Friday, July 23, 2010

Greetings from nutzo-ville: crazed adventures in eminent domain

It's pretty rare for zoning and development issues to become national topics, but a proposed Muslim community center in lower Manhattan has become an exception. Oh, some people are calling the proposed center the "Ground Zero Mosque." Apparently because it is in the neighborhood of the World Trade site. Anyhoo, this is pretty simply a local land use issue. The relevant questions are things like: Does the proposed building and use conform to the zoning code? Does the community approve of the project?

Not to be out-crazied by outsiders, New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino promises to make the situation much, much worse if elected governor by invoking eminent domain to stop the project. Eminent domain is an imperfect and very often problematic tool used for land assembly. The idea that eminent domain can or should be used to block perfectly legal and constitutionally protected uses and rights is a bizarre and dangerous position, and it is absurd that someone would run for governor on the platform that he will strip private property owners of their economic rights if he disapproves of a proposed use. The community center is clearly a local land use issue and should be left that way. The politics of planning are bad enough without such additional headaches.

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