Thursday, October 30, 2003

More Kudos to Adler

I assume they're the same person, though I can't be sure.

Jonathan H. Adler

Lakewood's business and political leaders are right to be concerned about the fu ture of their city. Economic renewal is important for Lakewood and much of Greater Cleveland. Unfortunately, rather than pursuing conventional methods of economic development, the Lakewood political class has decided to sacrifice the property rights of West End residents by forcibly seizing their homes to pave the way for luxury homes and high-end retail development. Even valid concerns about the city's tax base do not justify trampling the rights of private property owners. Using the government's power of eminent domain to forcibly seize the property of longtime residents and transfer it to private developers is unjust and contrary to core constitutional values.

Both the U.S. and the Ohio constitutions provide that private property may be taken only for public use and with just compensation. Historically, this was understood to mean that government could take private property through eminent domain only when the land was to be put to a truly public purpose, such as the construction of bridges, railroads, military facilities and various public works; "public necessity" justified the taking of private land.

The abuse of eminent domain by state and local governments is a constant problem. At issue is the fact that the value of the land post re-development is greater than the value of the individual plots pre re-development. That is, when the land is converted to a new use its price goes up. Developers want to grab large parcels of land paying only market price (or less) for the existing individual properties, instead of paying either what the property owners would be willing to sell for or what the entire parcel is actually worth to the developers.

Land assembly can always be a problem - if you're trying to convert a city block to some new use, and there's one holdout, then the entire project can be sunk. If that project is, say, a new school - fine, bring on the eminent domain. But, if it's new luxury condos or McMansions....