I didn't think much could top some of the ridiculous stuff I have read of late on the government abuse and rent-seeking front; the milk cartel, for example, seemed hard to top. But I think this has jumped into the lead:
In Didden v. Port Chester, the government decided to redevelop
an area of the city, and chose a developer who drew up development
plans. One of the property owners, Bart Didden, owned a piece of
property that he wanted to lease to CVS to build a pharmacy. The
developer, on the other hand, wanted to use the land for a Walgreen's
instead. So the developer told Didden that if he would pay the
developer $800,000 and give him a percentage in the CVS, that he
wouldn't condemn the property. Didden, of course, rejected this
offensive offer, and the next day, the city condemned the land to give
to the developer.
"What the developer and Village of Port Chester did is nothing short of
government-backed extortion," said Didden. "I had an agreement to
develop a pharmacy, a plan fully approved by the Village, and in the
eleventh hour I was told that I must either bring this developer in as
a 50/50 partner or pay him $800,000 to go away. If I didn't, the City
would condemn my property through eminent domain for him to put up a
pharmacy. What else can you call that but extortion? I hope the Supreme
Court sets things right."
I guess the case has a bit of utility -- it does set a market value on government pull. In this case, the developer has priced his "in" with the local city establishment at $800,000.
To my untrained eye, this case seems not to be covered by the Kelo logic. In Kelo, the justices (insanely) decided that a valid public purpose for eminent domain was to replace one landowner with another who will pay more sales and property taxes. But its hard to argue that a CVS pharmacy would pay more or less than a Walgreen's pharmacy. In addition, Didden's supporters are hoping that the Supreme Court will finally rule on the more general issue of "exactions":
What's interesting is how this case parallels something called
"exactions," which we see in a lot of cases involving building permits:
government demands that a property owner give up some value to the
government"”a portion of the land, or sometimes outright cash"”in
exchange for a building permit. Now, this case didn't involve a
building permit, but the issue is the same: in exchange for the right
to use the property, you have to give up your property rights. That is
what the Supreme Court has called "an out and out plan of extortion."
These exactions are rampant throughout America. They're causing housing prices to soar.
And yet despite PLF's repeated requests, the Supreme Court has refused
to take one of these cases to clarify that they do violate the
Constitution. Meanwhile, we hear that the Supreme Court can't find
cases to fill up its docket! Here's hoping the Court grants cert. in
this case and declares once and for all that government can't use its
power to regulate land use as leverage to demand money from property