Florida Land Grab

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Via Freemarket.net: The Florida legislature is expected to vote this week on a bill that would empower local governments to take land from individuals and sell it to private developers.

Supporters assure us these powers won't be used or abused:

Lee County Commissioner Bob Janes also supports the bill. He said that even though expanded powers to take property would be available to the commission, commissioners would likely not use it.

?The political will, I would say, is nonexistent,? he said while conceding that future commissions may not be as reluctant as the current board.

Cape Coral Mayor Arnold Kempe, however, said the expanded condemnation power is key to the bill.

?No one likes the idea of eminent domain,? he said. ?But it?s the only way to assemble land.?

[State Senator Mike] Bennett said he was originally concerned with the added condemnation powers but is satisfied that they won?t be abused.

Sure. IJ's Castle Coalition reports there have been over 10,000 instances of governments filing or threatening to condemn homes for private parties in 41 states. Here are the top ten cases of eminent domain abuse. More on this from Reason last year.

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  1. Government already steals property owners’ land through emminent domain for “public projects,” why not the same “private projects?” I’m sure they won’t abuse it. I mean, its for the “good of the community, right?”

  2. Of course, the opposition leaves something to be desired. “They shouldn’t take land without it going through the democratic process.” The county board has to vote on the condemnations and takings, dumbass.

    A democratically elected body can do whatever it pleases and therefore democracy is served? If the law–any law really–is passed it must be obeyed to support the “rule of law”? There is more than one road to an arbitrary government. Paying lip service to a dead letter is an fine way to govern (only in that it works), but I’d hardly call it fair, just, or beneficial for the majority.

    Joe, I know dammed well you’re smarter than that.

  3. Of course I am. I was paraphrasing someone quoted in the article.

  4. So now you know why people are required to buy huge lots for their single-family homes in new developments: it’s much easier to snatch one big lot via eminent domain than 5 small lots taking up the same space.

  5. So now you know why people are required to buy huge lots for their single-family homes in new developments: it’s much easier to snatch one big lot via eminent domain than 5 small lots taking up the same space.

  6. It’s pretty hard to distinguish takings for “public” use from those for “private” use.

    Here in Fayetteville, Ark., the school board has closed down Root and Jefferson elementary schools (in old neighborhoods), with the intention of opening new schools on the newly developed west side of town next to the Interstate. Of course, the availability of “good schools” near the rabbit warrens of cul-de-sacs and split-level ranches will make a huge difference in the values of Jim Lindsey’s real estate developments out there. Lindsey’s got a permanent milk moustache from sucking on the public tit.

    In the meantime, neighborhood residents and schoolkids are being taught the lesson that the schools are not their own neighborhood institution, directly responsible to them, but just another area of life subject to “professional” bureaucracies beyond their control. Of course, that’s one of the reasons the “reformers” established city-wide school boards a century ago: to get ordinary working people out of the dangerous habit of managing things for themselves.

    Liberalism and Social Control: The New Class’ Will to Power

  7. The ability for corporations to wield eminent domain power is horrific. Governments may still be the entity actually seizing property, but when done to enrich corporate backers, it will be abused far more often.

    We just went through a major battle in Denver that demonstrates the dangers well: http://reclaimdemocracy.org/independent_business/walmart_eminent_domain.html

  8. jennifer,

    I believe, the supreme ct has already ruled in favor of the local govt. land grabs (eminent domain). unless something drastically changes, they won’t hear such cases again 🙁

    people living in Florida (especially if you are registered Republicans) should contact your reps and make your complaints heard. the Bills were introduced by Republicans. Apparently one constituent who wrote a nastygram received a nastygram in response (from one of these guys)!

    I don’t know where Bush (the gov’nor) stands on this one. Anyone from Florida has any more details?

  9. Kevin,

    Did the developer of the neighborhood around the new school selflessly donate the land?

  10. Did anyone read the link about the used-car dealer who is losing his land (via ED) in order for it to be given to a BMW dealership? Terrifying. If this law passes then there will no longer be property “rights,” but property “privileges,” which will last only until someone with more money than you decides he wants your house. Bill Gates need not worry, but the rest of us should.

  11. joe,

    You’re being ironic, right? The new school hasn’t been started yet, but I believe the idea is to *buy* the land.

    This same Jim Lindsey selflessly volunteered to upgrade Razorback Stadium “at cost,” and then vastly increased his political capital by distributing the subcontracts to his local ass-buddies. And I can’t prove it, but it’s a pretty good bet he figured his “costs” with his thumb on the scale.

  12. Wouldn’t this be struck down on Constitutional grounds?

    Ha! Ha ha ha!

    From Findlaw’s annotated constitution:

    The Supreme Court has approved generally the widespread use of the power of eminent domain by federal and state governments in conjunction with private companies to facilitate urban renewal, destruction of slums, erection of low-cost housing in place of deteriorated housing, and the promotion of aesthetic values as well as economic ones.

    From Berman v. Parker (1954):
    “Once the object is within the authority of Congress, the means by which it will be attained is also for Congress to determine. Here one of the means chosen is the use of private enterprise for redevelopment of the area. . . . The public end may be as well or better served through an agency of private enterprise than through a department of government–or so the Congress might conclude.”

  13. “Cape Coral Mayor Arnold Kempe, however, said the expanded condemnation power is key to the bill.

    ?No one likes the idea of eminent domain,? he said. ?But it?s the only way to assemble land.?

    No, it is not the ONLY way. It is the easy way, the cheaper way, when you do not have to contend with the legitimate owners and their exercise of their inconvenient property rights.

  14. Can anyone name a single instance of a government of any kind giving itself a power that they knew they wouldn’t need and knew it wouldn’t use? It’s about as rare as a temporary tax being temporary.

  15. Wouldn’t this be struck down on Constitutional grounds? I hope so.

  16. I agree, this one should be challenged all the way to the top. Of course, the bill is aimed at those “unsightly” properties that typically belong to low income individuals who will never have the financial strength to challenge the bill.

  17. {Lee County Commissioner Bob Janes also supports the bill. He said that even though expanded powers to take property would be available to the commission, commissioners would likely not use it.}

    Either:

    1. They aren’t going to use the power, in which case they don’t need it.
    2. They are going to use the power, in which case they shouldn’t have it.
  18. I call bullshit. The story references rising residential property values. You know what goes along with rising assessments? Rising revenue.

    I wonder how much of Lehigh Acres commercial land allows multistory development.

    If the demand is there for more commercial space, rezone appropriately-sited residential areas for commercial, and allow five story buildings with office space and apartments above storefronts. “Excuse me, but could I please buy your house lot for 3X what you paid two years ago?”

    The “problem” is that there might be holdouts preventing the assembly of multiacre parcels. Land assembly is only necessary for large scale projects. I’m not sure people in Florida realize this, but you can build small scale commercial space (corner stores, 10k square feet of office space) at the same small scale as Florida residential suburbs. Heck, people might actually start walking to the store. Horrors!

    Of course, the opposition leaves something to be desired. “They shouldn’t take land without it going through the democratic process.” The county board has to vote on the condemnations and takings, dumbass. “I’m worried about my vested rights.” Way to stand on principle, jerk.

    Lee County Smart Growth Coalition. Fighting for big strip malls with giant parking lots. Aaarggghh!!!

  19. Kevin,

    Developers in rapidly growing sunbelt suburbs have a great scam going. Developer own 1000 acres at the edge of town. He donates 30 acres, located distant from the town, for a school, which the town needs because its population is booming. The town foots the bill for the school AND for the utilities to serve the school. The developer’s land now has water and sewer. Ch-ching.

  20. I believe this Bill was defeated very narrowly – so the fight has been won for now. But any other State might try to do the same (or FL may try it again later). People just can’t rely on the constituion only; they have to be vigilant …

    The ease with which the Bill of Rights are eroding is surprising and depressing 🙁

  21. According to the Legislature’s web site, the Senate reconsidered the measure and passed it by a 22-16 vote. The house’s version has not yet come to the floor. Since the session is supposed to end Friday, either
    a) the bill will never make it to a floor vote in the House, or
    b) it will, but without enough time left to get differences (if any) with the Senate version worked out, or
    c) it will pass in the usual last-minute frenzy, without anybody having read it or understanding what it actually does.

    Anybody want to bet? I’m taking (c).

    The bill is Senate Bill SB 2548, House bill HB 1513. Senate bill history is at

    http://www.flsenate.gov/Welcome/index.cfm

    Just type in the bill number in the search field.

    If you’ve ever been to the outskirts of Cape Coral or Lehigh Acres, you can see what they are getting at. There are huge tracts of land that are fully platted out into 80×125 lots, roads and canals constructed, and maybe two or three houses actually built–the rest is vacant. It’s still wrong, though. And damn disappointing, because those lots are still pretty cheap, and I’ve been thinking about buying a few as an investment. Better hold off on that one…

  22. I KNEW it! I knew this didn’t make any sense, and Chuck’s comment proves it. They don’t even need the ED power to assemble the land. There’s a dirty subtext here.

  23. What part/parts of Lehigh Acres is desired by the Government? I will be a new owner after probate. I need to know what problems I may have to face.

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