Monday, October 11, 2004

Norfolk paper condemns eminent domain abuse

The Norfolk paper has this commentary on the eminent domain case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, and takes note of a couple of Virginia cases:

"Hampton Roads officials are not immune to similar temptations. A few years ago, the Virginia Beach City Council condemned an Oceanfront restaurant for a garage to serve visitors and guests of a resort hotel, citing “public use.” But a Virginia Beach judge, H. Thomas Padrick Jr., saw it for the subterfuge that it was. He found that that the hotel, not the public, was the principal beneficiary of the garage and halted the taking. . . .

An example more closely resembling the issues in the New London case occurred two years ago in Chesapeake. A shopping center builder asked for the city government to pave his way into valuable, but bottle-up, land just off Battlefield Boulevard. Not literally pave it with road crews, but figuratively with eminent domain.

He pledged $4 million to build the road, sparing taxpayers the expense. In return, he asked the council to condemn two gas stations whose owners had refused to sell their land to the developer.

The road to the shopping center would have gone through the gas stations. The enthusiasm for the deal was motivated by the windfall it would have created for the city treasury.

Public opposition and wiser heads prevailed, but barely. The move was blocked on a vote of 5-4."

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