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Philly won’t pave (artist’s) paradise to put up a parking lot p2

1/3/2015 | Real Estate Blog

We are continuing our discussion of artist James Dupree’s dispute with the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority over the future of his studio/workshop in the Mantua neighborhood. The neighborhood has been in flux for the last couple of years. A federal grant funded a master plan, and that master plan brought residents together for the first time in a long time. Everyone agreed that the area needed a new supermarket.

Dupree’s 8,000-square-foot warehouse space sits on a city block that was, according to the city, 90 percent abandoned. Building the supermarket and a parking lot on the land would kill two birds with one stone: Out with the blight, in with the needed amenity. The city acquired every parcel on the block through its power of eminent domain.

The city could justify the taking by citing a United States Supreme Court decision from 2005.

If you ask a friend about the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, chances are the answer will focus on the rights of individuals charged with crimes. It is a big amendment, though, that protects a number of rights. In addition to all that criminal stuff, for instance, the amendment limits the right of the government to seize private property, the right to exercise the power of eminent domain.

Specifically, the amendment states that private property will not be taken “for public use, without just compensation.” In grossly simple terms, it means that, first, the government can seize your private property, but it must have a good reason based on a public, not private, purpose. Second, the government cannot take the property without paying market value for it.

What kind of activity counts as a public use? Think about the freeway system. The federal government paid private landholders for their land to facilitate the movement of goods and people throughout the country. Or, a growing city wants to add a runway to the airport in order to accommodate larger planes. Without the runway, the city will lose airlines, businesses will leave, and so on, so the city purchases all the land necessary for the runway.

Kelo v. New London redefined “public use,” though. The decision cleared the way for governments to take property for “economic development” — even if the primary beneficiary is a private company.

Pennsylvania and other states disagreed with the court’s opinion. We’ll explain more in our next post.

Source: Forbes, “Philadelphia Artist Defeats Eminent Domain Land Grab, Will Keep His Studio,” Nick Sibilla, Dec. 23, 2014