A family owned golf course in Pennsylvania has been targeted by the local school district for eminent domain takeover. The Phoenixville Area School District says it needs the land for an early education center and elementary school. A recent school board meeting, however, was populated by people who opposed the government thievery.
Far worse than the loss of the course is that the land has been the property of the Campbell family since 1896. I find it impossible to believe that the hundred-ten year old property of the Campbells is the district’s only choice for a location. It is more likely that the kleptocrats believe they can get a better price on a golf course—with its indeterminable value—than with some other commercially available property. The Campbell family says the land is not for sale, but that if it was, the price for the 56 acres would be $8 million. The School District says it’s $3.75 million.
The story came to my attention because of the golf connection, but I think it is symptomatic of a larger problem with the modern application of eminent domain. And it is a problem that has only compounded since the 2005 Kelo decision. In that case, the city of New London, Connecticut seized privately owned homes to benefit a developer who promised to build a retail and office complex. The Supreme Court—in one of its less shining moments—ruled that general benefits from private development fall under the umbrella of eminent domain.
The tragedy of the New London decision was compounded when the developer failed to deliver on his promises. The condemned homes now are a dump.
I hope the local judge in Phoenixville puts his foot down and tells the school district to come up with another alternative. I find it hard to believe that the takings clause was intended for the government’s convenience or for saving a few dollars. The Founding Fathers put a high premium on protection of property from abuses by the government. In my mind, takings should be restricted to times when there is no other alternative.
Shame on the thieves on the Phoenixville Area School board.