Thursday, July 28, 2005

Hidden Eminent Domain Abuse

The Omaha World Herald reports that the University of Nebraska Foundation is reassuring people that it doesn't plan to use eminent domain. However, it has hired a company to acquire land near the Omaha campus. Why is this news? Thanks to the recent, appalling SCOTUS decision in Kelo v New London legalizing property theft through eminent domain, everyone knows the bar is set low now. (In fact, if the eminent domain bar gets any lower, it will be underground.)

There's more than one way to skin a cat, so the developers are just "mentioning" the possibility that eminent domain might be used in the future. Several owners perceived the implicit threat and complained:
"NU assures businesses it's planning no land grab.
The NU Foundation acknowledged last week that it has hired a real estate company to acquire businesses and homes south of Center Street for future development by the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Three business owners told The World-Herald that executives of the real estate company, CB Richard Ellis/Mega, threatened that if they didn't voluntarily agree by August to sell, the university would use eminent domain and they would be forced to sell.

'Basically, what they said was, 'We're the happy faces. If you don't negotiate a contract with us by August, then the lawyers will be back,'' said Sam Amato, owner of Amato's Cafe and Catering.

Owners of Rainbow Recording Studios and Center Street Motors said the agents made similar comments to them.

A vice president of CB Richard Ellis/Mega, James W. Maenner, has said the NU Foundation contracted with his firm to acquire properties south of Center Street. He said he has mentioned eminent domain to property owners, but he said he didn't threaten anybody."
No, of course there was no threat. How crude that would be. He was just making them an offer they couldn't refuse. You don't have to point the gun at them; just showing them you have it is enough to get what you want.

But even the denial isn't reliable:
So while it may be possible, the use of eminent domain is not imminent.

"That's something that if it would ever happen, it will be on down the road," Wood said. But, he added, "Let's not say that it wouldn't happen at some time in the future."
There, isn't that reassuring?

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