Friday, December 29, 2006

A Florida County Shows the Stupidity of Kelo v. New London

One of the areas where the country may have lost ground in the last election is in the area of eminent domain. There seems to be wide agreement across political lines that the Kelo vs. New London decision, which gave local governments virtually unlimited power to usurp private property and turn it over to other, favored, private interests, was unwise and unjust. Only the far left, unfortunately represented by Supreme Court Justices Stevens, Breyer, Ginsburg, and Souter (and in this case, Kennedy) are in favor of granting this power to government. With a Democrat majority in the Senate now, all prospects for another conservative justice to overturn this decision appear to have gone up in smoke.

Many states, and even the federal government, have taken steps to place limits on this expansion of power, and many citizens in affected areas are engaged in effective protests that have slowed down or even stopped several projects. Up until now, most arguments against this expansion of government power have centered on its unfairness to those whose property has been taken – and on the un-American character of this disregard for the property rights of average citizens.

What I have not seen much of, however, is the point that government bureaucrats are among the worst groups to be making decisions about the best uses for parcels of real estate. When a government entity decides to take an area of land and develop it commercially, some of the worst decisions imaginable can be made.

Nowhere is this more evident than in south Florida where Charlotte County decided it didn’t like the way a particular area was developing and took it all by eminent domain for the creation by a private developer of so-called, Murdock Village. So far, they are several years into the taking, whereby hundreds of home owners and businesses were kicked out, and $93.3 million dollars in bonds was raised to fund the endeavor. The citizens of Charlotte County are now paying $5.3 million dollars a year in interest on these bonds ($14,300.00 per day), and the first developer chosen was found not to have the expertise or the resources to do the job.

A second developer has just been selected, but will end up paying only about 80% of the county’s cost to purchase the land. As of today it does not appear that a single shovel of dirt has been turned, and it may be that it never happens.

So add stupidity to the more common reasons for opposing this expansion of eminent domain we call Kelo vs. New London.


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