With the deployment of its nuclear option — eminent domain — in the RADTIP project, Asheville City Council sent an important message to its citizens and the nation. If you or your property are in the way of a pet project of City Hall, they can, and will, simply confiscate your property.
Eminent domain as a legal concept is one of the last remaining vestiges of European feudal societies. Despite its popularity with the likes of Donald Trump, it has no place in the 21st century.
It has been shown repeatedly and across many countries that one of the most important drivers of economic success is the existence of stable property rights. A regime under which someone can arbitrarily take part or all of your property clearly does not meet that standard.
Council’s readiness to blindly accept recommendations from the myriad unelected, unaccountable boards, commissions, committees, action teams, task forces — or whatever that it has set up — means that the risk of establishing such a regime clearly exists.
Say you repeatedly yell at your neighbors for letting their kids play in the street. Perhaps one of them serves on a board, commission, committee, action team, task force or whatever and decides to retaliate by promoting a cycle path up your driveway and through your backyard. Council has now demonstrated that you have no recourse except the courts.
We are told repeatedly that Asheville’s housing market “is the sixth-least sustainable in the country.” Whatever the truth of the matter, it is clear that we are at a point where it is imperative to attract capital into the city for housing construction projects. How enthusiastic will that capital be when it can see that it and its projects are subject to arbitrary confiscation?
Perhaps current Council members and staff should contemplate the following: Use eminent domain once, and your career is at risk. Use it a second time, and your career is over.
— Geoff Kemmish