Editorial: Use eminent domain with caution | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Editorial: Use eminent domain with caution

A decision last week by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding local government’s right to use eminent domain to pursue economic development ratifies the legality of South Lake Tahoe’s part in the downtown redevelopment project, and it may have far-reaching implications for the future of the city. But the council and the employees who serve the council should air on the side of caution when using eminent domain powers in the future.

Private property rights are of foremost importance to the American way of life, along with rights like freedom of speech and religion. Every time a local government takes privately held property, it erodes that right, even when eminent domain is being used in the best interest of the larger community.

In South Lake Tahoe’s case, the eminent domain power was used during development of the Marriott/Heavenly Village project when some owners rejected offers for their property. If developers want to proceed with another time share complex and convention center across from Highway 50, the city should give equal weight to the wishes of property owners who would be affected. A project that satisfies both the property owners and the economic interest of the larger community is preferable to one which simply favors the developer.

The Supreme Court gives government the right to take property when it is in the best interest of the community. Deciding what is best for a community should be a high standard for future South Lake Tahoe eminent domain cases.

Editor’s Note: This editorial was originally published June 25, 2005. As the convention center project moves forward, the South Lake Tahoe Redevelopment Agency is again considering employing eminent domain to acquire property for the project.

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