More Eminent Domain Thievery

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Rhymes with Right notes an abuse of eminent domail even more abusive than Kelo vs. New London. A man in his Texas city was forced to sell a 105 acre parcel to the Port of Houston for $1. The Port is planning to build a cruise ship terminal on the land. I haven't got a way to check the comparables in Houston, but even the 1.9 million dollar figure seems ridiculously low (I know one of the people involved in building the new port down in Baja California. Even with Mexican land prices, etcetera, they're talking about a dollar figure in the tens of dollars per square foot range). Now compare and contrast that to commercially zoned land here in the United States, near to a major city, close enough to navigable water to be used for transshipment. Even at $10 per square foot, that's something like 45 million dollars, not a mere 1.9 million, and I'm guessing at least three times that would be appropriate.

I've said ever since this got put up. I'm in Real Estate, and stuff like this part of what agents and loan officers discuss among ourselves. The head of our office has been doing this twenty-odd years, and he's seen a lot more than I have. The issue for abuse in eminent domain is not so much can they? as it is about money. Ripping some poor sod off because they've got political connections and they can. Be honest with yourself: If you could get a $150 million dollar property for 1.9 million, let alone one dollar, wouldn't you take advantage of it?

The only way to prevent this is to take the ability to steal someone's land for less than the market price off the table. Since many folks don't have the resources to fight, or to document value, this means also requiring that their attorney and appraisal fees be promptly paid by the condemning agency. I think this is certainly no less than someone whose property is being involuntarily taken is due. Make it worthwhile for the condemning agency to offer more than a real market price for involuntary condemnation. Yes, the system could be gamed by mega developers, and I don't care. They're gaming it now. This protects the average person who does not have the resources.

The guy concerned is not a speculator or some wealthy investor. The land had been in his family over 100 years. But even if he'd just bought it the week before, he should be entitled to more than a fair price, to make up for the fact that the state is taking it at the point of a gun, whether he wants to sell or not, and his expenses of fighting the condemnation, which he did not ask for, and fairly evaluating the land should rightly fall on those initiating the suit. Last I checked, it wasn't a crime to own land. Even felons and illegal immigrants and foreign nationals who never set foot in our country are permitted to do so. Why are we punishing our own citizens?

I wrote this on July 1st, 2005, and this on July 10th. Either one is far more rational, and does more to actually solve the problem than taking the tack of flat prohibition, which would not work. But by removing the money incentive for abuse, you're pulling the rug out from under the reasons why it happens, as well as insuring that the victims of condemnation are compensated justly.


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The eminent domain abuse continues, this time in Houston. Glenn Seureau had his property taken from him via having it "condemned" so that the Houston port could build the Houston Cruise Terminal. He initially was given $1.9 million for the... Read More

» Good Land Going Cheap from Liberty1st Blog

TITLE: Good Land Going Cheap URL:,guid,462b56ff-9950-42ce-b633-d02de217ff18.aspx IP: BLOG NAME: Liberty1st Blog DATE: 01/21/2006 18:29:00 Read More

» RINO Sightings from phin's blog

Rusty proves he's still Jawalicious after all these years. How? By celebrating his second blogiversary and helping to catch a terrorist. Politechnical found something really scary. Sean Hannity and Pat Buchanan discussed Iran and made absolute sense. That’s why I’m... Read More

» Good Land Going Cheap from Liberty1st Blog

TITLE: Good Land Going Cheap URL:,guid,462b56ff-9950-42ce-b633-d02de217ff18.aspx IP: BLOG NAME: Liberty1st Blog DATE: 05/29/2006 21:42:49 Read More

» Kelo: One Year Later from Searchlight Crusade

A little over one year ago, the Supreme Court handed down the decision in Kelo, which held that the city of New London could condemn land to sell it to private developers in order to increase the tax base. At... Read More

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on January 20, 2006 10:40 AM.

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