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Should the state be able to condemn property to allow private development?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on September 6, 2005

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Photo of Teri Williams

“I say no, because they are only going to displace the poor. They’re not going to do it in a rich neighborhood where the people would hire lawyers.”

Photo of Alex Hornbrook

“No. Absolutely not. I don’t believe it benefits the people if it’s for private development.”

Photo of Guergana Topalova

“I think they should be able to, as long as they pay the owner a lot of money for the property. They need to be able to develop the city.”

Photo of Randy Bonham

“I don’t think they should be able to claim eminent domain. If a person owns the property they should be able to do whatever they want with it. The state shouldn’t have the right to interfere.”

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Comments

jrlii 8 years, 7 months ago

If this was actually a free society, no entity would have the power to steal property from its owners. Even with compensation.

No entity (including government) has more rights than an individual.

Democracy is snake oil. The real genius of America is freedom: The limitation of government power.

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Ceallach 8 years, 7 months ago

Hey sun_sue: Thought I was alone!! You are so right about the eminent domain travesty. The City of Lawrence took my grandmother's house (11th & Rhode Island, Southwest corner). She had a very nice house, as did most of the neighbors on her side of the street, all the way to 12th street. btw, they were all elderly people. But they had to go, why? So the city could build the current Justice Building behind the Court House. Where's her justice? She fought it as best she could but to no avail. At 78 the stress took it's toll and she had a stroke just prior to having to vacate and had to go to a nursing home. Grrrrrr. This is not a new thing at all.

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Ceallach 8 years, 7 months ago

Wow! YWN must have really been over the edge. Poof! I was afraid we had stirred the water by dis-ing (since it isn't really a word, can it be misspelled?) the West side and their covenants. [I have a sneaking suspicion that some ljw staffers may live on the West side -- as part of a covenant.]

I've always thought that was a strange word for the agreement, it seems more matrimonial or spiritual somehow. Using covenant to describe being told what you can and cannot do at any given time on your own property seems inappropriate, somehow. Well, I seem to be babbling again, so I'll just say good night Gracie. Manana

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sunflower_sue 8 years, 7 months ago

There's the problem w/ eminent domain the likes of which we saw with the racetrack. People getting uprooted for "fair market value" (meaning rock bottom $) and then the developers selling off lots for $$$$$$'s. Just ain't right. That $$$$$'s should have gone to the people they uprooted. (I really felt sorry for one little old couple who had planned to live out the rest of their days in their quiet little house and BAM! Racetrack! You're outta here!)

Goodnight all!

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Chris Bohling 8 years, 7 months ago

Sure, let them do it, just force them to pay the old owners 20 times the property value. Let's see what they try to pull now.

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Brian_Peppers 8 years, 7 months ago

apparently the LJW declared emminent domain on YWN's webspace. But imagine all of the fools that would be around here without banning!

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Azure_Attitude 8 years, 7 months ago

Man, I hate getting here so late in the day! I miss all the fun! No, NO, NOOOOO!! to eminent domain. The rampant overdevelopment going on is ruining this town and others! Eminent domain is not use properly and only contributes to it. The rental property ownership by out-of-towners is making it nearly impossible for the people that live and work in this town to find affordable housing. I'm glad I bought when I did. I couldn't even afford my own home for what it is valued at now. So at least I have equity and I think I am lucky to finaly own a home, but at the same time it is still tough getting by if the unexpected occurrs, and it has a couple of times since our purchase. I think we should have a law like Arizona has. After getting fed up with Californians buying up all the real estate and inflating the property values so much than Arizonans weren't able to purchase affordable housing, there is now a state law the prohibits those that are non-Arizona residents from purchasing additional homes if they already own one there.

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even_money 8 years, 7 months ago

Hi bea,

Interesting choice of words. No need for a makeover, no matter how extreme. :)

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beatrice 8 years, 7 months ago

That is crazy. I hardly knew you YWN, but you were a loon of the first order. You will be missed. I sure hope the government doesn't now take your land and use it for private development.

e_m: It is sad when someone is banned, never to be heard from again. I don't know about you, but I think it is a bit extreme.

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one_more_bob 8 years, 7 months ago

If you go far enough to one side, you start coming back in from the other..... That's my story & I'm sticking to it.

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even_money 8 years, 7 months ago

YWN appears to have been banned.

Deja Vu all over again.

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beatrice 8 years, 7 months ago

omb: I'm pretty sure this one came out of "right" field.

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one_more_bob 8 years, 7 months ago

Ain't it cool when somebody comes out of left field & jumps into the conversation without seeming to have read any of the previous posts? BTW, I saw the same post on one of the individual stories a few minutes ago. It didn't fit there either.

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beatrice 8 years, 7 months ago

YWN: What are you talking about? Seriously. I mean, I get what you mean by the "pointy-headed liberal elites" "know-it-alls" line. This is clearly meant to be the opposite of who you see as being good for the state and who you want here -- block-headed conservative commoner know-nothings. I can't say I agree with you, however.

But where does the rest of it fit? How does the topic of the day relate to KU and the supposed subverting of Christian values?

As far as your speaking for what the people of Kansas want, please stop. It isn't "the people" for which you speak, you speak for yourself alone. America is a melting pot, and Kansas is part of America. Deal with it.

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yourworstnightmare 8 years, 7 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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even_money 8 years, 7 months ago

Hi Ceal,

Not sure if this is simply a Lawrence urban myth or not, but the story is that in one of the 'shake-roof covenant' neighborhoods on the west side, a neighbor complained the guy next door built a dog house but didn't roof it with cedar shakes. The covenant was examined and the guy had to nail shakes to the roof of the dog house.

Not my cuppa tea either.

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Ceallach 8 years, 7 months ago

even_money: those covenants would not be my first, second or third choice either. I think they are the pits! It would be just one more thing that I said I would NEVER do that I end up having to do after all :) My hood is pretty easy going, a mix of young couples, older residents (ahem), and a number of college students, both couples and groups. There are really only 2 of the rentals that seem to be lax about making the tenants aware of the "down" side of living in a residential neighborhood. (hint) People have to go to work the next day, and no one wants their children awake all night with music or fighting. I'm sure there are people who have more problems than we have on my block.

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even_money 8 years, 7 months ago

Okay. I understand the dilemma. Perhaps there should be some form of zoning where a property should only be owner-occupied.

But I can't imagine how to implement anything like that.

Restrictive covenants are useful for making neighborhoods exclusionary. Perhaps that is what would solve your problem? Excepe the covenants are usually written to require shake shingles on roofs and a certain percentage of stone on street fronts.

Not who you can invite over to watch the big game, etc.

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Ceallach 8 years, 7 months ago

lunacydetector: Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

About 13 years ago the house next door was bought by the parents of a freshman at KU. The parents thought it would be better for him to be in a residential neighborhood instead of a dorm. They rented the other two bedrooms to "friends." The house has now contained 4 of this families children (1 boy, three girls) and a cast of thousands of "friends" that drift in and out. At any given time there can be 8+ people staying in a three bedroom house. Quite truthfully, the boys were much less problem than the girls -- they went to their girlfriend's apartments/rooms :)

Now their children are all out of school and they are renting it to whomever. It was difficult enough when we could call the parents and they would talk with their kids and things would settle down, but now, the owners are just paying for the house with rental income.

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bjohanning 8 years, 7 months ago

No, Government should not be allowed to take your property "just to increase the tax base" If the US government wants to do something do something here, but it won't be seen in my lifetime because we are talking about BIG MONEY and when BIG MONEY talks the "elected officials" listen, but they never listen to the small money people.

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Topside 8 years, 7 months ago

Yikes!! I just went back to read a little further. Quad. By-Pass and Cancer treatment all this year. THat's one short straw I wouldn't wish on too many people would pull. That's one bad beat Gilligan.

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Topside 8 years, 7 months ago

That's right little buddy I read the same thing on MSN. Oh well a 70 year tour is a pretty good run.

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even_money 8 years, 7 months ago

You may be referring to the 'private detective' rule. Seriously, there is no way to enforce folks not inviting their friends over and even to stay the night.

What would be the point of private property if big brother was always breathing down your neck?

Oh, but you WILL have to move that sofa ;)

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lunacydetector 8 years, 7 months ago

to even_money, quoting you.... "But the intended purpose for the '3-unrelated' rule is to also limit neighborhood density."

it doesn't work! the 3 unrelated rule should also apply to the boyfriends/girlfriends who are staying over night, night after night. drive around town during the evening - you have single family homes RS with 6 cars parked out front.

if the 3 unrelated was repealed, then RS would truly mean RS. 3 unrelated means 6 unrelated. that is high density multi-family. not only would the vacant apartments get rented, the landlords who own the single family rentals would have to sell. that would drive down the price of lawrence's homes.

i know this wouldn't be popular, but i am sick and tired of having some shmo from out of town buying up a neighbor's house and renting it out to college kids who are noisy and don't care about trash or living in a peaceful neighborhood.

ban the 3 unrelated rule. this would make lawrence a helluva lot more liveable.

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one_more_bob 8 years, 7 months ago

Ya know, I wonder if Sean Penn was using an Acme boat yesterday. Sad note, CNN & others are reporting that Bob Denver has died.

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Ceallach 8 years, 7 months ago

beatrice: I don't think the B list movie actor who became president should count, wasn't he a Dem before he became a Rep? Come to think about it, as a Dem he didn't climb much higher politically than some other Dem actors who made the legislature and I believe senate. Maybe he was pretty smart after all (somewhat of a Wylie Coyote), switched parties and became president. Hmmmm. I think I have confused myself :)

btw, I am not insinuating that the Coyote was a political animal, one way or another :)

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rhd99 8 years, 7 months ago

By the way, if government is that desperate to kick people off their own turf for something else, then the government either calls & notifies the owners. If the owners don't agree, then the government at whatever level MUST accept the refusal or risk facing damaging sanctions for unlawful invasions.

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rhd99 8 years, 7 months ago

Folks, let me set the record straight on eminent domain. Today on the news, some state health officials said that a house in KCK (I believe) is inhabitable because of the death of someone who lived there while having involvement with a meth lab. That is why eminent domain exists. It exists or should exist in a sunset clause to include that if the land around the property is unstable or the horrific conditions that would harm people's health, then eminent domain exists. Let me ask this: Why then are the real estate companies in business? They are in business because people want to buy their OWN house or business. It is not because the realtors agree to sell out to the GOVERNMENT! Instead of the government worrying about kicking property & land owners off their (meaning you or me) OWN turf, the government needs to worry about re-doing their emergency response systems so that another New Orleans or elsewhere disaster does NOT go unchecked AGAIN!

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beatrice 8 years, 7 months ago

Actors, please! What do they know? I would hate to see what would happen if actors were to run for political office. I mean, can you imagine someone like Arnold Swarzengroper as governor of California? The thought makes me cringe. Or just think what might happen if some B list movie actor became President. The horror, the horror.

Big business, if allowed to operate in a fashion that does not benefit the greater good of the nation but only the wealthy elite, will continue to do things that are against individual rights. This includes property rights. Their deep pockets are used to pay off CEO-type politicians who care little about the people, but care greatly for the all mighty dollar.

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blessed3x 8 years, 7 months ago

It's fairly old news but check out the following:

http://www.claremont.org/localliberty/archives/003358.html

Too funny. It'll never happen cause he's rich, but it's still too funny.

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Ceallach 8 years, 7 months ago

Das: I am sorry that I made the post too hastily and left the wrong impression. I was not talking about the vast majority of teachers, I meant to single out the elitists "educators," and lump them with the actors and directors. Those who are part of the show business news scene. They wear their title of educator as a badge that says, "if you disagree with me you are stupid because I have several degrees -- and a best selling book." Setting themselves up as political stratigist they argue back and forth on television, Dr. This duking it out verbally with Dr. That.

I highly support the true educators in our society, and working at KU lo these many years, I have been privileged to know a good number of them.

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Das_Ubermime 8 years, 7 months ago

Yes in some ways, no in others. I think that eminent domain is too poorly defined to have a full opinion on it in either direction. Afterall, how would be build roads (not to mention what would they look like) without some ability to evict people in the way? I can see a lack of eminent domain causing a stasis in our infrastructure which will lead to expanding urban and suburban areas just to find places which are livable. On the other side, what is 'just compensation' or 'public use'? Were I a judge, I would insist that governments use much more specific terminology which deterred abuse as much as possible (let's face it, no law is ever going to be corruption-proof) before allowing them use of eminent domain.

I find it a sad day when educators are sarcastically referred to as deep thinkers. If not even some of the people who teach society cannot be described as deep thinkers, what does this mean for the rest of society? Even more sad is when people make judgements on a person's intellectual capacity based solely on their profession.

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canyon_wren 8 years, 7 months ago

I feel very strongly about this issue. I served as (the first female) mayor of my town and had to deal with efforts to change zones to allow a large Workforce Services office building in an old established (very modest) residential area. The only real opportunity I had to vote to break a tie was this issue. Thank goodness common sense prevailed, and the rezoning was denied. Needless to say, the person who asked for the rezoning (and his family) wouldn't speak to me for about a year!

Unfortunately, people with expensive houses can't believe that placesTHEY wouldn't consider living in are valuable to many of us.

At least at this point (so I understand), individual states have the right to override this. Anyone understand differently?

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one_more_bob 8 years, 7 months ago

One last war story from yesterday & I'll hush up & stay on topic. About the middle of the afternoon, half a dozen people in full clown regalia showed up to go thru orientation. I was glad it was my partner's turn to do the presentation because I would have been like Mary Tyler Moore at the funeral of Chuckles.

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larryville_79 8 years, 7 months ago

This country's economic development has reached a point that even to build a school is breached by privatization.Somebody has to lose.Lets make sure it's not the property owner who worked hard to build his castle.

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Ceallach 8 years, 7 months ago

TOB: So true. The cults use their knowledge that it's easier to sway someone's thinking when they are emotionally numb and physically exhausted. I think that works in prisoner of war camps too.

Not saying there is anything wrong with individuals being identified as volunteers, but how sad is it that as people we never miss an opportunity to further our own agenda. The victims just need to know that other people do care about them and their plight. I doubt very much that, in that circumstance, I would really care about the spiritual beliefs of the person helping me find my family and providing me with food, water or security.

I could be wrong, maybe Scientology has enough followers in New Orleans that they would want to seek out like minded volunteers. For all I know the more mainstream religions may be doing the same thing -- but it still seems a little cheesy. IMHO

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The_Original_Bob 8 years, 7 months ago

"Volunteer Scientology Ministers."

I'm rolling. Once again, comedy in tragedy. It helps. Much similar to 2 nights ago where the wife and I watched the Jerry Rivers (Geraldo) Show on fox. I can't even describe the absurdness of the situation other than Geraldo is the Grandfather of Modern Television Explotation. And he's not going to let anyone forget it.

I'm not making fun of someone else's religion, just another cult that happens to be extremely well run.

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one_more_bob 8 years, 7 months ago

Since actors are getting mentioned, yesterday I saw a group of at least a dozen at the Astrodome wearing t-shirts that proclaimed they were Volunteer Scientology Ministers. I didn't see Tom Cruise.

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even_money 8 years, 7 months ago

I've got experience finding Oscar's good side :)

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Ceallach 8 years, 7 months ago

Fangorn: I don't think it's their robes, I think it's their political affiliations that are choking them and us.

I thought the Supreme Court was established to be non-political, to interpret the constitution. However, it now seems that they succumb to whatever is the politically correct trend of the "elite." You know, the educators, actors, directors, etc., the deep thinkers of our nation (please read with a sarcastic smirk -- that's the way I wrote it). The Court no longer thinks beyond the next Oscars.

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rhd99 8 years, 7 months ago

One more thing folks, unless someone can tell me there are more advantages than disadvantages with eminent domain, eminent domain has NO place in this great country unless property owners themselves ask for assistance.

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rhd99 8 years, 7 months ago

Fang, that is the problem, isn't it? Our government has changed the laws so that even if Thomas or Kennedy among others on the High Court say private property cannot be taken for public use, people like Highberger can do whatever pleases their fancy, that means condemning houses or properties without adequate proof the existing property is unsafe. That's like saying a person goes to prison though they did not commit a crime. THAT IS WRONG, & Highberger knows it.

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Fangorn 8 years, 7 months ago

No! NO! NOOOO!!!!! Why is it so bloody difficult for some people to understand the phrase "public use", as in "nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation". Even our so-called "Supreme" Court got this one wrong. Maybe their flowing robes were cutting off their air supply.

And even when a use of eminent domain is actually for public use, "just compensation" is often a lot more than the "fair market value" the property's rightful owner usually gets. Why would a company offer someone fair market value, let alone "just compensation", when all they need to do is whine to the government and get the property condemned?

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even_money 8 years, 7 months ago

Support snail darters & yellow-footed mud puppies.

Ban Agnes the Frog.

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rhd99 8 years, 7 months ago

Eminent Domain is the biggest JOKE in this country. Why? There are houses or other property around this nation that are in SOUND condition (except in New Orleans). That means there is NOTHING wrong with those properties. Yet, city governments like OURS, want YOU & ME to believe that eminent domain is necessary. No, no, NO!!! Times have changed & people like Highberger better roll with those changes. That entails providing ADEQUATE proof that those whose lives are UNNECESSARILY ruined by eminent domain will be compensated SUBSTANTIALLY. Eminent Domain provides yet another vehicle for lawsuits if city governments take property that were in sound condition without just cause. Blighted or unsafe property conditions are the ONLY reason eminent domain exists. Eminent Domain needs to have a sunset clause in Congress, & now is the time to act.

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i_tching 8 years, 7 months ago

When the Rangers stadium was built, Bush and his fellow investors, you know, just a bunch of regular guys like you and your friends, used eminent domain to take a valuable parcel of land from a family that had refused to sell.

This eventually brought a windfall to Bush. His $600,000 investment, made with borrowed funds, turned into $15 million.

It was a nasty, nasty deal, and it's one of the reasons why I did not vote for Bush in 2000.

It's too late. The eminent domain genie is wwwwaaayyy out of the bottle, and you can't put it back in now. Especially if you politically support the very people who benefit from it so greatly.

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one_more_bob 8 years, 7 months ago

You mean Sean "we forgot to put the drain plug back in the boat before my personal photographer and I went to rescue Katrina victims & did you notice my snappy white vest" Penn?

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The_Original_Bob 8 years, 7 months ago

From now on all my opinions on everything will mirror those of Sean Penn because he is the United State's moral compass.

I about choked on my vomit yesterday afternoon when he was being interviewed on tv. I was thinking, "Neat, a celebrity's opinion. What took so long?"

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sunflower_sue 8 years, 7 months ago

Ah, eminent domain. As I said to my hubby YEARS ago : "Mark my words, we WILL be victims of eminent domain in our lifetimes."

Seems, it hasn't taken that long. We are in the midst of it now. I say "victims" because that is what the people are who don't want to have their land taken from them for a mere pittance of what it is worth. Granted, there are some development minded people who can't wait to have their land bisected by a major road...they'll even give you the land to do it. But, some of us like the land to look like it already does. Maybe I'm a crybaby but I don't think the Racetrack and Cabellas, etc., was worth displacing all those people (and trees).

That being said, if "the powers that be" are going to "improve the land"...they should have to pay the landowners the "improvement" price!!!

OMB, Didn't thank you yesterday for being such a great guy. Thank you!

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one_more_bob 8 years, 7 months ago

I'd like to be able to "locate my money maker anywhere I choose". Just a little dream of mine.....

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Ceallach 8 years, 7 months ago

No. Corrupt politicians already use eminent domain to their advantage. Big business has deep enough pockets to "arrange" to locate their money makers anywhere they choose, all that's stopping them are those pesky private property rights.

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KsjKC 8 years, 7 months ago

If the mud-puppies are bathed in the Baker Wetlands does that mean we need to call it the South Lawrence Mud-Puppy Trafficway?

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one_more_bob 8 years, 7 months ago

Find where the Boogster & all the City Council members live & condem their houses to build shelters for the endangered snail darters & yellow-footed mud puppies. Save the mud puppies!

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Kookamooka 8 years, 7 months ago

Lunacy has it right. I can't stand to see so many apartments/townhomes/condos being built when there is already a glut of that type of housing in Lawrence. The only reason people want to share houses is because the apartment rents are more expensive.

I wonder if the city would confiscate a property near downtown to add more parking? Maybe that ugly modern building down from Headmasters, near the old Carnegie Library. Once the old Art Center location becomes inhabited, their will be a need for parking near there.

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blue73harley 8 years, 7 months ago

To quote Boog and Company - Ban Private Development

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even_money 8 years, 7 months ago

RS zoning is good for neighborhoods. It reinforces a lower density development scenario. Yes, many single family homes are rented to multiple roommates, etc. But the intended purpose for the '3-unrelated' rule is to also limit neighborhood density. Nonetheless, that issue is somewhat peripheral to the question posed.

Eminent domain for public projects is intended for the public good. When it becomes necessary to widen streets, for instance, local government must have the means at hand to aquire the needed frontage in order to make that happen.

But it is a whole different matter for private development. Property owners must remain entitled to their civil liberties despite what some developer wants. The constitutional issue of private property would get tossed out if we simply allowed anyone to come along and force you off of your land.

Serious issue.

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KsjKC 8 years, 7 months ago

I think Teri Williams has an outstanding perspective on this:

Let's go into Alvamar or just off Clinton Parkway and "insert your golf-related street name here" lane, tell them that the public interest is best-served by plowing all 1.2 million dollars of their home for a new Bed Bath and Beyond and then sit back with some microwave popcorn and watch the litigation volley like a sunny day at Wimbledon...

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lunacydetector 8 years, 7 months ago

local governments have been doing it for years!

isn't there a bank downtown that got built because the city condemned the houses where it now sits? perhaps i am mistaken.

then there is the wal-mart on south iowa. didn't the city condemn some poor guy's business so wal-mart would get an access road, and some other buildings condemned by the city ended up turning into Kohl's (were the old skating rink sat) and his wallpaper store is now mr. goodcents? it was a big controversy back in the day. perhaps i am mistaken on this one too, but i doubt it.

not trying to change the subject here, but a thought occurred to me as i was driving around town. after seeing all the empty office and apartment buildings....why doesn't the city change some verbige in its codes and enforce the RS-1 and RS-2 zoning regulations? RS means residential single family. a single family house is not meant for multi families. the city allows 3 unrelated people the opportunity to live in a single family house (RS zoned area). why is this? shouldn't these single family homes be considered multi-family?

the reason i ask...if the city made single family homes TRULY single family homes, then all the unrelated people living in single family homes would have to rent an apartment - and there are lots and lots of brand new empty apartments. not only that, but the housing prices would stabilize because rental properties appraise higher because they generate rental income. another positive would be....the city wouldn't have to use the threat of having a city building inspector serving a search warrant to see if more than three people are living in a single family house. hell, everyone who rents knows that all it takes is 3 on a lease and their friends can move in too. imagine the decrease in the thumping bass barrels and the decrease in all the cars parked along the streets of residential neighborhoods. i think something like my idea should be imposed. it would be for the good of the citizenry and the owners of all the brand new and empty apartment buildings.

just a few thoughts......

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ku_law 8 years, 7 months ago

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