SECOND THOUGHTS ON KELO?
Even here, though, it is possible to sympathize with the affected municipalities. Suppose a large company whose headquarters are located in an urban area needs more space--say, a whole city block. Lacking powers of eminent domain, it has only two choices. It can negotiate with each landowner on the block and try to buy all of the individual parcels. This, however, is often difficult or impossible; once it becomes known that the company is buying land for its corporate headquarters, any individual landowner can block the project by refusing to sell. Occasionally such "holdouts" are motivated by sentimental attachments, but usually they simply want to extort an unreasonable sum from the corporate buyer. (It is interesting that in her Kelo dissent, Justice O'Connor stressed that: "Petitioners are not hold-outs; they do not seek increased compensation. . . ." Yet the majority opinion notes that "[t]en of the parcels [at issue] are occupied by the owner or a family member; the other five are held as investment properties." If petitioners had won their case, the value of those investment properties would have skyrocketed.)
Faced with the difficulty of assembling an adequate real estate package at a reasonable cost, our hypothetical company has one obvious alternative: buy a cornfield remote from any city, and erect a "campus" rather than a high-rise building. Rather than accept the loss of a major employer and taxpayer under these circumstances, it is not surprising that some cities have chosen to cooperate in development projects that put the city's eminent domain power at the disposal of a private company.
I see absolutely no reason to sympathize with municipalities. It sounds like Hinderaker is doing his best to justify theft. Too bad his best is laughable. "Holdouts" are property holders, regardless of their "sentimental" attachment to hold the property. Since when is refusing to sell your property extortion? So what if property is held in anticipation of price appreciation?
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