Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor: Referencing fedgazette topic of eminent domain.

Published May 1, 2006  | May 2006 issue

To the Editor:
I read your [article] on eminent domain in the March 2006 edition of the fedgazette. I have a few questions and comments regarding a number of claims you made in the article.

  1. You claimed, "The weight of evidence suggests that public, mostly localized benefits of using eminent domain to nudge along private development don't justify the costs imposed on the overall economy." Would you please tell me where I can find that evidence?

  2. You claimed, "As for blight—the most common rationale for exercising eminent domain—its prevalence and severity in the district has been greatly exaggerated." Would you please tell me where I can find the evidence?

  3. You claimed, "Giving away a portion of property tax revenue to local businesses means that cities have fewer resources to spend on law enforcement, snowplowing, schools and other public services." If you mean revenues generated from tax increment, I don't believe that is always true.

    You are assuming there is no capacity in current service levels to absorb increased demand. You are also assuming the new development results in a greater demand for services than the previous development.

  4. You claim, "Under nuisance ordinances, government can temporarily board up dilapidated structures and require landowners to make repairs and remove refuse." First, you are assuming that landowners have the funds and the desire to repair the buildings. Second, if a building is dilapidated, the dilapidation occurs mostly in the interior. The building official may only enter a building to perform an inspection when there has been a permit pulled, or [the official] is aware of a hazard, which is rarely the case. Third, many owners of dilapidated buildings do not invest in dilapidated buildings because it does not pay. Fourth, you are leaving out the planning-related issues ... it is not possible for some redevelopment to occur without assembling larger tracts of land.

Your article fails to articulate the complexity of this issue.

As the community development director of the City of Columbia Heights, Minn., and having done a number of redevelopment projects with and without using eminent domain, I am disappointed by the article.

Robert Streetar
Community Development Director
Columbia Heights, Minn.

To the Editor:
As the national debate over eminent domain has heated up, responsible discussion about balancing rights is being trampled by incendiary rhetoric. It is unfortunate that the Federal Reserve, an institution with a distinguished reputation for scholarly research, also chose to sensationalize the issue, rather than inform the public debate.

"Condemned prosperity" painted the city of Minnetonka as a poster child of eminent domain abuse. While author Phil Davies is entitled to his own opinion about whether eminent domain is an appropriate redevelopment tool, he is not entitled to his own selective facts.

In truth, eminent domain reform is a solution in search of a problem. The U.S. Supreme Court's Kelo ruling changed nothing in Minnesota. Government today has no more power to acquire property than [it] ever did. Strict limitations have been in place for decades to protect property owners from unjust takings.

The Minnetonka property headlined as evidence of eminent domain abuse is situated in the middle of the most blighted portion of a redevelopment area. It is a building the city previously owned, then sold to Alano, a nonprofit agency serving our community. Because of this past relationship, we worked cooperatively with Alano to reach a satisfactory resolution without the use of eminent domain.

As evidence of our commitment, the city more than doubled the compensation Alano was legally entitled to receive in a condemnation.

Alano is absolutely not an example of eminent domain abuse. Rather, it is a testament of our government's commitment to carefully and responsibly balance the rights of individuals with the community good.

John Gunyou
City Manager
Minnetonka, Minn.

To the Editor:
A portion of the fedgazette's recent article on the movement for eminent domain reform may be interpreted to suggest that the Institute for Justice opposes the use of eminent domain for roads, sewers, schools and parks. In fact, the Institute for Justice does not oppose the use of eminent domain for such traditional public uses. Rather, the Institute for Justice aims at stopping eminent domain abuse—the use of eminent domain for purposes such as private economic development. The notion of using eminent domain for private economic development is not only unconstitutional and morally wrong; it falsely assumes that central planning and the seizure of private property ordinarily produce sustainable economic growth. Both history and the sound economic analysis discussed in the fedgazette's excellent article show that long-term development depends upon secure property rights and voluntary trade.

Nick Dranias
Staff Attorney
Institute for Justice Minnesota Chapter

Go to "Condemned prosperity," fedgazette, March 2006.