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Thread: Ethics and the process of condemnation

  1. #1
    Cyburbian munibulldog's avatar
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    Ethics and the process of condemnation

    When is it ethical for a city to use the process of condemnation to assemble land for a project? (condemnation being taking of land in exchange for payment as authorized by a court of law).

    The usual test is: "does it meet a public purpose".

    Where does public purpose end? Here are some examples:

    A sewer project
    A highway interchange
    A public park
    An industrial park
    A downtown development project which will be private
    An industrial site for a large employer providing desperately needed new jobs

    Where do you draw the line?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I have been involved in eminent domain cases. To me, it matters what are both the condition of the property being taken, and the use being proposed. There is certainly a "public purpose" in taking a property which is dangerous, contaminated, or otherwise potentially harmful to the community, even if the intended use is for private redevelopment.
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian munibulldog's avatar
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    Our city council was opposed to using eminent domain to assemble land for a waterfront redevelopment project. I am very happy that they decided not to, there was some discussion about it and one of the proposed developers were trying to convince the council to help them assemble land. Personally I would have had some real ethics problems with that project, I might have had to move on to another job.

    But I can imagine some cases where some condemnation could be justified. Public utilities, right of ways, sure. Beyond that, I don't know. I hadn't really thought about the condition of the land to be taken as a reason to condemn, for example blight or contamination. We did have a hill collapse and after the fact I thought that it would have been best to condemn the property at the edge of the hillslide, (or buy them out) rather than building a $400,000 retaining wall (hindsight is 20/20).

    I have never been involved in a condemnation case, but I would like to try to figure out what type of eminent domain action I could find ethically acceptable (before one slaps me in the face!).

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