7/08/2006

Eminent domain conflict now up to city: Daily Toreador (Lubbock TX), 7/6/06

Opinion

By Trey Caliva

The framers of the Constitution were marvelously remarkable in their ability to enumerate specific powers to the government. Powers, which to this day, are essential to its everyday business.

Eminent domain allows the procuring of private lands when needed, and with proper compensation, to benefit the public. The power of eminent domain is specifically laid out in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the final portion of which reads, "nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." In most cases, the key battling point when it comes to decisions in eminent domain come from how much compensation should be given for the amount of property being taken.

That is the issue in the current eminent domain battle between the city of Lubbock and the Faith Assembly of God church. The church, which lies between Bangor and Chicago Avenues on 50th Street, is in the way from a planned widening of 50th Street west of Slide Road.

Initially the church had been told it would only lose approximately six-square-feet of land to the expansion and the city offered $250,000 in compensation. However, after closer examination of the projected expansion, the church realized that would literally put them right up against the newly constructed 50th Street. In order to ensure safety for the building and its worshippers the church will have to be moved back 30 feet from the street, at an estimated cost of around $1 million.

After notifying the city, a court-appointed commission rendered a decision that the dislocation would be worth $510,000. While the church agreed to that amount, the city rejected it and instead filed for eminent domain. After seeing the situation, City Councilman John Leonard (who was unavailable at the writing of this column) stated that it seems the city was "looking at the market value instead of the replacement value". He told KAMC News Channel 28, that he was "a little uncomfortable with where we are at."

I spoke with the Pastor of Faith Assembly of God, Terry Nesmith, and he informed me that his church's situation will be the first item on the agenda at the July 10 City Council meeting. It's good to see Councilman Leonard staying on top of the situation and getting this item up for discussion. Now, hopefully, the dilemma of a few of Lubbock's citizens can be appropriately solved.

Yes, 50th Street needs to be expanded. Lubbock is a continuously growing city, which means construction and infrastructure expansion are all too necessary. That expansion, however, cannot come at the expensive of its private citizens. The operable words outlying eminent domain in the Bill of Rights is "without just compensation". If you're going to force someone to relocate buildings and lose land, then make sure they can do so as easily as possible. For Lubbock to know of the $1 million price tag of relocation and cause them to invoke eminent domain (and retain the original $250,000 offering price) is absolutely ludicrous. It's now up to the city to make the right choice.


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