While most states are looking at legislation to rein in eminent domain, the city of Dallas may be supporting legislation to expand it! Current Texas law, apparently, prevents eminent domain from being used for private development. City economic development director Karl Zavitkovsky “said southern Dallas properties the city might acquire would include abandoned properties, sexually oriented businesses and land uses that aren’t consistent with a neighborhood.” “What it would not be is taking people’s individual residences — that, it’s not,” Zavitkovsky said. He told council members that the city would have specific criteria for the types of property it seized through eminent domain. But, if legislation is passed allowing eminent domain for economic development purposes, what prevents cities from taking residences? What prevents cities from expanding the criteria for using eminent domain in the same way blight criteria have been used to water down thresholds so that almost any neighborhood could be seized? Dallas currently wants to raise more than $1 billion for “infrastructure improvements”, much of it targeting south Dallas. “We’re going to have 40 of those (train) stations around Dallas,” Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm said. “Think about the impact that could have.” As if the mere investment of public money (or private money) equates to successful redevelopment!
Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.