Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Property Protection Act – Support It

Posted by pzguru on Sunday, February 11, 2007

There are two proposed pieces of legislation that will be considered by the State House and State Senate, HB-257 and SB-294, respectively.  If you want to read the full bills, go to the State Legislature website and search the pending legislation. 

 The gist of the legislation is to curtail the abuse of eminent domain power by City, County, and State governments, in response to the recent court case Kelo v. New London, which sparked new controversy into the whole topic of eminent domain and what constitutes “the public good”.  This power has especially been abused by Baltimore City under former Mayor Martin O’Malley, to swipe people’s property and give it to private developers under the guise of “redevelopment”.  I support making Baltimore a better city, but not by taking citizens’ property at undervalued rates and turning it over to developer friends of the politicians in power, especially for non-public uses.   

There is a counter proposal (I’m not sure the bill number) being put forward by the Democrats that offers a few restrictions on eminent domain powers, but is too weak and ineffective in my opinion. 

This is legislation that should be supported by ALL citizens, even if you live out in the suburbs – it can still happen there!   I suggest you call your local representative and senator and express your support for this legislation.

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6 Responses to “Property Protection Act – Support It”

  1. St. Valentine said

    I have three questions: 1. how does the City determine how much money to pay for the taken parcel and 2. how does the City determine how much to sell the taken parcel to the developers for and 3. what influence does the mayor have on this process?

    I ask because your post makes it sound as if the City takes the parcels at below market rates and gives them for free or steeply discounted prices to friends of former mayor O’Malley. I don’t know, but I doubt that is how it goes down.

  2. cynthia vaillancourt said

    Dear St. Valentine-
    I can’t speak to the actual “fair” market value question – but I would like to offer something to consider.

    If you don’t want to sell – does it really matter if the offered price is “fair” or not?

    If it were your property, and you were not in the market to sell, and the government came to you and said “with all the power and resources of the government behind us we have decided to sell your property to this person – and we have decided this is the fair price for it, and you must take it. You can try to fight us if you want — but your chances aren’t very good — and we’ll be fighting you with the community purse and you will be spending your own money…”

    There is plenty of opportunity for abuse with the traditional interpretation of “public use” (roads, schools, utilities) but the interpretation which includes “revitalization” and “economic development” in “the piblic good” is the kind of thing that has the “founding fathers” rolling over in their graves.

    CV

  3. pzguru said

    CV – you’re right on the money with your comments.

    St. Valentine – I never said O’Malley took money from the developers, I said the developers were friends of his. Maybe “acquaintances” would have been a better word since I can’t prove that a friendship exists.

    Beside considering fair market value in today’s market, you have to consider that the property could be that person’s retirement nest egg. In 10 years, it could have doubled in value. Or tripled in value. How does the government address that financial loss? They don’t.

    In many cases, the person is holding out to get maximum dollar from the developer, which is only fair, and their right. For the City to put their muscle behind the developer and undermine the person’s right is deplorable. CLARIFICATION – I don’t necessarily oppose condemnations for TRUE public uses (schools, roads, etc.), but even those cases need to be scrutinized.

    I agree completely with CV about the way governments try to use this new excuse of economic benefit for property seizure. By that standard, anything that generates a single dollar of “revenue” for the government body in question (City, County, State, Fed) would justify the taking of the property. That’s a very broad, and scary notion.

    I also know of a recent situation in Maryland (several years ago anyway), in Baltimore County. Then C.E. Dutch Ruppersberger wanted to take a large portion of land along Weber Avenue that touched on a river. He wanted the land to go to a developer for upscale development, a marina, and so on. The fact is that some of those same property owners, who are not wealthy by any stretch (most of the homes were small bungalows, some of which still used outhouses – albeit heated – I know because my grandfather’s lady friend lived in one of the houses) tried to develop their properties for ….. that’s right, a marina, and were shot down by the COunty. So the COunty shoots down their plan, then tries to take it to give to developers to develop the same thing, and who likely gave campaign money to Dutch Ruppersberger. You gotta love government officials like that!

    St. Valentine – put yourself in the shoes of the person whose land is being taken away. Then ask yourself how you might feel about it. What if it was a home that had been in your family for generations, as was the case for Mrs. Kelo, who unsuccessfully fought the Town of New London and lost her property. I can’t imagine that you would be ok with it.

  4. MBT said

    One thing is done to lower the values of the property is to re-zone it. One property of which I am familiar was undeveloped, but adjacent to a main road with utilities. The owners wanted to develop it, but the county wanted it for a park. So instead of zoning it for residential development, it was zoned as undeveloped. Therefore, the market value was mcuh lower than the property would have received if the residents were allowed to sell it for development. The property was the nest egg of many of the owners of the lots, so they all basically lost out.

    Of course, Kilo wouldn’t apply here, as a developer wasn’t involved and it was genuinely public use, as allowed by the constitution, but it highlights how goverments can drastically lower the “fair market value” of a property.

  5. Hayduke said

    MBT: Was the lot you speak of in Howard County?

  6. […] Howard County Blog has a post on two bills in the legislature that are designed to curtail eminent domain abuses. […]

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