Sunday, September 19, 2004

Strip mall blues

The Sunday morning papers carry some interesting development-related discussions. First, like the Trib yesterday, the Post-Gazette has a story today that blames overdevelopment for the severity of the flooding that occurred Friday and Saturday. Here's an excerpt:

With miles and miles of concrete and asphalt roads and parking lots, rainwater has nowhere to drain. Instead of seeping naturally into the ground, the water runs quickly into streams, causing overflow, and taking with it pollutants like fertilizer and oil picked up along the way.

"The term sprawl is used a lot, and that's one of the impacts of sprawl," said Baldassare. "We keep adding more impervious surfaces with roadways and driveways."

He used Monroeville as an example of the impact development can have on flooding. The buildup of that area's shopping district, with its huge buildings and equally large parking lots, led several years ago to heavy flooding in Pitcairn.

Over on the Trib's op-ed page, George Will talks about a fight in Connecticut over whether a local government there can use eminent domain to force home and business owners to sell their property to make way for a new mixed-use development that is supposed to generate more tax revenues.

I'm heartened to see that eminent domain abuse has become a national issue. Downtown merchants and historic preservationists have fought a so-far successful battle to stop the mayor and the URA from using eminent domain to remake the Fifth-Forbes commercial corridor. As Will says:

The question is: Does the Constitution empower governments to seize a person's most precious property -- a home, a business -- and give it to more wealthy interests so that the government can reap, in taxes, ancillary benefits of that wealth? Connecticut's court says yes, which turns the Fifth Amendment from a protection of the individual against overbearing government into a license for government to coerce individuals on behalf of society's strongest interests. Henceforth, what home or business will be safe from grasping governments pursuing their own convenience?

The Trib also a good column by my friend Bill Steigerwald regarding the who-served-who-didn't Vietnam hypocrisy, and Neal R. Pierce has an essay about efforts to curtail corporate welfare. It does not appear to be online.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

J, it's important to note that the only reason the U.S. Supreme Court is taking up the matter is because the CT and MI decisions have caused a conflict in the laws. Since the issue of ED is tackled in the Constitution, with certain rights inherent to anyone in federal jurisdiction, it must be resolved.

Ironically, different state supreme courts have ruled apace on the controversy for years. MI's court really returned the state to the fold of others in the Great Lakes region on the issue. PA, as you know, allows one of the most liberal seizure policies in the nation, to maudlin (albeit tragic) effects in Pittsburgh.

Let's set aside the pragmatism of the ED notion in PA (which has been less than successful for the intended economic development spark) and concentrate on the policy itself.

At the most gut level, it strikes Everyman as brutally unfair to seize the private holdings of one citizen so that you can give them, at cost, to a private developer or manufacturer, monied interests who will turn said property into speculative income.

For constitutional law scholars, the PA policy is most ironic because the common law on domain seizures (Sparhawk) is an early Commonwealth decision, one that's been turned on its head by statutory authority herein.

I believe the High Bench will cast lots with the MI interpretation, that Scalia will write the decision, and that PA's law will be challenged soon thereafter. No consolation to thousands of residents, businessmen and property holders from Cranberry to the Hill District who have already been dispossessed of their lands, but good enough to bring a smile to my face.

9:19 PM


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