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Takings: How Far Should Government Go? Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 10th, 2021

Introduction

The case of Kelo v. City of New London changed the way governments saw their opportunities in redistributing property. According to the ruling, in this case, government structures were allowed to claim the power of eminent domain and transfer property from one private organization to another. While these decisions should be based on the concept of benefit, its definition and scope remain obscure, allowing the government to present a variety of arguments for their propositions (Kitchens and Roomets 22). In the case of Albert, Gallatin, the currently existing system does not prohibit all three solutions for the area development. In order to limit the power of eminent domain, Gallatin would have to revise its laws and introduce new statutes that would resemble those of Pennsylvania. As an outcome, however, the city may suffer from the lack of change and economic development that the City Hall members hope to achieve.

Meeting the Standards of Eminent Domain

The propositions of the cultural center and private college meet the standards established in Kaur v. New York State Urban Development Corporation and Kelo v. City of New London. In the older of the two cases, the right to transfer property between two private organizations was granted to the local authorities on the basis of the 5th Amendment. The role of exercising the eminent domain power was explained by the fact that this decision would provide benefit to the city and its residents. Similarly, the Kaur v. New York State Urb. Dev. Corp. case approved that, if the government makes such decisions in good faith, then they have a place to be.

By analyzing each proposition separately, one may determine whether they are made in good faith and have an opportunity to provide benefit to the community. The first idea is to build a cultural center that would contain an opera, a ballet, and a creative arts school. Moreover, the center would have some free entertainment and education programs for children. Acknowledging the city’s existing cultural organization, one may see that Albert can be developed as a center that attracts tourists as well as persons interested in pursuing, studying, or enjoying art and music. As a result, this proposition may result in more people coming to the area and settling here or, at least, visiting it for some time. Thus, the economic growth of the region may be linked to this decision (Kerekes and Stansel 275). The fact that non-profit organizations will run the center further supports its nature devoid of concerns for profit. The case of Kelo v. City of New London explicitly states that the intentions to raise profits for a corporation are viewed as negative, while the city’s desire to improve its living conditions is a valid reason for eminent domain.

The second option offered by another council member is to give the property to a private liberal arts college located in Albert. This organization would use this land to expand and build another campus, potentially raising the number of attending students. In this case, while the potential of the college to provide the city with benefits is less apparent, it still adheres to the standards set by the mentioned above cases. First of all, Kelo v. City of New London argues that the outcomes of such propositions are not required to be transparent to be seen as beneficial for the area. Thus, if the council presents this idea and proves that a college will in some way better the city, this choice will be valid.

Second, the issue of public use discussed in the 5th Amendment in connection to the eminent domain is also not applicable to this situation due to the previous cases. While eminent domain power should be executed to provide the community with places of public use, the cases show that “public use” does not equal “free for all visitors.” A private college, while available to only a select number of students, still provides people with a type of access to an educational facility.

One may see that all ideas offered by the Council members align with the previous decisions of the court. Addressing the need for special components, all propositions will need to show that the change will bring positive developments to the city’s infrastructure. This, however, does not require the members to design a plan that would prescribe a specific role to each building or road in the chose area. A desire to provide the city with benefits is enough, according to the concluding statements in Kelo v. City of New London (Skinner and Feldman 393). Moreover, these propositions should not be supported with any guarantees that the change is going to improve the living conditions of Albert’s residents successfully. The cases argue that there is no way of knowing whether any of the alterations in private property will lead to positive developments, so clear intent and potential are all that matters in making the final choice.

Limitations for the Eminent Domain Power

Gallatin can try to limit the power of eminent domain through new statutes. The state may take Pennsylvania’s Eminent Domain Law as an example. It Title 26, § 204 discusses the prohibitions of eminent power being used to transfer property to private businesses (United States, Pennsylvania General Assembly). According to this law, the area can only be transferred under the authority of private organizations in case the condemnee agrees to it, or the property adheres to a number of descriptions. For example, if this property is a public nuisance that recognizably disrupts the comfort of other residents, it can be given to a company in order to improve the situation. It is also possible to utilize the power of eminent domain in order to take away private property to build public utilities such as roads, railroads, and similar structures.

Abandoned and blighted property’s characteristics can be defined in this law as well. The scope of blight should be documented and made apparent through such descriptors as being a public nuisance, hazard, danger to children, unsanitary, dilapidated, vermin-infested, and others. If the state agrees to pass such statutes and access new standards for using eminent domain power, the possibility of the projects discussed above will change significantly. The present property is inhabited by citizens with low income who, for any reason, struggle to find a job or continue their education. Their lots are not vacant, which eliminated a part of the exclusions that could apply in other cases. Although one may argue that the area’s buildings are in disrepair, and, therefore, can be demolished or restructured, the statute requires these statements to be proven.

Both propositions, the cultural center and private college, would not be approved by the court if these statutes were in place. While the government may argue that these projects would benefit the city and its growth, the fact that the area is inhabited and not beyond repair overrules any concerns for economic prosperity. As a result, the majority of similar ideas would not be reviewed by the state.

The Outcomes of Limiting the Eminent Domain Power

The efforts of Gallatin to review their eminent domain power laws can have a negative impact on Albert as well. It is clear that these changes will complicate the process of transferring the rights to the industrial areas to private companies. Currently, their state is unknown, and the city will have to prove that these territories pose a threat to the city’s well-being. However, it is mentioned that many of the industrial buildings are abandoned which may serve as a reason to utilize the power of eminent domain on them. Thus, while the introduction of the new statutes may extend the process, it will not significantly limit the power of the government over areas that are in urgent need of repair (Winn and McCarter 176). Unused areas will not be out of reach for the city if they constitute an actual risk for citizens. The changes may slow down the process of development in Albert, but they will also protect its citizens who may have limited resources and options in regards to living conditions.

Conclusion

The currently enforced standards of eminent domain make all three propositions valid for further discussion. The case of Kelo v. City of New London is a base on which the government can transfer property from one private organization to another under some conditions. To prove that the use of this power is required, one has to show that this change will benefit the city. In order to limit the power of eminent domain, the state may introduce new statutes that will define the outcomes of this transfer and the state of the property that is being reviewed. This change may limit the development of the city to some extent, by it will prevent extensive intrusion of the government into private matters.

Works Cited

(2005). Supreme Court of the United States, Web.

Kerekes, Carrie B., and Dean Stansel. “Takings and Tax Revenue: Fiscal Impacts of Eminent Domain.” Review of Law & Economics, vol. 12, no. 2, 2016, pp. 275-309.

Kitchens, Carl, and Alex Roomets. “Dealing with Eminent Domain.” Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, vol. 54, 2015, pp. 22-31.

Skinner, Daniel, and Leonard Feldman. “Eminent Domain and the Rhetorical Construction of Sovereign Necessity.” Law, Culture and the Humanities, vol. 11, no. 3, 2015, pp. 393-413.

Statutes of Pennsylvania, Web.

Winn, Abel M., and Matthew W. McCarter. “Who’s Holding Out? An Experimental Study of the Benefits and Burdens of Eminent Domain.” Journal of Urban Economics, vol. 105, 2018, pp. 176-185.

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