Shrine of Doom

The construction of the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, has hit a human stumbling block: Eugene Pfeifer. He owns three acres of land in the area where Clinton and the city want to build a shrine to the Man From Hope. After Pfeifer turned down their offer to buy his property in 1999, they tried to seize the land by eminent domain. Now he's fighting them in court.

Unlike most eminent domain protestors, Pfeifer doesn't oppose the sale because he's attached to the land, which holds nothing but an empty warehouse. He simply believes that "absent an overriding public need, a person ought to decide whether their property gets taken or not."

Despite his statement of principle, a definite anti-Clinton bias creeps into his rhetoric. He thinks taxpayers shouldn't have to pay the appraised price of $400,000. "Barbra Streisand raised $10 million for the Bill Clinton library in one night, singing in someone's home," Pfeifer points out. "Why should my city give land to the greatest private fundraising organization in history?"

In May, the Arkansas Supreme Court agreed to hear Pfeifer's case. "If I win," he says, "I would allow my land to go for the appraised price in two instances. One: If the city would go back and have a referendum on this issue... or, if the Clinton funding organization would reimburse Little Rock for the price of the land from private funds."

The court will likely decide the case this fall, but it probably won't end the legal wrangling over the library. Little Rock resident Nora Harris is suing the city for using general revenues to fund the land purchase. And then, Pfeifer predicts, there are some privately owned utility companies that refuse to relocate without compensation -- and a set of active railroad tracks running through the area that nobody has even begun to move.

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