Eminent domain’s ugly head is rising… again!

Editor’s note: Authorized by the Tidewater Libertarian Party, posted for Robert Dean, who still hasn’t set himself up to author.

Filthy McNasty is back at the marriage altar with Old Dominion University.

Just when you thought your local elected officials and government bureaucrats had finally read the Virginia Constitution and would swear to protect the rights of private property owners, condemnation (also-known-as Filthy McNasty) is raising its ugly head… again.  Once again it’s in Norfolk, and once again the culprit is their now-infamous Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority (NRHA).

Just about three years ago, great Americans just like you responded to the outrage by the attempt of the NRHA to condemn private property for a parking area for the employees of Coke-Cola.  No offers were made to the property owner by the bottling company; no, they just wanted NRHA to act as a robber baron and essentially confiscate the property.  The Norfolk Circuit Court against the NRHA and the property owner continued to operate his business and pay taxes.  Justice done.

That was then, this is now

The robber barons over at NRHA are at it again, only this time they’re representing Old Dominion U.  Again, as before, we believe that the NRHA has exceeded its power under the statute by taking property for economic development under a pretext of blight removal.

In February 1995, Old Dominion University drafted its Revised Master Plan.  The Master Plan outlined ODU’s intent to expand east, developing the university in phases.

An ODU Real Estate Foundation was established to plan and fund all of the acquisitions for future expansion, including property to, “create commercial opportunities to meet the needs of the residential and university communities,” “promote opportunities for business development within the incubator space,” and “increase economic development opportunities for the city of Norfolk.”

This action by the NRHA is similar to the premise used by the City of New London, CT In the now-historic Supreme Court case to take by force the homes of Suzette Kelo and her neighbors for the expansion of a nearby business.

No matter how noble the cause

One of the reasons for which the NRHA can take property is for “blight removal.”  Of the buildings in the redevelopment boundary established by the NRHA, it only found that 20% (36 buildings) were in “poor” condition.  The other 80% of the buildings were found to be in “good” or “fair” condition.  NRHA provided no record as to the determination of the condition of these properties, other than photographs that it took in 1995 of certain buildings classified as “poor.”

The City Council of Norfolk approved the Redevelopment Plan on January 27, 1998.  The condemnation of these private properties was not attempted until more than ten years after the adoption of the Redevelopment Plan, when ODU provided the requisite funding allowing NRHA to file the petitions for condemnation and when ODU was ready to proceed with further development.

NRHA has not acquired any property within the redevelopment area without the funding being provided by ODU or the Old Dominion Real Estate Foundation.   For its services, NRHA has received and continues to receive an “administrative fee” equal to 4% of the Land Assembly Costs incurred.

A simple solution

ODU’s Real Estate Foundation representatives should sit down and complete a simple business transaction: “Mr. Property Owner, we would like to buy your property and this is how much we would like to pay.  Let’s negotiate.  Let’s be reasonable.”

Property owner: “I agree, but let’s keep government thuggery out of the room.”

The defenses hearing will occur on February 25 and 26 in the Norfolk Circuit Court.  The hearings are set to begin at 9:30 am.  If you are interested in attending, you should arrive to the courthouse before 9:30 so you can park and proceed through security (no cellphones in the courthouse).  Once through security the day’s civil docket is listed on a flatscreen TV, on which you will find the courtroom in which the hearing will be held.  The case to look for is Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority v. Arney.

Today it’s Mr. Arney, tomorrow it could be your home, business or farm.  It’s just a matter of time.

You are encouraged to attend this very important court case.

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