As I drive back and forth to work, sometimes taking the State Street route, I find myself wondering how in the world the curve on State Street between Westbrook Drive and Spy Run will be straightened without removing a number of homes. The curve starts just to the west of Westbrook Drive and straightens out near the BP Station at the corner of Clinton and State.
Here is my question. How is the curve going to be straightened without taking out several homes in the path of the project? The Google Earth view below shows a number of homes in the curve area that sit smack dab in the road of any effort to straighten the curve.
Eminent domain has been a sore spot with property owners since the early days of our country. The Fifth Amendment contains the “eminent domain” or the “takings” clause.
“nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
Historically, eminent domain was to be used for such public uses as constructing schools, building highways, providing public parks and such other projects that are necessary for the public good. Although the government may exercise such takings under the Fifth Amendment, it must also pay just compensation.
Through the years, the use of eminent domain has been broadened to include takings that benefit private property owners – not just the public.
The Grand Wayne expansion here in Fort Wayne was just such a use. The City used the concept of “blighted” to take several private properties – fast food restaurants and a package liquor store – for the purpose of transferring the properties to the private entity overseeing the Grand Wayne expansion – no public use such as a park, a school, or a highway was involved.
Then in June 2005, the infamous decision of Kelo v. City of New London Connecticut, 545 U.S. 469 (2005) was handed down by the Supreme Court. That decision upheld the taking of private property – homes and businesses – by the City of New London, Connecticut, in order to turn them over to the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer, for the purpose of economic development in the form of creating jobs and increasing the tax base. Of course, “just” compensation was required.
The decision triggered outrage across the country. Many states immediately established commissions to research and prepare legislation to thwart what was seen as an abuse of the eminent domain power.
Now, back to the State Street curve. The Google Earth picture and my own photos show the homes located in the path of the project. The City has already approved preliminary engineering work to straighten and expand State Boulevard between Spy Run Avenue and Cass Street for $772,000 with the total project cost to run around $9,000,000.
So, my question remains, will the City fall back on its power of eminent domain or will the home owners be approached to voluntarily sell the properties? I honestly don’t see the curve being straightened without infringing on the private property interests of the home owners.
If eminent domain is used, how is the straightening of a curve to ease traffic flow a public use justification?