An activist attorney says the city’s redevelopment authority wields a power “that should never be used against anyone” and Wednesday urged 62 East Ridge residents to organize a group for a long-term combat for property rights..
Robert McNamara, chief counsel for Institute for justice in Arlington, Va., says the East Ridge Housing and Redevelopment Authority gets its power to seize property from a troubling “loophole” in state law.
The state economic redevelopment law is “an enormous exception to the public use requirement” that a public taking serve a public use, said Mr. McNamara, a dapper dark-suited attorney with a light blue tie. Under law creating the agency, an eminent domain taking may occur with the property being passed off to a for-profit group or company apart from a genuine public use.
The meeting at the end of election day precedes by two days a public gathering planned by the redevelopment authority at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Community Center next to city hall.
“I’m very excited these gentlemen are here to speak on our behalf,” resident Chris Davis said afterward. “They’re very articulate. They’re very intelligent. And they have an excellent plan in place for us that I hope will show the city of East Ridge that we are serious about keeping our properties.”
The situation in East Ridge is not ripe for litigation, but homeowners should be prepared to fight in court, the attorneys said. Mr. McNamara says he can accept eminent domain as constitutional, though he is against it in principle and in his gut. He has worked 12 years as attorney at the nonprofit law firm to combat civil government abuse of private owners.
The city council is “terrified” and officials are “90 percent certain” to kill off the existing map, he said. But that doesn’t mean the threat is passed, he warned. The housing and redevelopment board is dangerous and “there’s no limit” to what its members can vote to take, Mr. McNamara said in an audience Q&A.
Benefits of development
Goal No. 1 is to stop the current plan, he said. Goal No. 2 is dissolving the board to abort future expansive proposals injurious to constitutionally guaranteed property rights.
Mr. McNamara, accompanied by staff attorney Milad Emam, said homeowners should organize. Half of the meeting was devoted to describing how residents could form a property rights association.
_ David Tulis hosts a show 9-11 a.m. weekdays at NoogaRadio 92.7 FM 95.3 FM HD4, covering local economy and free markets in East Ridge and beyond.