Use eminent domain on mills: South Coast Today, New Bedford MA, 10/17/07

Letter to the Editor

By John Bullard

It seems to me that we have gotten to a point in New Bedford where certain mill owners feel they can hold the city up for ransom by threatening to demolish historic mills. The City Council bears a large measure of responsibility for this by routinely overturning the Historic District Commission.

Why the City Council takes the side of out-of-town real estate speculators over the interests of New Bedford citizens, present and future, escapes me. But I'm certainly not voting for any councilor who won't stand up for our heritage by protecting the Cliftex and Fairhaven Mills.

The owners of these mills turn down market-based offers to relieve them of the responsibility of property ownership in favor of a hoped-for and undeserved windfall from the city that wants to preserve the buildings. What have they done to deserve a windfall, and why does the City Council aid and abet this hostage-taking?

In his opinion piece, Mr. Giroux says the city should buy the property if it wants to save it. While I strongly disagree with Mr. Giroux's reasoning, I would suggest a variation of his idea. The city should use its power of eminent domain to condemn these properties, which the owners say have outlived their economic life. The New Bedford Redevelopment Authority could then purchase the properties at fair market value as determined by appraisers. Once the city acquired the properties, it could seek developers with more imagination and resources than the current in-over-their-head speculators.

This plan would require the City Council to work with the mayor. That may be too much to ask of the current council, but wouldn't it be nice if the council did something constructive about historic properties for a change?

South Coast Today, New Bedford MA: http://www.southcoasttoday.com

John Bullard is a former mayor of New Bedford