Monday, October 03, 2005

The United Soviet Socialist States Of America!!!

Florida city considers eminent domain

By Joyce Howard Price
October 3, 2005

Florida's Riviera Beach is a poor, predominantly black, coastal community that intends to revitalize its economy by using eminent domain, if necessary, to displace about 6,000 local residents and build a billion-dollar waterfront yachting and housing complex.

"This is a community that's in dire need of jobs, which has a median income of less than $19,000 a year," said Riviera Beach Mayor Michael Brown.
He defends the use of eminent domain by saying the city is "using tools that have been available to governments for years to bring communities like ours out of the economic doldrums and the trauma centers."

Mr. Brown said Riviera Beach is doing what the city of New London, Conn., is trying to do and what the U.S. Supreme Court said is proper in its ruling June 23 in Kelo v. City of New London. That decision upheld the right of government to seize private properties for use by private developers for projects designed to generate jobs and increase the tax base.

"Now eminent domain is affecting people who never had to deal with it before and who have political connections," Mr. Brown said. "But if we don't use this power, cities will die."

Jacqui Loriol insists she and her husband will fight the loss of their 80-year-old home in Riviera Beach.

"This is a very [racially] mixed area that's also very stable," she said. "But no one seems to care ... Riviera Beach needs economic redevelopment. But there's got to be another way."

In the Kelo ruling, a divided Supreme Court held that private development offering jobs and increased tax revenues constituted a public use of property, but the court held that state legislatures can draft eminent-domain statutes to their satisfaction.

Dana Berliner, senior lawyer with the Institute for Justice, which represented homeowners in the Kelo case, said "pie in the sky" expectations like those expressed by Mr. Brown are routine in all these cases.

"They always think economic redevelopment will bring more joy than what is there now," she said. "Once someone can be replaced so something more expensive can go where they were, every home and business in the country is subject to taking by someone else."

Last week, the Riviera Beach City Council tapped the New Jersey-based Viking Inlet Harbor Properties LLC to oversee the mammoth 400-acre redevelopment project.

"More than 2,000 homes could be eligible for confiscation," said H. Adams Weaver, a local lawyer who is assisting protesting homeowners.

Viking spokesman Peter Frederiksen said the plan "is to create a working waterfront," adding that the project could take 15 years and that "we would only use condemnation as a last resort."

Viking has said it will pay at least the assessed values of homes and businesses it buys.

Other plans for the project include creation of a basin for megayachts with high-end housing, retail and office space, a multilevel garage for boats, a 96,000-square-foot aquarium and a manmade lagoon.

Mr. Brown said Riviera Beach wants to highlight its waterfront.

"We have the best beach and the most attractive redevelopment property anywhere in the United States," he said.

Mr. Frederiksen said people with yachts need a place to keep and service them. "And we want to develop a charter school for development of marine trades."

Mr. Brown and others said this could be one of the biggest eminent-domain actions ever. A report in the Palm Beach Post said it is the biggest since 1954, when 5,000 residents of Washington were displaced for eventual development of the Southwest D.C. waterfront, L'Enfant Plaza, and the less-than-successful Waterside Mall.

The fact that Riviera Beach is so financially downtrodden may seem ironic because as Mr. Brown notes "it sits right across the inlet from Palm Beach," one of the nation's wealthiest areas.

"Palm Beach County is the largest county east of the Mississippi, and we have the second-highest rate of poverty in the county," the mayor said.

1 comment:

B2 said...

Landowners must yield to ballpark

By Tim Lemke

October 6, 2005

The District will begin using eminent domain to acquire parcels of land at the site of the Washington Nationals' ballpark by the end of this month, after unsuccessful negotiations with nearly half of the landowners.

City officials said they expect to file court documents to take over at least some of the 21-acre site in the coming weeks and have $97 million set aside to buy the properties and help landowners relocate.

The city made offers to all 23 landowners on the site last month but received no response from 10.

"We think there are some that we'll have good-faith negotiations with," said Steve Green, director of development in the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. "There are some we haven't heard from at all."

Many property owners on the site said the city's offers are inadequate. Others are suing the city on the grounds that it has no right to use eminent domain to acquire land at the site, despite a Supreme Court ruling affirming the right of municipal governments to take private property for the purpose of economic development.

In April, the city notified property owners on the site that they would be required to move out by Dec. 31.

City officials said the District is on target to have title on all of the land by that date, but they don't expect to have full possession of the site until early next year, with construction on the $535 million stadium to begin in March. That would give the construction team, led by Clark Construction Group of Bethesda, about two years to build the ballpark in time for Opening Day of 2008.

Officials said that timetable remains realistic. Clark built the 80,000-seat FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, in less time.

"Twenty-four months is not bad," Mr. Green said. "There's always the possibility of doing it in 22 or 23 months."

Meanwhile, the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission has been sparring with the new Anacostia Waterfront Corp. (AWC) on the location of ballpark parking.

The AWC, which the city created to promote development along the Anacostia River waterfront, said it prefers an underground parking garage beneath 600,000 to 800,000 square feet of office and retail development.

The commission said that would run up too many costs and take too long to build.

"We're not going to do it," said Mark Tuohey, chairman of the sports commission. "We don't care what they say. There's no money."

In order for parking to be built above ground, the commission must change a zoning requirement. A hearing before the zoning board on the issue is scheduled for Oct. 17, but could delay the process further. If the commission is denied a zoning change, it would have to turn to the D.C. Council for legislative permission or take the case to an appeals court.

"If we lose and it goes to the court of appeals, that takes years," said commission board member Linda Greenan. "That's not a good strategy."

Any discrepancy over development of the stadium site could affect ballpark financing negotiations, which have reached a sensitive stage.

"It could cause confusion on Wall Street, which is exactly where we don't want it right now," said John Ross, a special adviser for the city's chief financial officer and a commission board member.

City officials insist on below-ground parking because it would fit with plans for a retail and entertainment district near the ballpark. They are considering removing parking entirely from the cost of the stadium and paying for it separately, using tax-increment financing or other revenue streams.

Mr. Green said the debate over parking is not delaying completion of a lease agreement for the stadium, which Major League Baseball says must be finalized before it announces the Nationals' new owner.

"There's no real holdup," Mr. Green said. "It's just a very complicated document."