More on Eminent Domain

Written by pete

Topics: Uncategorized

It’s been a little over a week since I published my first story on Eminent Domain. I spent some time and energy deconstructing the philosophy of eminent domain, property rights, and capitalism. I concluded that the Supreme Court made a royal mistake when they allowed the New London Development Corporation to claim an acre of land from 7 holdout families in New London, CT. I still stand by that assertion, but I want to illustrate the other side of the issue.

I do believe that Eminent Domain has its place. Consider the most recent news about a man in the everglades who held out while the state wanted to restore the everglades using his property. In short, an ex-Navy SEAL (and a patiot, no doubt) was living a rural lifestyle on a 160-acre parcel of wetlands in the everglades. He had no electricity, no utilities, and was 40 miles from civilization.

In order to protect the everglades, Florida decided that they needed to run some bulldozers around his land, erect berms, dredge here and there, and generally screw up his rural lifestyle. In return for his 160-acres of swampland, he was paid $4.18 Million. That equates to roughly $26,125 per acre. To put that into perspective, the going rate for arable farmland in Iowa is between $10,000 and $20,000 per acre (if you can grow something on it). Now, I know that Iowa isn’t Florida, but as strange as it seems, I am heaving real trouble finding comparable lots. It seems that nobody has a bunch of swampland in Florida that they are willing to quote me a price on.

In any case, I think the reaction of Mr. Hardy (the ex-Navy SEAL multi-millionaire) to his forced relocation is particularly stunning: Jesse Hardy said he doesn’t know where he’ll go after his Dec. 1 deadline to move. “I’m just trying to enjoy every minute I can of what I have left out there,” he said. (CNN)

I think Mr. Hardy won’t have much trouble finding remote rural land. He could probably even find some in Florida. Failing that, he could relocate to West Virginia, where you can still get large tracts of land from MeadWestVaCo for a pittance. He could move to Alaska where they actually pay you to live there (residents receive a royalty check from oil companies every year.) Both of these states will allow you to live in a clapboard house. But, it’s cold there. Perhaps west Texas would be more suited to Hardy’s love for hot weather and dangerous creatures. You can still get cheap land there too.

What I am getting at is that in this case, the state had a legitimate public use for the land in question, and paid what appears to me to be a more than fair market value. Further, this guy has enough money to live where ever he wants, from Manhattan to just outside Denali National Park. Yet he’s trying to portray himself as a martyr who has been run over by the government.

Fair enough. He’s got to move and that is lousy. But the people who got the short end of the stick are the middle class landowners in New London, Ct, who are going to be paid $100,000 for a postage stamp sized house. These people will then be forced to watch New London Development Corporation build a Wal-Mart on their land, and make a fortune doing it.