Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Used To Make Former Mayor Happy?

The Bernardsville News:
"The ordinance states that if acquired, the parcel would be used for a pocket park. But two audience members Monday questioned whether there might be safety problems by creating a place for children to play adjacent to busy Mount Airy Road.

Councilman Mikael Salovaara said that while he favored giving the borough power to use eminent domain, he continued to have an “open mind” about how to use the parcel, if acquired.

Kress purchased the 22 Mount Airy Road parcel from former owners William Jr. and Emily Howlett on March 10 for $519,000. The Howletts, now in their 80s, and a tenant moved out last July after borough building officials ordered them out pending renovations. The two-family Victorian-style house on the property had become rundown over the years, and the town feared for the occupants’ safety. They had owned the property since 1953.

The borough advanced the eminent domain ordinance several weeks ago after hearing concerns from former Mayor Peter Palmer, who lives on Prospect Street, adjacent to Kress’ parcel. Palmer said he feared intensification of the use of the property based on Kress’ expressed desire to build townhouses there."
I think I'm reading this correctly. A former mayor of the city in question complains that his new neighbor wants to build townhouses, and the former major doesn't want townhouses on the parcel belonging to his neighbor. So, the city council votes to allow the use of eminent domain to take the parcel from the former mayor's neighbor. Is this a great country, or what?

[David Polakiewicz, 'B'ville OK's possible use of eminent domain law for Mount Airy tract," The Bernardsville News, 5/24/2006]

Monday, May 22, 2006

Wal-Mart & Predators

Scripps Howard News Service:
"No other city in America has considered standing up to the nation's largest retailer quite like the bedroom community of 24,000 on the Contra Costa County shore that is named for the Greek mythological hero and was once home to a major dynamite plant.

While other cities have rejected Wal-Mart store proposals, the Hercules City Council is to vote Tuesday on whether to begin eminent-domain proceedings to forcibly take 17.27 acres from the company, which wants to put a big-box store near an upscale new residential neighborhood next to San Pablo Bay.
Amazing, eh? Cities already have been allowed the power, through zoning regulations, to tell a property owner the various ways in which he or she may not use their property. But such power seems insufficient in this case. The city seems to be considering simply taking the property from the owner, apparently because they do not like the business the owner wants to develop on the property.

And why would the residents of the city think the city government should have such power? Here is one idea:

'I don't want to have anything ghetto around me and my family,' said Monique Howell, 25, who 18 months ago paid $652,000 for a two-story Craftsman"
Oh my. One of the most successful retail businesses of all time, and people want government to take 17 acres owned by this retail business because it would apparently be "something ghetto." By the way, why would we think others in the community should have the right or the power to simply take this property because of what they want done with the property?

Here is a rather rich irony:

"But opponents repeatedly have criticized the company's business practices, calling the company "predatory," and saying they would prefer trendy grocery stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joe's or Andronico's, and specialty shops."
As though, Wal-Mart's "neighbors" in this community are not being predators when they seek to use city government's power to take what is owned by another member of the community, eh?

[Patrick Hage, "Hercules (Calif.) may unchain eminent-domain wrath at Wal-Mart," San Francisco Chronicle, 22-May-06, via Scripps Howard News Service online.]