Category: National Eminent Domain

Farmers and Wind Farms

HPJ, May 5, 2007

J.P. Michaud’s article on wind farms detailed in his opinion ways a wind farm can be profitable and yet socially acceptable. 

Farmers should be conscious that wind energy plants are a form of heavy industry. Apart from the turbines, wide access roads are required, many trenches will be dug to accommodate power lines, and eminent domain may be exercised to place power lines across neighboring properties that refuse to sell easements. There will also be substantial damage to the land during the construction phase, largely due to soil compaction and erosion, even if most of it can be returned to agricultural production.

Nevertheless, it is my opinion that wind energy projects could be profitably sited on farms in a socially acceptable way provided a number of criteria are met.

1. The land should be already disturbed by tillage, as recommended by the governor’s energy task force. Undisturbed rangeland and native prairie should not be developed for wind farms because of the large area of ground that suffers disturbance during construction. Natural soil profiles and plant ecology cannot be restored following such disturbance and native plants and animals will be negatively impacted.

2. The land should not be adjacent to residential development. Numerous studies are identifying significant health risks for people living near wind turbines. Large wind turbines are visually intrusive, being visible from 18 miles away, and if they mar the views of adjacent residents who are not receiving income from them, they will become a source of local contention because of concerns about reduced property values and diminished scenic outlook.

3. The process of negotiating with a wind energy developer should be a democratic, open, and public process for the entire community whereby all local citizens have a fair opportunity to voice concerns, ask questions, and provide input to the county planning commission. Otherwise, the development may be resented by local residents who feel their rights are being ignored while others are being permitted to profit at their expense.

4. Finally, a thorough, independent environmental impact assessment should be undertaken by qualified professionals commissioned by the government, not the developer, to produce estimates of potential impacts on surface water runoff, wells, birds, game animals, endangered species, and overall ecological health of the area.

The Hays site was selected very close to the western edge of town, where sunsets would forever flicker through spinning blades, largely because of the interests of particular landowners and the proximity of an existing substation. Unfortunately, the site encompasses secluded residential developments that highly value their rural privacy in close proximity to town. To these more than 100 families, the development represents a forcible industrialization that threatens to destroy their rural quality of life. Read Full Article

– The economic benefit of being paid for land to be taken as part of wind "farms" may well be off balanced by the risks and dangers and long-term negative effects created by windmills.

Gary/ Chicago International Airport Condemnation, May 30, 2007

The Gary/Chicago International Airport continues to secure property west of the airport for the 1,900-foot expansion of its main runway.

So far, the airport has not had to use condemnation proceedings to obtain properties totaling about 72 acres, but instead has entered into sales agreements with owners.

Some purchases already completed or agreed upon include the $1.84 million purchase of the 44-acre Beemsterboer Inc. property and the $820,000 purchase of the Truck City of Gary dealership and repair facility.

The airport expansion plan has an estimated price tag of $90 million. It will extend the main runway to 8,900 feet from its current length of 7,000 feet, making it capable of handling large airliners.  Read Full Article

– Throughout the nation, airports are able to obtain federal funds out of the trust, thereby being enabled to expand airports without regard to the economic viability in the community.

Power Line Opponents

Times, May 16, 2007

Opponents of Dominion Virginia Power’s plan to string transmission lines across the Piedmont’s placid and historic landscape circled their wagons around Washington, D.C. Tuesday.

They provided federal regulators with impassioned narratives about how their lives would be impacted by the 500-kv power lines and the huge towers that would hold them.

"I’ve been promised by the experts at Dominion Power that my land is a target for the 15-story power lines they propose to build," said Judy Almquist of Marshall, a retired widow who supports herself by renting out the six houses and apartments on her 50-acre farm in Fauquier County. "Two local realtors told me that my property is worthless right now because no one will buy it."  Read Full Article

For the opponents that circle the wagons, in all likelihood their activities will be pre-empted by the federal legislation passed during the first Bush Administration.  

Texas Limiting Eminent Domain Power

The Dallas News, Thursday, May 3, 2007

Protections for older, run-down or impoverished neighborhoods and stronger leverage for property owners whose land is targeted for development were endorsed by the House on Wednesday, with more restrictions on eminent-domain moving through legislature.

New legislation would require that governmental entities would have to meet a stiffer criteria before they can declare a property "blighted." The entities could only declare one property "blighted" at a time, instead of entire areas.

The legislation is sending a strong message to the city of Dallas and the Foundation for Community Development which a few months ago was considering a push for stronger eminent-domain powers including declaring entire areas "blighted."

Read Full Article

-While this goes through the Legislature, be not shocked if nothing comes out to protect individual rights.  The Strength of the lobbying organizations in the Legislature can be so great that the protection of individual rights will all to often be trampled.  However, some states have truly been serious about the process and have legislative fair protection for owners.  Hopefully Texas will follow the course!

Atlantic Coast Line

Charleston Post, November 5, 2007

The governors of South Carolina and Georgia are set to unveil a plan this month to create a new maritime agency to build a port along the Savannah River in Jasper County.

The agreement between the states would put an end to a long-running legal tussle over rights to develop the 1,800-acre property, regarded as one of the last available sites on the East Coast where a major container terminal could be built from scratch.

The announcement by Gov. Mark Sanford and Gov. Sonny Perdue could come as soon as next week. The Commerce Department in Columbia said Friday that negotiations had been finalized.

"I think it’s an agreement the ports authority’s board will approve," he said. .

People familiar with its findings but who are unauthorized to discuss them publicly said the task force is recommending:
–A new dual-state agency to build and operate the port.
–A six-member agency board, with two members from the S.C. State Ports Authority, two from the Georgia Ports Authority and one member appointed by each of the governors.
–Equal ownership of the site.
–An end to any efforts to acquire the land through government condemnation.
–Unwinding a deal that allows the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to use the property as a dredge- disposal site.

-This article resolves the substantial issue of a State controlling property within its own State. Georgia and South Carolina have been fighting for years over the ownership of a property to be condemned in the other State. Finally, they are reaching a position of working this out.