Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Eminent Domain?

Kevin Leininger reports that the city now wants to put a hotel at the corner of Harrison and Wayne streets, on land currently occupied by Cindy's Diner, instead of its original intended location, the current site of Belmont Liquors.

It took the city two years, several court orders and possibly more than $1 million to get its hands on the land now occupied by the downtown Belmont Beverage store. Now the city has decided it doesn’t want to build a hotel at Jefferson Boulevard and Harrison Street after all, raising several timely questions about government’s proper power over private property.

To city planners, moving the site of a third downtown hotel to the north side of the newly expanded Grand Wayne Convention Center — perhaps to the corner now occupied by Cindy’s Diner — will better promote the redevelopment of Harrison Street, The Landing historic district and Fort Wayne’s riverbanks. To others, however, the change of heart illustrates the dangers posed by the use of eminent domain – dangers some City Council members want to curb.

“This is a clear case of why the city should never have taken that land in the first place,” said City Councilman Don Schmidt, R-2nd, who said he is considering a bill that would place strict limits on the city’s ability to condemn private property.

Councilman Tom Smith, R-1st, went one step further: He thinks the city should offer to sell Belmont’s property back to former owner Tom Druley for the same price it paid.

Here's what Leininger thinks of all this:

I think the city is wise to move the hotel site north. That’s where the action is – or, at least, that’s where planners hope the action will be, someday. Even so, Councilmen Smith and Schmidt are right to raise a red flag about the use of eminent domain in this case – especially since the land is apparently no longer wanted for the stated purpose.

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