HARBESON: Whose property is it?
> SOUTHERN INDIANA — If asked, most people would say they want control over their property. And yet, at the same time, they often support various government controls, which is the exact opposite. This tendency toward the fickle gets everyone into a pickle and below is a jar full of juicy examples.
Clark Regional Airport
Two government controls are stuffed neatly inside the airport expansion fiasco — zoning and eminent domain. The airport tried to take advantage of government-imposed zoning classifications to seize a neighbor’s property at a lower value. The neighbor sued, won, and is now owed significantly more based on the “highest and best use” of the land. (Another property owner has now piggy-backed off of this ruling and will also get a higher price upon seizure.)
This case leaves county residents in the weird position of feeling better that someone whose property is being seized by the government is getting a better deal, while at the same time realizing that they, as taxpayers, are the ones really paying the price.
In addition, no one really has a clue what the price should be for such property because government interference has corrupted the process. The value of a property can only really be determined when both parties freely consent and the buyer does not use taxpayer dollars to complete the transaction.
Floyd County Parks Department
The dispute concerning property near Budd Road is another twist of the same two government powers. The parks department successfully seized private property through eminent domain but those same private property owners managed to stop the parks system from getting the full zoning classification the department wanted.
Or so the private owners thought. The parks department is accused of ignoring the law and overstepping their zoning classification. I imagine these property owners, who thought zoning laws were there to protect them, are now wondering how true that is when the one you want protection from is the government itself.
Ed Clere’s law
Republican State Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, is pushing for a law to increase tax credits for historical preservation purposes. (He is also taking advantage of the latest political propaganda fad by defining this attempt to increase the benefits given to a government-created special class of property owners as a “jobs bill.”)
One of the problems with such government control is that it creates an atmosphere where no one has any idea what could be done in the voluntary market, with owners controlling their property and making their own preservation decisions.
Greater Clark Schools/city of Jeffersonville
This example is noteworthy because this was a property transaction between government entities. The school system had property in the Franklin Square area that has been sitting vacant and, with the push of a school board member, the property was sold to the city of Jeffersonville for one-third of its appraised value. (Not sure what zoning value was used.) Promoters of the deal are now talking about grand plans that will be of great benefit to all.
No one is saying much about the actual transaction though. The school corporation says it could not sell the property at that price to a private entity, only to another government entity. This means we have no idea how this building may have been used if the offer was open to any potential buyer. All we have are politicians proudly relishing the sweet deal.
Ohio River Bridges Project
One problem associated with the high cost of this project has been the use of a federal historical preservation designation to protect a property from eminent domain seizure. Of course, Ed Clere and anyone else who advocates government-imposed historical preservation can’t really be irritated at them for doing this. After all, those Kentucky folks did exactly what historical preservation proponents would want someone to do: Use government to control how a property is used.
People are so busy running around trying to gain control over other people’s property through zoning, eminent domain seizure and historical preservation that they don’t seem to notice that the same government property controls that can be used to benefit you can also be used to harm you. And in all cases, one way or the other, the sour truth is that you will pay for these controls.
— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson once found herself in a pickle but ate her way out of it.