The Critical Arizonan
Keeping it critical…

Public Use vs. Private Property

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I continue to be amazed that governments — local, state, federal — continue have the, um, guts shall we say to torment the taxpayers through increased taxes, regulation, intimidation, treachery, and so on.

This article in today’s East Valley Tribune has got me wide-eyed though.  It concerns the city of Chandler trying to build a “real” city hall downtown.  The city leaders know where they want it to go.  They are coveting the land but there a few problems — people own that land.

The land that they, the all knowing city leaders, want is currently owned by businesses including Aztec Wrought Iron and Manufacturing, Bob M’s Tires, and Lloyd’s Auto Shop.

The city council recognizes this so they decide to make them offer of chump change, low balling the price to purchase the land.  Business owners are not opposed to moving but rejected the offer proposed because it is not fair market value.

“Let’s stop messing around and let’s make a deal,” said Maynard, whose business has been in its current location near Chicago Street and Arizona Avenue for nearly a quarter of a century.

Like Gomez, Maynard said he’s not opposed to moving and just wants a fair market value for his property. Both said they need money to cover the expenses of moving their businesses to another part of town.

Some time after this, the city countered their price, doubling it to entice the business owners…

“Those numbers aren’t untrue, but there’s more to them than that,” said Sharon Joyce, real estate manager for the city. Joyce disputed claims by Gomez and Maynard that relocation costs were not included in the offers. She said the latest proposals included moving fees.

Yet, the beginning part of this article is the kicker — condemnation.  The Chandler City Council will vote tonight whether to start condemnation proceedings on the land needed to build their city hall.

Chandler is going to intimidate and threaten local businesses into getting off their land or else the strong arm of the government is going to squish them.

I understand that there is a question whether a city hall would be defined as a “public use”, the threshhold necessary to condemn property.  Tim Keller, our friend over at the Institute for Justice, has this to say:

Tim Keller, the president of the Institute for Justice Phoenix Chapter, said taking private property for a City Hall might not be the best use of eminent domain. “While the government has the power to condemn for public use, there is a question in this case of whether it really benefits the public,” he said.

One other item bothered me about this piece.  Why does Chandler need a “real estate manager” that is paid through taxpayer dollars?  To my way of thinking, this encourages two things; more eminent domain threats to local homeowners and businesses, and secondly, more government bureaucracy.  Either way, neither are good.

At this point, we can only hope that those businesses that are in the crosshairs of the city make out with a fair price for their land and aren’t forced to lose everything.

If there is one glimmer of hope, the business owners may be protected under Proposition 207 that was recently passed by voters with 65% of the vote.  As Tim Keller was quoted, there is a real question if this new city hall is a public use.  One thing I know for sure, if there is doubt about its legality, you can certainly count on the Institute for Justice and the new Constitutional Ligation arm of the Goldwater Institute to defend the right to private property.

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2 Responses to “Public Use vs. Private Property”

  1. […] It looks like the bullies on the Chandler City Council are moving forward to condemn businesses to make way for a new city hall in downtown Chandler as we discussed here yesterday. […]

  2. I am the grandson the Aztec Wrought Iron owner Seferino Hernandez and the nephew of Grace Gomez. The update on this land fight is that the city of chandler has formally filed papers to take our property. We have maintained that we want a fair price and yet the city is bulling us for this property. Our initial offer of $179,000 for our land and then we negotiated up to $600,000. We were close to a deal and then we requested just a little more money to offset the rising cost of moving and the city withdrew from negotiations and filed papers to condemn our property, with a final offer of $179,000 the original offer. We got a lawyer and will fight to get what is fair. We are not opposed to move, we just wanted to be treated fairly.


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