A few years ago, I moved from the land of the Renter to the land of Property Owner. I thought all I had to do to hang on to my small place was pay the mortgage and property taxes. But ownership is no longer ensured by merely staying current on payments. For some, the possibility of losing a property and the business thereon is threatened by eminent domain, which has existed in the United States since 1975.
The U.S. Supreme Court described the power of eminent domain—where the government takes someone’s property for a “public use”—as “the ultimate ruler of power." Search on the keywords in the ISS archive and dozens of article pop up.
Now, normally, the property is taken by a government agency for a street, freeway or public building—for civic improvement. So, despite how it may impact us, we adjust and believe it is for the good of the community at large. But now the picture has changed. In October 2005, I wrote an article about a ruling made by the Supreme Court that June that allowed a Connecticut city to use eminent domain to seize homes and turn them over to a private developer.
Just a few months later, Jim Chiswell wrote about the city of Arcadia, Calif., taking its first step to seize Arcadia Self Storage, an established self-storage business, for the expansion of the local Mercedes Benz dealership. That infuriates me. Taking a business that helps people and turning it into a business that basically caters to the wealthy!
People are taking action. Citizens of Long Branch, N.J., took to the streets to march against their homes being seized for a luxury condominium development.
The issue is here to stay, and self-storage is once again the target. This time, it involves a facility and a university. In “An Open Letter to President Bollinger,” Nick Sprayregen, president of Tuck-It-Away Self Storage, pleads his case to save his business from being consumed by Columbia University in New York. He calls the laws abusive, as well they are, and implores for some sort of compromise.
Now, my little property is probably in no danger of being seized “for the good of all.” It's tucked away in an older community and nowhere near any major highways. But is yours? Is your storage facility in an ideal location for an avaricious new business developer’s eye?
Stay vigilant folks ... Big Corporate Brother, with a friend on the City Council, may be rubbing his hands and drooling over your site.