End the Abuse

Posted on August 16, 2002 | Type: In the News
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Eminent domain is not for doling out sweetheart deals

Anyone looking for a reason to tighten up on municipal governments' use of the power of eminent domain need only go to the corner of Mesa and University drives and look to the southwest, where three blocks designated as a "redevelopment area" and razed to make way for a grandiose time-share resort project bake barrenly in the sun.

The low-income people that once lived there were strong-armed out of their homes so a high-income developer could "revive" and "renew" the area. But the latter couldn't get his financing together, so the castle in the sky he had built for credulous Mesa redevelopment officials never came into existence. So the land lies fallow still, a monument to official arrogance and abuse of the right of eminent domain.

Nor is the foregoing the only instance of such abuse, according to a Goldwater Institute study to be released today. There is Mesa's notorious attempt to push two auto service shops off the block on the northwest corner of Country Club Drive and Main Street to accommodate the ambitions of a better-connected group of store owners, and Scottsdale's retention of redevelopment designations that keep existing businesses in limbo.

Government, through its judicial arm, has been most permissive with itself in the area of eminent domain - and the Arizona Legislature showed a like generosity in 1997 by passing the law that allows the creation of redevelopment districts. The Goldwater Institute is calling upon the Legislature to rescind that law and thus reduce the capability of government to abuse its right of eminent domain.

It is time for such reform. For a manifest public need such as a freeway, eminent domain is justified - but its use to condemn and clear the property of some for the enrichment of others is out of line.

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