Small Town Uses Eminent Domain To Keep Wal-Mart OUT

Discussion in 'Law and Justice System' started by GotZoom, May 25, 2006.

  1. GotZoom
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    GotZoom Senior Member

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    A San Francisco suburb voted Tuesday night to use the power of eminent domain to keep Wal-Mart Stores Inc. off a piece of city land after hearing from dozens of residents who accused the big-box retailer of engaging in scare tactics to force its way into the bedroom community.

    The overflow crowd that packed into the tiny Hercules City Hall cheered after the five-person City Council voted unanimously to use the unusual tactic to seize the 17 acres where Wal-Mart intended to build a shopping complex.

    "The citizens have spoken. No to Wal-Mart," said Kofi Mensah, who has lived in Hercules for more than two decades and said he values the city's authentic feel.

    Attorneys from Wal-Mart told the council that the retailer had spent close to $1 million to redesign the property to the community's liking. They said the council couldn't claim it was legally necessary to take the land and that the decision set a bad precedent.

    "Today it may be Wal-Mart but the question is where does it end," Wal-Mart attorney Edward G. Burg said.

    City officials countered that buying the land was acceptable to ensure it was developed to the community's liking and fit in with overall plans for the city.

    Opponents worried that Wal-Mart would drive local retailers out of business, tie up traffic and wreck the small-town flavor of this city of 24,000.

    Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Loscotoff said after the hearing that the company had not decided how to proceed with its plans in light of the decision.

    Wal-Mart's initial proposal for a 142,000-square foot store near Hercules' San Pablo Bay waterfront was rejected by the City Council. So the company submitted a scaled-down plan that included a pedestrian plaza, two outdoor eating areas and other small shops, including a pharmacy.

    Hercules said no again, and opponents began raising the possibility of eminent domain, a legal tactic where government agencies can take land from its owners for the public good.

    Cities sometimes use eminent domain to build roads or redevelop properties, but the owners must be paid fair market value for their land.

    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that such seizures are allowable if the construction raises the tax base and benefits the entire community.

    Some residents and Hercules city officials say the land, which is currently open space, would be better suited for upscale stores that attract affluent shoppers and give the suburb a classy touch.

    Officials say using eminent domain is a new tactic in a fight that's occurred elsewhere. Communities across the country have kept Wal-Mart out by imposing size caps for businesses and laws that set high minimum pay rates.

    Jeri Wilgus, 47, said she was proud of the council for standing up to Wal-Mart and said the town could show others how to fight back against big corporations.

    "We are setting an example for the rest of the country," she said.

    A handful of residents said Wal-Mart could provide a much-needed place to purchase inexpensive goods, particularly for residents who can't drive out of town.

    "I know I can go there and get a fair price for a good product," said Glenna Phillips, who has lived in Hercules for 26 years.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2006/05/23/state/n220735D26.DTL&type=politics
     
  2. Hobbit
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    Hobbit Senior Member

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    Why doesn't anybody believe in the free market anymore? If they don't want a Wal-Mart, all they have to do is let Wal-Mart know they won't shop there. If it was true that nobody wanted it there, then Wal-Mart wouldn't build there in the first place, as it would be a financial loss to the company. This is just another example of a liberal government using its ever-growing power to halt capitalism because big business is somehow bad.
     
  3. The ClayTaurus
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    The ClayTaurus Senior Member

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    Who sold the land to Walmart in the first place?
     
  4. pegwinn
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    pegwinn Top of the Food Chain

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    Actually, the way the writer framed the story makes it sound as if the City Council actually works for the people of the community and listens to the majority.

    I wonder how long the city will hold the land they seized and who they paid. I mean if (and we don't know it for a fact) WM paid for the land then the counsel owes WM the fair market value. WM could go away with a net profit.

    I don't care about WM one way or the other. But a community should be able to set it's own standards and the City Council should be responsive.
     
  5. dilloduck
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    dilloduck Diamond Member

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    I thought the emminent domain law said that the government needs to show that seizing the land would benfit the people of the city financially. Either way--a "legal" government land grab is wrong.
     
  6. pegwinn
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    pegwinn Top of the Food Chain

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    You'd have to quote the us code for that. I thought the ED laws were written at the state level. Now, since you assert a "legal" .gov land grab is wrong, does that mean you don't support ED at all?
     
  7. jillian
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    jillian Princess Supporting Member

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    Funny.... I seem to recall some people being outraged when local govenment used eminent domain to let a shopping area get build. Seems the Supreme Court made a few people angry when they didn't interfere with the local determination.
     
  8. Hobbit
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    Hobbit Senior Member

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    I was one of those people, but I'm consistent. I think this whole thing is a sham. If the city doesn't want a Wal-Mart, they should not be appealing to the city council, but instead to Wal-Mart. If they make it clear that Wal-Mart won't profit from that location, then it won't get built.
     
  9. The ClayTaurus
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    The ClayTaurus Senior Member

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    Partially bullshit. A Wal-Mart can completely change the demographic of the town. If Walmart thinks they can make money, it won't matter to them if every person in the town boycots them.
     
  10. jillian
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    jillian Princess Supporting Member

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    See... I think that while the result in the Supreme Court case was a bad one (and it was), the reasoning, that the federal government shouldn't interfere with determinations of local government is a good one.

    The problem with your scenario is that Wal-Mart will always make a profit and has no incentive not to open, regardless of what the community might say in advance. Corporations are amoral and profit driven.
     

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