National trend suggests coulee susceptible to private eminent domain takings: Grand Coulee WA Star, 8/16/06


By Cliff Appel, Cheyenne WY

We are all familiar with the Supreme Court decision involving the people in New London, Conn., who lost their homes to development. The PBS program "NOW" described a similar situation in Ohio about folks losing their homes under eminent domain to a factory, which will pay more taxes than those old homes.

The Denver Post ran a story Aug. 8 about several small businesses that occupy a 31.5-acre parcel in Sheridan, Colo., being "condemned" to make way for a 130-acre, $150 million mixed-use development.

The Rocky Mountain News Aug. 12 cited LaJunta, Colo., ranchers who fear the U.S. Army may take as much as 480,000 acres of their land. The U.S. Army claims it needs this area to train soldiers for war. With homeland security a major issue these days, eminent domain provides a convenient excuse to get the land.

Before the citizens of Grand Coulee area think "who cares," let me toss out a scenario. Assume a wealthy yuppie from the west side with dollars to invest visits the GCD [Grand Coulee Dam] area. He notes the two nice, uncrowded lakes within spitting distance of Electric City and Grand Coulee. He also notes SunBanks Resort is knocking down $250 a night renting out upscale rooms.

Since both towns are pushing their cleanup campaigns, the yuppie tells the towns and the county he can clean up a certain area and also increase tax revenues with a proposed development of vacation condos. If citizens complain about losing houses, both city and county governments can suggest eminent domain to kill two birds with one stone ... clean up the "eyesore" and provide much needed tax revenue for water lines or road improvements.

When it comes to making money by an entrepreneur, there's always a path to get one's way. Recently, eminent domain seems to have become the shortest path between points.

Grand Coulee WA Star: http://www.zwire.com