Thursday, June 30, 2005

Well, I never said it wasn't good for planning...

...just that it won't be good for planners, if the public associates us with high-handed Kelo-based condemnations.

Here's a great example. The city of Freeport, TX intends to use eminent domain to transfer three downtown properties on the Brazos River to a developer who will build a marina there. The stated goal is to bring in $60 million worth of hotels and restaurants, revitalizing the downtown and reclaiming retail business from a nearby sprawl suburb.

Is this good planning? Undoubtedly. Assuming it works, the proposed project will bring recreation and street life back to Freeport's downtown. Residents will be able to shop in Freeport instead of driving to a nearby postwar housing development. There's a lot here for planners to like. As the catchphrase goes, people will be able to "Live, work and play" downtown. Without eminent domain, the same facilities might have been built on greenfields outside of town.

Of course there's also a lot for citizens to hate. This is exactly the kind of high-handed wave of eminent domain condemnations, benefitting developers and local government at the expense of homeowners, that was predicted the moment the Supreme Court ruling came out. It may not be long at all before the backlash begins, and it gets even harder than before to make good plans happen.

UPDATE: many more imminent eminent domain (say that five times fast!) proceedings in these two posts from The Agitator (hat tip: Bitter)