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Eminent Domain, Public/Private Land Inventories and Economic Development

Step 1:  Create Redevelopment and Housing Authority (the "Authority")

Step 2:  Authority  identifies areas of city that it wants to designate as a "blight"

Step 3:  Authority creates a Master Redevelopment Plan for areas of city it has determined are blighted

Step 4:  Authority uses public funds to condemn all the privately owned land in redevelopment area where private property owners are unwilling to sell to the Authority at the Authority's price

Step 5:  Authority sells some of the land obtained from private citizens to private entrepreneurs for sums it deems appropriate, holds surplus land in inventory for no specifically identified public purpose

Apparently, this is the basic recipe Roanoke has been following in pursuit of a 110 acre redevelopment area created for Carilion's Riverside Center business and medical park complex.  This case is boiling again because the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority, whose board consists of 7 members appointed by the Roanoke City Council, condemned and took land from a private property owner that was not was not a blight and was not wanted by the private interests undertaking the redevelopment of the area; this private property was simply located within the area designated by the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority's Master Redevelopment Plan area.  In short, private property was taken by governmental authority for no specific public purpose, except that the City apparently did not like its use (a flooring business) and wanted to see it redeveloped at some time in the future, and then the land was to be held in inventory until the City decides how it intends to use it.

This raises some pretty interesting questions, doesn't it?  The government takes extensive areas of land from private property owners for no specific public purposes, entrepreneurs lobby the government to acquire the land for private use (or vice versa), and the government sells the land to private interests of their choice in order to achieve their vision of economic redevelopment of an area.  Without the authority to do this, localities will claim they have little ability to achieve badly needed, large-scale revitalization objectives in blighted areas.  With this authority, localities have the capability to take private property owned by one party and give it to another private party that the locality deems more favorable.