If the dollar has little value, then donate a few.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Land Grab

I presented a bill in summer study committee on a problem I see growing more and more. (And no, I didn't take per diem.) Government is taking land by use of eminent domain laws (the words "public good" are too vague and allow for misuse,my bill would change the wording to be more specific.) and reselling it to other private individuals and businesses.

I feel this is government interfering with the free market economy and getting involved in who succeeds and who fails in the free market. If a developer wants a piece of property, he should have to work out a deal with the owner of the land. If the owner does not want to sell the property, the developer should look somewhere else or raise the asking price, etc.

I understand this law is needed for schools, roads, and power lines etc. However I know many examples here in Knoxville where this is happening-but not for reasons involving public use. One local car dealer had his lot taken from him and then it was sold to Food City supermarkets. He was told he was given fair market value for his property and sent on his way. There are other considerations however involved in taking property on which a business is located such as future loss of income, future value of the business, or future value of the property.

In our and other states the key word is "blight". If property is deemed "blight", the property is taken and resold to high dollar developers. This term can be applied loosely-for instance homes not meeting the criteria of an attached 2 car garage, 2 bathrooms and central heat and air have been deemed blighted . Blight can also be as simple as grass being 6in. tall.

The Tennessee Municipal League stood against this bill and said it would hurt their ability to recruit major industrial developments (football stadiums were brought up) and develop undeveloped property.

I said that is not the job of government but instead should be left to the market economy. Government's job should be to ensure fairness and let the market decide. A farmer and legislator, Frank Nicely, who was in the audience jumped into the discussion to report how many farmers and people who buy land, purchase it in the hopes of it appreciating in value and being able to sell it or hand it down to future generations. He said this is just a way of big business trying to get sweetheart deals and that this was not an issue a few decades ago.

Another legislator raised the issue of TVA taking a bunch of land for lakes and dams years ago, and now they are selling the same land they took for pennies on the dollar to big developers for big money. These developers are making millions developing beautiful lakefront communities.

In instances such as this, I think the original property owners should have the first rights to purchase their property back for the same price it was taken for. That is only fair and just.

As I have said , not much happens in summer study committees except feedback. I would like to get your feedback on this issue if you are so inclined.


  1. I agree with your thoughts that original owners should get first rights when the land is redistributed. However, who or what would determine what codes go with that land. And there are the obvious tax conseqences. If some run down trailer park becomes new lankfront propery, could those people afford to live there? Of course that would be their decision and they could sell it. How does your occupation of land redeveloper play into this? It looks contrary to your profession.

  2. It appears that the Supremes, most of them anyway, disagree. What a shame.


  3. 66 I dont do land,I fix up and rent houses. If I did ,I feel I should have to deal with the land owner to purchase not the city ,county or state.

  4. Rep -

    You are 100% right on with this bill and if my rep doesn't vote fo it, not only will I call his office and inform him he'll never receive my vote again, I'll encourage others to vote against him.

    The US Supreme courts ruling yesterday is a true detriment to the freedoms every property owner in the US used to believe they had. No longer do we truly own our property outright. Now we own it until someone with a bigger bank account convinces the govt. that they need it and then no longer do we own nor do we receive fair compensation for what is supposed to be one of the safest investments an individual could ever make.

    Hopefully the elected officials here in TN can be wise enough to recognize the freedoms being robbed and agree as a whole that while that might be alright in New London, CT, and that it used to be OK in Knoxville, no longer will it be allowed anywhere else in TN.

    Maybe then a small portion of our ever decreasing "free" market can return...

  5. You are right.

    I hope with this recent supreme court decision that you can push stricter definations of the term "public use" and not allow the term public good to come up.

    I am hopeing that you can use your blog to help pass string laws against this abuse in TN.

    good luck

  6. TVA did this years ago at Tellico. Land owners would have liked to sell their land to developers of Tellico Village, but didn't have the political pull or under-table money.
    So, we trash the Consitition and put on the jack-boots and rule with a iron fist.
    Public outcry? Not my ox being gored.

  7. In light of the recent ruling by the so called SUPREME court I must say I can't agree with you more. The freedoms of individual land owners should not be sacrificed to make a buck. If so what other freedoms can be purchase by big business...

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. Ugh, that happened again. www.protect.org is the link -- and while I may not agree with all your positions, I think it's outstanding that you're doing this blog and making yourself accessible to the public in this way.

    And you're dead right on the land grabs. It's a travesty that big business could, potentially, take away a person's land to build Yet Another Strip Mall.

  11. Here is a postive side but will NEVER happen.
    Public housing is nothing but drug and crime infested property that generates no taxes, eat up huge public services and is nothing but gulogs for the poor.
    So, bulldose them, sell the land to a casino or Walmart, or better yet parking lots or new court house w/parking.
    What do you think? Never happen.


  12. I agree 100%. But don't make it just a law. Write it in the state constitution. No eminent domain for private use or development or to increase the tax base.

    And you have to make sure the governments don't skirt the "private" use ban by taking ownership then leasing it back to the developer for pennies on the dollar or $1 per year as some have done.

    As for TVA, any proceeds from the sale of property should be negotiated between three parties: original owner, potential buyer and TVA. 100% of the sale should go to the original owners or heirs. Gov't should not be able to profit from the theft of private land.


Here are the rules for comments. Know them. Live them.