The bite of the Black Dog

Where’s the owner of Black Dog Realty? An important issue is at stake—people trespassing on exclusive downtown property slated for development! Although owned by everyone in the community at one point, hard times of trouble have led everyday citizens to rally against the owner on his own land! I spoke with one of them and gathered they’re protesting what we commonly refer to as illegal, backroom closed-door deals. What I know for sure is this group of peaceful tree-huggers is trying to convince City Council to take his land with force through eminent domain—land previously purchased by him in one of two ways:
• “Hi, I’m Stewart Coleman. Here’s a check to buy a piece of property beside City Hall valued at $600,000 for $322,000. Thank you.”
• “Hi. Here’s the check we talked about for a piece of public property that would otherwise never be sold.”

Of course, it may have gone down differently, but the facts remain the same. What’s unfortunate is that area residents aren’t privy to such a steal—I mean, deal. I assume that’s why a handful of local citizens have taken to squatting on his land and even decorating a century-old magnolia with hanging balls and dream catchers. What a nightmare! Even though this sale is but one example of tumbling real-estate prices around the nation, people still want something for free—a place to exercise their freedom.

But let’s face it: These citizens don’t appear to have the preeminence Coleman commands, nor the political prowess his stature as a leading member of the community—not to mention economic facilitator—that enabled him to initially acquire their property. Armed merely with a First Amendment right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances, these patriotic citizens exercise their freedoms with all bets on the table—including a land swap for land never legally acquired.

Yes, democracy is more than just heading to the polls; it obviously pays to have friends in backrooms behind closed doors. But without a grass-roots democracy to dig its heels into, America loses—and in this case, [loses] a place to exercise its freedom. When we say, “This land is your land, this land is my land,” it does means everyone, but I question how it applies to those who would take it all for themselves. In my humble opinion, there’s something far greater at stake than another demolished building and a dead tree. It’s [whether] second homes outweigh [having] a public place to exercise our First Amendment right—and perhaps a perfect spot to eat doughnuts with the neighbors. Maybe you, too, will drop by the old magnolia tree for a visit?

— Duncan St. Clair
Asheville

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