7/04/2007

Vedic City could force farmers to give up land for park: Des Moines IA Register, 6/23/07

By Megan Gordon

Maharishi Vedic City [IA] officials will meet at noon Sunday to discuss developing a park proposed on land owned by farmers who are unwilling to sell it.

The land is owned by Bob Palm and his two brothers, and it borders the city, said Maureen Wynne, attorney for Maharishi Vedic City. She said the city wants to buy 149 acres of the farmland for a state-of-the-art park that would include windmills, soccer fields, a swimming pool and a place to charge electric cars.

“The city council is considering whether or not to go forward with the park plan and to send a negotiator to speak further with the Palm brothers,” she said in an interview Saturday. “At this point, we’re not condemning anyone’s land. If it reaches that point, it won’t be for a while.”

She said the government has a right to take private land for city use. She cited New York City as an example of eminent domain.

Eminent domain is the term for the government’s ability to take or force the sale of private property in the name of public improvement.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 refused to overturn a Connecticut law that, like laws in Iowa and other states, allows governments to seize private land to help economic development. Iowa lawmakers in 2006, in reaction to the Connecticut case, toughened restrictions on cities’ ability to use eminent domain. Cities must now prove that at least 75 percent of the property is blighted.

Maharishi Vedic City appraised Bob Palm’s land at $2,675 per acre, Wynne said. Palm said the farm has been in his family for 115 years. He said he and his brothers don’t want to sell it.

“It’s not for sale. It never has been for sale and it never will be,” he said. “I live in the house I was born in. My grandfather built this house in 1894.”

Maharishi Vedic City city council members on Sunday are expected to either move forward with the park or scrap its plans, Wynne said. If the council votes in favor of moving forward with the park plans, they will have to file a court action to exercise eminent domain, she said.

Palm said he and his brothers will fight the city for as long as they can afford it.
“About all we can do is respond to every step they take,” he said. “We’re going to fight as hard and as long as we can.”


Des Moines IA Register: http://desmoinesregister.com