Friday, March 30, 2007

The Union Pacific's Power of Eminent Domain?

The Senate Natural Resources and Rural Affairs Committee voted 6-0 Wednesday for a previously unrelated bill that the panel rewrote to require that railroads obtain approval from the state Corporation Commission to use existing eminent-domain authority to compel land sales.
I thought the power of eminent domain was a power granted to government. Why in the world would any one ever think a private business should be given the "authority" to use eminent domain?

Surely the land taken in situations like this will not be put into public use. Or is the Union Pacific going to pay some government in Arizona to lease the land it puts its rails on and runs its trains on?

Also notice the reference to "compel land sales." The power of eminent domain is not really the power to compel sales. It is the power to take with compensation determined by some government entity. A sale should, by definition, be associated with voluntary exchange between a buyer and a seller.

Pennsylvania Turnpike

In Pennsylvania there are plans in the works to take property in order to expand the Pennsylvania turnpike:
WHITPAIN - Preliminary plans for the proposed, $250 to $300 million, six-lane widening and reconstruction of the Pennsylvania Turnpike's Northeast Extension from the Mid-County to Lansdale exit were presented to several hundred local residents Thursday night at St. Helena School.

Construction on widening the 10.5-mile, four-lane highway, the busiest four-lane section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, will start in 2008 and be completed in 2014, said Carl DeFebo, a Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission spokesman.
Residents of the Timberfare Circle cul-de-sac in Plymouth loudly objected to the proposed, "total taking" of two homes owned by Yves and Joretha Bourjolly and Anne Marie King on the circle for a required storm-water detention basin.
The commission plans to take nine properties "completely" and 150 to 200 properties "partially" to widen the roadway, said Gerald H. Rollman, commission reconstruction program coordinator.
So, once in a while the power of eminent domain can be used for a public use; not just for a public purpose.

Eminent domain hold-outs give up

The Enquirer reports (March 30, 2007):
Joy and Carl Gamble Jr. have reluctantly decided to give up plans to move back into the home that they spent three years fighting to save from demolition in the landmark Norwood eminent domain battle.

Because of serious health concerns, the Gambles have agreed to sell their house in Norwood to the Rookwood Partners for $650,000 – $370,000 more than the value a jury had placed on their property in the early part of the eminent-domain court fight.

Carl Gamble Jr. has been hospitalized since December for cancer and heart and lung problems, said Bert Gall, attorney for the Institute for Justice, a Washington, D.C., civil-liberties law firm that represented the Gambles and two other property owners for free in the successful fight to stop Norwood from taking their properties through eminent domain.
It seems that at least for the Gamble's property there is quite a difference between the value of an exchanged property and the value of a government taken property. Too bad all of this had to involve three years of fighting to keep their right to determine what would happen with their own private property.