Latest property snatch: Missouri: WorldNet Daily, 7/14/05

Local business owners blast City Hall for eminent-domain moves.
Business owners in Maplewood, Mo., fear loss of property.

The latest region worrying about property seizures by the government under eminent domain is the St. Louis suburb of Maplewood, Mo., where city officials are looking at the possibility of improving an area mostly filled with private businesses.

But the idea is drawing plenty of heat from local residents and business owners, who sounded off this week at a packed public meeting.

"I would encourage this council to adopt a resolution declaring Maplewood an eminent domain-free zone," resident Ed Gottlieb said to a wave of applause, according to KSDK-TV.

Locals have begun a campaign called "Save Our Block," putting signs up on buildings to help bolster support against any transfer of property.

While there is currently no concrete new development, the city did issue a request for proposals to develop a section of Maplewood, with the use of eminent domain a possibility. Maplewood is taking bids from developers through July 29.

"They make it sound like Godzilla is coming into Maplewood and tearing out this whole area," Mayor Mark Langston told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Godzilla is not coming into Maplewood."

"I would urge the developers to address relocation, moving expenses, finding someone a new place to move to, lost business, what their property is worth," he added. "Those are all issues that need to be included in the proposals, and I'll be looking for those issues in those proposals. If this is what we do, I want to be fair."

The concern among residents comes in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision allowing seizure of property from one private group to another.

The case of Kelo v. City of New London, Conn., allows the New London municipal government to seize the homes and businesses of residents to facilitate the building of an office complex that would provide economic benefits to the area and more tax revenue to the city. Though the practice of eminent domain is provided for in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, this case is significant because the seizure is for private development and not for "public use," such as a highway or bridge. The decision has been roundly criticized by property-rights activists and limited-government commentators.

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