UPDATE: New Take on Eminent Domain

Eminent domain has become a hot topic this year, with virtually every state considering legislation to curb the practice in the light of last year's ...
by | May 24, 2006

Eminent domain has become a hot topic this year, with virtually every state considering legislation to curb the practice in the light of last year's Kelo decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.

My colleague Chris Swope will provide all the details in Governing's July issue, but if you haven't been following closely, here's the gist: The Supreme Court ruled that localities can use eminent domain to take land and hand it over to private interests if they believe the money can be used for a higher economic purpose.

A big car dealer, for example, can be forced to sell and make way for a multimillion dollar electronics headquarters. (This happened in Minnesota, incidentally.) Legislators don't like the idea of forcing out one property owner to make way for another that will generate more in taxes, so about 20 states have clamped down this year.

But there's an unusual case out of California that goes against these trends.

UPDATE: The Hercules City Council voted Tuesday to invoke eminent domain to force Wal-Mart out of town.

The bayside town of Hercules, which has been planning for years to create the usual lovely dream of a pedestrian-friendly, chic little shopping area, is angry that Wal-Mart wants to come in and spoil their overall aesthetics.

We all know that Wal-Mart is a popular target. In this case, the city is threatening to use its powers of eminent domain to force the giant retailer to sell its 17-acre lot.

There's little doubt about the obvious snobbery involved. "I don't want to have anything ghetto around me and my family,'' local resident Monique Howell told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Here's what always puzzles me when people protest against Wal-Mart and its ilk, complaining the big boxes will suck the life from more charming local retailers -- why don't they just not shop at Wal-Mart once it opens?