurs and interested in financial gain,' she said.
The power to condemn should be used only for public projects like roads and schools and only as a tool of last resort, she argued."