Latest Blog Posts

Eminent Domain Caselaw in Nebraska

December 17, 2004 at 2:25am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Just for fun I gathered some references to eminent domain from Nebraska law and a few Attorney General opinions.

  • Private property may not be taken under the power of eminent domain for a private use.  Burger v. City of Beatrice, 181 Neb. 213, 147 N.W.2d 784 (1967). (cite)
  • Right of eminent domain cannot be exercised for purely private purpose.  Vetter v. Broadhurst, 100 Neb. 356, 160 N.W. 109 (1916). (cite)
  • From an opinion by Attorney General Don Stenberg in 1995:
    In summary, property owners are quite limited in the remedies available to them when a municipality declares their property as substandard or blighted pursuant to the Nebraska Community Development Law. So long as a city and its community redevelopment authority strictly follow statutory procedural requirements, the city has the right to exercise eminent domain, notwithstanding a property owner’s objection. The fact that a business or farm physically occupies the property would go to the amount of compensation, not the right of the city to acquire the property. To prevent the taking, the property owner would have to find a procedural irregularity, either in a statute or in the city’s redevelopment plan, or be able to articulate why the taking is in fact not for a public purpose. Case law indicates public hearings are not required before property can be declared blighted, absent a statutory mandate. It is only necessary that the property meet the statutory definition of substandard or blighted property, and that the property owner can address any grievances in court.
  • Ano ther Attorney General opinion, this one written in 1981 to a request from Senator Ernie Chambers.
  • A 1991 opinion on eminent domain had this to say about the definition of “public purpose:”
    A public purpose has for its objective the promotion of the public health, safety, morals, security, prosperity, contentment, and the general welfare of all the inhabitants. No hard and fast rule can be laid down for determining whether a proposed expenditure of public funds is valid as devoted to a public use or purpose~ Each case must be decided with reference to the object sought to be accomplished and to the degree and manner in which that object affects the public welfare.

It’s Official: Hammons is Building Another Hotel

December 17, 2004 at 2:12am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Lincoln Journal Star is reporting that John Q. Hammons, owner of the Embassy Suites in Downtown Lincoln, is planning to build a 4-story, $16 million Residence Inn on the block bounded by 17th, 18th, P, and Q Streets. It is being advertised as the first private investment into the Antelope Valley Project. That block is on the far western edge of Antelope Valley.

Some serious questions need to be answered about how Hammons plans to acquire the land needed to build the hotel. Most of the owners of property on that block found out about the hotel today just like the rest of us. I hope Lincoln doesn’t wander down the slippery road of eminent domain abuse. Stay tuned…

“We’re in trouble.”

December 16, 2004 at 5:15pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

That is the reaction of Mayor Colleen Seng to the five-year budget forecast presented to the City Council yesterday. Inspiring.

She is right, though. Lincoln is in trouble. The city projects an $8.7 million budget shortfall next year, the largest ever in both absolute dollars and as a proportion of the budget. Next year’s budget is projected at $139.3 million, a nearly 12% jump over the previous year. The gap is equivalent to 6.25% of the projected budget.

Property taxes are an obvious candidate as a funding source. As the Lincoln Journal Star noted today, “Property taxes fund 28 percent of the budget, and over the past decade the city property tax rate has been reduced 42 percent, from 51 cents per $100 of assessed value in 1991 to 29.5 cents now.” During the same period state sales taxes increased .5%, equivalent to 50 cents per $100 of sales, in order to cover state budget shortfalls. Although it is somewhat unfair to mix state and local tax rates in a conversation like this, the overall tax burden on individuals is still an important part of any revenue-raising discussion.

As Councilman Glenn Friendt noted, “Eventually the piper has to be paid, and we’re at that point.” The City Council has a long history of putting off or skirting difficult decisions. The most notable act of leadership they have demonstrated recently was voting to enact an almost-total smoking ban in workplaces and public areas—and even that issue was filled with frequent demonstrations of indecision and cowardice from the Council. The Journal Star notes that “[Friendt] said the council is under tremendous pressure to make short-sighted fixes, kowtow to special interest groups and live up to political pronouncements

A New Hotel for Downtown Lincoln?

December 15, 2004 at 6:20pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

The Lincoln Journal Star is reporting that John Q. Hammons, owner of the local Embassy Suites, is going to build a new hotel in Downtown Lincoln. The (supposed) site of the hotel is the block surrounded by 17th, 18th, P and Q Streets. If true, this is fantastic news for Downtown Lincoln. Although to be honest I think the choice of location is a bit odd. Who wants to stay in a hotel in that part of Downtown? Parents of UNL students coming to visit?

One aspect of the story really worries me: nobody has told the current property owners on that block about the plan. At least one property owner, interviewed by the LJS, may not be a willing seller. As the LJS implies, that may not be a problem:

As part of the Antelope Valley Project, the city could use its power of eminent domain to acquire the land, if negotiations failed.

That, my friends, is crap. It’s also true. Although the Supreme Court has clamped down on abuses of eminent domain in recent years, abuses still continue across the country. Eminent domain is supposed to be used only in extreme circumstances. Over time, however, more and more communities have abused their powers on behalf of “community improvement” projects like sports stadiums and concert halls. Landowners are rarely compensated well when they are kicked off their property.

This story will be fascinating to keep an eye on.

The Blogs

Syndication icon