Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Protecting Your Property Rights

(The video does skip, but try and stay with it, it is very important what they are discussing as it mirrors similar recent activity by the Zoning Board of Vincent)

Vincent residents will understand the attitude of the officials and city attorney in this video, because it is what we experience as well. Based on the last Zoning Board workshop in Vincent when they were discussing an ordinance similar to this video issue, the question needs to be asked: "Will I stand to lose my property if I am in what is perceived as "continued violation" of this ordinance you are trying to pass?"

They VPC did say a lien would be placed on property in continued non-compliance. If you're poor, a lien could easily cause you to lose your property. The timing of this ordinance being discussed is highly suspect. So why now, with so much already on the agenda?

Is Vincent, pushed by the county, on a mission to "land grab" in a number of ways?

This issue is going to be the subject of the next few posts since Eminent Domain is on the table concerning Vincent. It may also come in the form of Inverse Condemnation (rather than an outright "land grab" in most cases which is exercised by a municipality), and can be an action in two ways:
1. Initiated by the government
2. Initiated by a property owner

Mr. Fowler is crowing that Vincent is not exercising its eminent domain rights and condemning property. This is in response to the Alabama River Alliance letter regarding riparian water rights and private property owners rights to not be deprived of the use of their land.

Sinkholes, wells fouling, blasting damage and complete water loss are not compatible with property owners having the right to enjoyable and reasonable uses of their own land.

The ARA has a point suggesting Inverse Condemnation is being set up by the quarry, and we suspect someone got nervous about this in City Hall (as they should be) and Mr. Fowler is passing out the "milk and cookies" to them.

What he is not telling them is the following regarding Inverse Condemnation:

Damage or Taking in Eminent Domain
Types of Inverse Condemnation

Physical Intrusion
* Intangible Intrusion Not Causing Physical Damage (noise, dust, fumes)
* Intangible Intrusion Causing Physical Damage (vibration, land stability)
* Loss of Access
* “Klopping” Pre-condemnation Delay

Regulatory Takings
* Water damage
- Streams
- Flood control
- Riparian rights

* Land Stability
- Subsidence
- Lateral/subjacent support
* Loss/Interference with Access

Good Faith Mitigation Intangible Intrusion – No Physical Damage

*Highway, airport noise, over-flying aircraft
 *Public works construction projects
(No liability for electromagnetic fields)

Intangible Intrusion – Causing Damage

*Land stability/subsidence

It is certainly feasible all residents in a three mile range of the quarry will suffer from some of these and an Inverse Condemnation, which would initiated by them, not the city, is a distinct possibility.

The second case of Inverse Condemnation brought by property owners on environmental grounds:
An increase in environmental problems has resulted in a new type of eminent domain proceeding called inverse condemnation. In this proceeding, the property owner, rather than the condemner, initiates the action. The owner alleges that the government has acquired an interest in his or her property without giving compensation, such as when the government floods a farmer's field or pollutes a stream crossing private land. An inverse condemnation proceeding is often brought by a property owner when it appears that the taker of the property does not intend to bring eminent domain proceedings.
WRQ Atty. Rob Fowler, the city, and the county will come out "clean" in this because it would come from the property owners rather than any of them. It is a very shrewd move and one he can point to again and again as support for his statement; "The Town of Vincent is not condemning private property." Additionally, WRQ is keenly aware that fair market value will be greatly affected with the quarry coming in and property owners will not be made whole in "just compensation" despite the general thinking that they will.

The 2005 SCOTUS ruling gives broad definitions for "blight" and the standards used to determine the "public interest in using Eminent Domain to condemn private property in the interest of economic development."

The end result will be favorable to the quarry in either use of Eminent Domain; Inverse or exercising the SC ruling and condemning the adjoining land for economic development that will yield more taxes and revenue for the city/county than is currently being generated. This result is the basis for the ruling; more money from one entity than the one already there is in the "public interest" and considered the "greater good" for a community.

That's a socialistic line of thinking that falls in play with Agenda 21.

It flies in the face of our rights afforded to us by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

*Shelby County has put this same principle in place in their 2006 comprehensive plan and the county's "home rule" amendment courtesy of Mr. Alex Dudchock. All the pieces are in place for governmental abusive power to be exercised legally.

*(link to Shelby County Home Rule):

A very controversial Eminent Domain case from 2003 has already happened in Alabaster with the Colonial Promenade Shopping Center:
The project was opposed by some of the property owners whose land was needed for the development. A group of ten owners sued the City of Alabaster and Colonial Properties to prevent the controversial use of eminent domain to force them to sell approximately 10 of the 400 acres needed. In June 2003, the Alabaster City Council voted 6-0 (with 1 abstention) to adopt the I-65, 238 Urban Renewal and Urban Redevelopment Plan which determined that the property in question was a "blighted area". The city subsequently entered into an agreement to condemn and seize the land, and then exchange it and certain infrastructure improvements for the construction of new city facilities to be provided by Shelby Land Partners, a limited-liability corporation established to negotiate with the city for the development. At the time Wal-Mart and Belk had already been announced as prospective tenants.
The story was picked up nationally by critics of what many consider to be abuse of eminent domain. Landowner Lily Spence appeared on CNN to voice her objections to having her property condemned. The case was cited by Montgomery legislators who passed legislation severely restricting the scope of public uses allowed in eminent domain cases. The July 2005 law followed a Supreme Court decision in a Massachusetts dispute that the matter was for states to decide.

Note that this case follows the SC ruling result of what was considered by the local government as the "greater good in economic development." Shelby County changing their comprehensive plan in 2006 did so deliberately to allow for this to happen again. They were well aware of the fact the SC ruling gave broad power to local governments.

Alabama passed an amendment to the SC ruling to keep this from happening again, but they fell far short and Shelby County knew this as does Mr. Fowler. What could have been a strong law to protect Alabama's citizens from Eminent Domain is seriously deficient.

Tomorrow we will present the flaw in the Alabama Amendment passed right after the Supreme Court 2005 ruling on Eminent Domain. Alabama has left a serious loophole in the amendment that is wide open to abuse.
(Another thing Mr. Fowler conveniently left out)

You are not as safe as you might think.

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