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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Eminent Domain by other means

Politicians in Tamarac Florida are using tax assesments to move property owners who stand the way of redevelopment in the city.

TAMARAC - The 67 elderly residents of an assisted-living facility may soon be without a home as the city seeks to transform their property into housing for young people, jazz cafes and chic shops.

The problem is their center and 13 other properties, including a Jewish synagogue, a Buddhist temple, a Wendy's restaurant, and a Chevron gas station, are facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax assessments.


The affected properties are on or near Northwest 57th Street, in the heart of the city's planned Main Street district, envisioned as a destination that will create new vitality and a bigger tax base for Tamarac.

The cost to upgrade and expand water and sewer lines, bury electrical, cable and telephone lines, and make other improvements could cost as much as $8.8 million. But the city set aside $1.5 million for the work.

Commissioners decided in July that since the businesses in the area would benefit, they should pay. They considered spreading the burden among all taxpayers but decided against it after hearing from angry residents.
A side or back door eminent domain seizure was the first thing that popped into my mind on reading this news. Michael Mayo at the Sun-Sentinel agrees-

So here goes: Shame on you, Tamarac.

Not only does the city have the gall to try something like this, they then try to pawn it off as the fault of forced budget cuts from Tallahassee.

What this disturbing ploy really amounts to is eminent domain by sleazier means.

At least with eminent domain, the government gives property owners fair market value for the land it forcibly takes.

But now that Tallahassee has put tough new eminent domain restrictions on the books, prohibiting government seizures of private land for ritzier private redevelopment projects, it appears Tamarac is trying a not-so-subtle end run around the new laws.

The new tactic: tax the hell out of a few property owners, and when they can’t come up with the excessive amounts, slap tax liens on the property and squeeze them off the land.
The Sun-Sentinel editorialized today.

But not any more than the crackpot plan the city came up with, to assess 14 nearby properties — in particular the senior center — hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for the infrastructure of the proposed Main Street district. Not only that — the assessed property owners were given about a month to pony up the big bucks. The 67 residents of the assisted living facility are particularly worried, wondering if the assessments will be passed down to them — or if the center will even be able to stay open after the air clears.

If Tamarac indeed believes that this downtown area will revitalize the city and create a bigger tax base, it would be fairer, although tougher politically, to tax everybody in Tamarac, rather than sticking it to 14 businesses — some of which, like the assisted living center, may not gain much in value from having cafes and shops nearby.

State Sen. Jeremy Ring, D-Parkland, who represents Tamarac, is outraged by the assessment plan and thinks the city could have created a Community Development District or a Community Redevelopment Agency to fund the development.

As for the 14 property owners, they have filed two separate lawsuits trying to stop the huge assessments. Hopefully, a judge does just that — stop the assessments, until the city comes up with a more equitable, fair way to pay for this Main Street district.
Two of the properties are churches. Churches don't pay property taxes, but are subject to ad valorum taxes and such. The assessments look pretty clear to me. They are an attempted property grab by the Tamarac City Commission.

Michael Mayo sums this whole story up well and its implications-

What’s to stop any city from doing this to any property owner, commercial or residential, if City Hall decides it wants some fancy new project to keep up with the Joneses?
Only the Florida legal system stands in the way of these tax assessments, and that's not a level fight either. Most property owners can't afford the legal expenses involved with any legal fight, whereas a City, Town, or County have plenty of money. Just think of it, if more funds are needed for lawyers, all Tamarac has to do is slap another assessment. Right?

The more news I read, the more I come into agreement with an old saying. You can't fight City Hall.

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