Friedman - No eminent domain for intermodal: La Porte County IN Herald-Argus, 9/4/07

By Donovan Estridge

La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman made assurances Friday that eminent domain would not be invoked as a way to secure land for a possible rail intermodal facility in the county.

Friedman’s statement to The Herald-Argus came in response to concerns from some county residents that the government might force them to sell their land to make way for such a facility.

“I don’t know of anyone talking eminent domain,” Friedman said. “The county was the first on record to stand up against eminent domain. The county is not in the practice of taking land.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 assured the right of local governments to acquire land through eminent domain for private development in some cases, Friedman pointed out that in response to that decision La Porte County became the first county in the state to issue a proclamation barring the forced acquisition of land for private development.

“This is going to be a cooperative process,” Friedman said.

As evidence of that statement, Friedman referred to the 2005 University of Illinois Chicago study that the county has been using as a guide to the intermodal process. The study recommends the participation of all stakeholders.

“It is so early in the process right now,” he said. “But before anything happens we have to have cooperation on the local, state and federal levels. In order to be successful, it is paramount to have cooperation.”

But once cooperation is established, many aspects of the project will need to be resolved on the local level before development can go forward.

For instance, if a heavy industrial facility is to be located on parts of land designated agriculture, then the La Porte County Plan Commission would have to rezone the land.

“The local government has to have a willingness to proceed,” Friedman said. “And if a facility is to go in one location, it is going to have to have support.”

La Porte County Commissioner Bill Hager trumpeted Friedman’s call for the participation of all stakeholders on the local level throughout the process. He pointed to one instance in which public input led to the decision by the county not to zone for a proposed landfill in the south part of the county.

“There was really no need for a landfill,” he said. “So as you can see, we don’t have a landfill now.”

As opposed to a landfill, however, Hager pointed out that public sentiment is more divided when it comes to private industry.

“If you ask me, you are either damned if you do or damned if you don’t,” he said of approving rezoning for an intermodal.

“Some don’t want any development,” he said. “And some do.”

La Porte County IN Herald-Argus: http://heraldargus.com