ADVENTURE RANCH

ADVENTURE RANCH
ADVENTURE RANCH

Monday, November 27, 2006

City Bungles Colgate Site Development

The on and then off and now on again battle for land rights to assist with the major multi-million dollar industrial development of a new Colgate plant in Morristown is evidence of, at best, lousy planning by city officials.

Seems the new facility lacks access to a sewer system. Construction at the Colgate plant has been humming right along until - Surprise!! - the city failed to obtain the necessary easements for sewer access.

The city has a long tradition of reliance of using condemnation of private property and taking it via eminent domain claims, so that's what they did in October for the 11.5 acres owned by Bill Howell who operates an active dairy farm on the site. The city paid for an assessment of the value of the property and came up with a payment offer of $150,000.

In mid-November the local press proclaimed the deal was done, that Howell had signed an agreement to sell -- and added as well that the property in question would also be needed for a 5-lane roadway connecting Highway 160 with a road called Merchants Greene, which is the site of a still developing large retail complex. The bad news was, the report of the deal was bogus.

In the local paper's Nov. 18th edition, they write that no agreement to sell to the city has taken place. All that did occur was that Howell agreed to a future signing of an order of possession, which would grant the right to the city to have access to his property for road and other improvements, like sewer access. But no such signing has occurred in any reports I can find.

(NOTE: I cannot provide links to the local newspaper's articles on this debacle. The Citizen-Tribune will allow you to search their archives if you pay $5.95 for a one day access or $49.95 for a 30-day access and I for one am not willing to pay that much. Their "access to archives" page is here. Since I have a friend who is a subscriber to the paper, at a cost of just over $9 per month, the info on this eminent domain case is from the hard copy.)

Howell has stated he is seeking his own assessment of the property and until that happens, no agreements will be made. However, since the city has already filed their court documents seeking to use eminent domain in October, they are proceeding with that suit.

The poor folks at the Colgate plant, also are awaiting the outcome of the dispute, and are continuing with much hope as they construct their facility, which relocated here from Indiana. The city attracted them here after giving them the property for the facility at no charge and also giving a 7-year tax-free status on property taxes.

Though I
can't imagine them presenting their sales package to Colgate with the admission that the city didn't have sewer access for the facility.

This isn't the first time - and won't be the last - that city officials use the forced seizure of land for industrial development. Time and again industrial proponents have claimed that tax benefits (even if delayed for many years) offset the problems private property owners have in selling active family-owned farmland. The city is currently considering using eminent domain to seize the property of the former Morristown College campus for an unnamed developer, since they say the asking price for the property by the current owner is too expensive.

In these times when most communities and states are re-working and improving the old-fashioned heavy-handed tactics of eminent domain to seize property.
On Nov. 7, 2006 more than 80 percent of voters in Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire and South Carolina approved constitutional amendments that forbid use of eminent domain for economic development. Arizona, Florida, Oregon, Nevada and North Dakota also passed eminent-domain limits. In all, 35 states have now curbed eminent domain abuse since the Kelo ruling.

The sad reality locally is that forced seizure is the card the city usually plays first. And historically, they usually win, despite any private or public opposition.

22 comments:

  1. OXYMORON10:37 PM

    ""The city is currently considering using eminent domain to seize the property of the former Morristown College campus for an unnamed developer, since they say the asking price for the property by the current owner is too expensive.""

    These folks would hit you if you called them Liberals. What's wrong here, with this situation?

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  2. Anonymous8:49 AM

    You'd do better to restrict your blogs to items you copy from others. That would, no doubt, limit errors.

    Finalization of sewer easements almost always follow the beginning of projects of the magnitude of Colgate. No lack of planning there.

    A sewer system exists in the west industrial park, west of the Colgate site. Presumably, the Bill Howell property would not be needed for Colgate to access the sewer system.

    Contrary to your assertion, an agreement has been made with respect to the Howell property. An order of possession is a legal agreement. Howell has agreed to sell. The only sticking point is the price. City government must proceed with the suit in order to reach a sale price.

    The taking of Howell's land will not kill his dairy farm. Many dozens of acres remain.

    More generally, eminent domain exists as a valid legal doctrine for certain purposes. There is a reason that interstate highways in the Midwest and West are straight.

    The Morristown College campus seems like an apt target for the use of eminent domain it's used to spark development there. The property sold at auction some time during the summer for something under $900,000. Now the asking price is $2 million? Yes, I'd say that's "too expensive."

    With respect to the tax breaks given to Colgate, why don't you try to recruit a business to Morristown that will provide jobs and tax income without offering tax concessions. It simply can't be done any more.

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  3. Hello Anon -

    "A sewer system exists in the west industrial park, west of the Colgate site. Presumably, the Bill Howell property would not be needed for Colgate to access the sewer system."

    As I said, the info referred to came from the CT -- Oct, 18 2006 edition says "The land is required for Colgate sewer constructed at the west-to-east roadway that will be named Veterans Parkway, according to City Administrator Bill Crumley."
    His comment reveals the need for the Howell property -- unless he was misquoted.

    "Contrary to your assertion, an agreement has been made with respect to the Howell property. An order of possession is a legal agreement. Howell has agreed to sell. The only sticking point is the price. City government must proceed with the suit in order to reach a sale price."

    Just read what is actually in this post -- that Howell, as reported in the local press, has agreed to a future signing of an order of possession, which would grant the right to the city to have access to his property for road and other improvements, like sewer access. But no such signing has occurred in any reports I can find. The Nov 18th story does say the city's attorney "expects" this document to be signed by the end of November - and yes, price is the sticking point.
    If all parties are in agreement, what reason could there be for continuing an eminent domain suit, other than to keep pressure on Howell to sell at their price rather than consider the price Howell is able to provide following his own privately obtained value assessment? Why not show good faith, wait for his assessed price and then negotiate outside of a condemnation lawsuit?

    "The taking of Howell's land will not kill his dairy farm. Many dozens of acres remain."

    I never said it would "kill" his farm. Again, read what is here.

    "More generally, eminent domain exists as a valid legal doctrine for certain purposes. There is a reason that interstate highways in the Midwest and West are straight."

    As noted in several sources above, and there are many others, the "doctrine" of eminent domain is under withering attack - such as the laws passed in 35 states to limit eminent domain actions since the Kelo decision.

    Residents in 4 states voted overwhelming for constitutional changes to forbid the use of eminent domain for economic development. Many cites/counties nationwide have approved similar changes, including forbidding the use of eminent domain for industrial development. Again, Anon, read the sources cited.

    And please recall that an interstate highway is a public use project.

    "The Morristown College campus seems like an apt target for the use of eminent domain it's used to spark development there. The property sold at auction some time during the summer for something under $900,000. Now the asking price is $2 million? Yes, I'd say that's "too expensive."

    Perhaps the city should have refused to sell at such a low price at auction. They could have refused to sell below a certain price - it is apparent now that the new owner knew the site was a prime target for development.

    "With respect to the tax breaks given to Colgate, why don't you try to recruit a business to Morristown that will provide jobs and tax income without offering tax concessions. It simply can't be done any more."

    It certainly occurs with regularity, no doubt. The fact is, the burden of such tax breaks, however, then fall to the wage-earners, as communities typically add to property tax rates to fund the increases in city/county expenditures for new roads and additional school space, fire and police protection, and expansion of utilities, as recent studies have shown - one mentioned previously on this blog (and, oddly, derided by some reader who preferred to remain Anonymous) is available via Reason Magazine. You can access their report at their website:
    http://www.reason.com/news/show/33053.html

    Rather than dismiss any thoughts of different ways to approach development, real leadership would search for alternatives and seek more mutually beneficial partnerships.

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  4. Anonymous3:48 PM

    Joe baby, ho baby, no baby, Joe,

    The city of Morristown never never agreed to sell the former Morristown College site at a low price. That's because the city didn't own the property.

    I don't agree with everything in the comment posted above, but you don't know shit about Morristown College.

    Maybe making a phone call or two would help.

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  5. sorry, that's right - the city did NOT own the MC property, though they were fervently seeking a huge amount of back-taxes due, and did turn down an offer to buy the property some years back when the asking price was, i think, about $3 million ... and it was the untimely death of one of the purchasers of the property this year which led to the auction.

    but what was i thinking? the city doesn't buy property!
    they seize it via eminent domain!!

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  6. Anonymous4:11 PM

    Wrong again, joe.
    the property was put up for auction. The person who bought the property died. Most of the taxes are owed to Hamblen County, not the city of Morristown.
    Somewhere, somehow, market value needs to enter this dicussion. Accepting the market as a benchmark in 2006 - around $875,00 - how could the city be criticized for not paying more than three times that three years ago? Is Linda Noe doing your legal research?
    Tell me, baby.

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  7. Anonymous4:16 PM

    you talk about a record of eminent domain? give me five examples of eminent domian being invoked by the Morristown municipal government - other than those that have arisen in the past six months - and I'll kiss your fanny in the rain.

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  8. Anonymous4:19 PM

    don't do it joe, blog about global orgasms, it's much easier. Don't work, don't work whatever you do.

    ReplyDelete
  9. ah, trolls. and looky, they call me baby and want to plant their lips on my fabulous ass. flatterers!!

    as for some examples of the use of condemnation and eminent domain, i'll offer four and you can keep your lips off my backside, mmmmm-k?

    One interesting such event was when the city decided in order to build a needed drainage line in their 3rd industrial park to condemn and seize by eminent domain the property underneath the rail lines of Norfolk Southern (i think it was their lines, i may not be recalling the rail line correctly as this happened about two years ago). however, once the lawyers from the rail company discovered this, the city was forced drop their condemnation claims and instead to pay a hefty fee for the land and the construction.

    more notoriously, in the mid-1990s, the city attempted to cross county lines into Jefferson County using the eminent domain argument to obtain land for that 3rd industrial park, and to condemn and seize property within Hamblen County as well. the action prompted the state legislature to specifically outlaw attempts to cross county lines with the eminent domain claims or annexation without consent, and further required every city/county in the state to provide 20-year Urban Growth Boundaries to project expected growth and to limit the use of eminent domain. some sold willingly, others fought it for years.

    further, according to the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell and Berkowitz, they defeated a recent threatend use of condemnation takeover of natural gas distribution systems in Morristown (the firm also defeated similar efforts in Maryville and Alcoa as well, and even were able to negotiate a new 20-year franchise agreement with Morristown to boot). it's easier to fight eminent domain if the right legal representation can be found!

    An interesting study on other effects of land seizure was written by Jane Howell in 2004, in which she wrote that the family's dairy farm had to give up some corn and hay fields, taken by eminent domain when the morristown municipal airport said the corn and hay was interfering with their radar.

    i see a clear trend, a preferred method, one that many other cities have used as well, certainly. Morristown is not alone in using it. -- However, as this post notes, the national trend for using condemnation and eminent domain is viewed as an unwanted leftover from earlier times, and both cities and states are re-writing the laws governing its usage.

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  10. OXYMORON10:52 PM

    Lemme seee...
    Say I buy a piece of property an abandoned college campus for 900,000 for speculation or to be used for what ever purpose in the future. I don't know what purpose, there was no contract or stipulation what I would use it for. I am approached to sell the property and ask more than twice what I paid for it. Because I can.
    I am turned down, told the property is "too expensive. " I guess my options are to not sell or suggest another offer, say 1.8 million. And so it goes. Right?
    Have a goverment entiety "condemn" it and offer me a price that is not "too expensive."
    I thought the market made that decision in the realm of private enterprise.

    My mind is seizing up on me..........

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  11. Wow, it must have been "let the inmates use the Internets day" up at the funny farm, Joe. I get a big tee hee out of anyone questioning your knowledge of Eminent Domain in Hamblen County/Morristown. Did they really throw their Chihuahua into that fight? (wince)

    It also seems obvious that some folks (those darned loony tunes) don't know the difference between "blogging" and "reporting." Although, I often find that these days the lines between the two are very fuzzy, I do know the difference. Then again, I'm an exceptionally well educated and highly intelligent Editor.

    Keep me posted while I'm in West Coasting this weekend!

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  12. Anonymous10:46 AM

    Practice contortion so you can place your own lips on your flabby ass. And tell Editor that if he's looking for a Hamblen County eminent domain guru, he should look further.

    The city of Morristown never used eminent domain to obtain land in the third industrial park ... never used eminent domain to obtainn land in the second industrial park ... and only used it to obtain a small parcel in the first.

    Dude, there go your first two examples. As for your fourth,what sane person would imperil general aviation for a corn or hay field. You maybe.

    To tell the truth, I'm not certain about your third example, but I don't recall the city of Morristown ever filing a condemnation suit with respect to the gas transmission lines.

    You concluded your last comment by saying you "see a clear trend." I see one, two. You can't support half of the crap you print here.

    Carry on, though. You're a peach.

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  13. riiiiiight.
    and the state laws were never changed, two years of protests never occured over the 3rd industrial park, and you don't know diddly about the Atmos case or the railway case so it must all be false. next step - rely on insults instead.
    pony up something besides your imagination, rage and an anonymous identity.

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  14. Anonymous11:44 AM

    Joe,

    take a deep breath. really. the city hasn't yet used eminent domain in the third industrial park. really. actually. really. that's not imagination. that's not rage. really.

    the truth is, as you an the editor point out, i am new to blogs. but i'm learning something about their veracity. really.

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  15. Um, The Editor is not a "he."

    ReplyDelete
  16. ...examples of eminent domian being invoked by the Morristown municipal government

    The question posed by Anonymous indicates to me that he/she would like "examples" of invocation. He/she does not indicate whether or not Morristown was successful in its attempts to land grab. There was no caveat, Anonymous.

    Joe was right in the thick of things back in the early '90s when the city went after farm land and tried to push its way into Jefferson County. I was there. I remember it VERY well. The city was not successful, but it tried very hard to take the land for the 3rd Industrial Park using Eminent Domain. The point is, the city tried using eminent domain to take whatever it wanted for the 3rd Industrial Park. In one case, the threat of legal action scared them off. In the second, the decision was taken to the voters who told the city to cut it out.

    Whether or not the City of Morristown got the land through Eminent Domain is not in question. It's whether or not they keep trying to get land that way. And the facts stand: they do try.

    If I come over to your house, Anonymous, and try to steal your car, but you stop me before I can get it out of the driveway, does that mean I didn't try to steal your car? Does it mean I did nothing wrong because my attempt was unsuccessful? If I try to steal cars up and down my block, but am only successful in stealing 2 out of the 10 I tried to take, I guess it really isn't indicative of anything.

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  17. Anonymous4:28 PM

    Editor,


    Sorry for characterizing you as a male. This string of conversation began as Powell, whom you characterize as something of an expert on eminent domain, made numerous factual errors in his assertions.

    Powell is wrong about alleged bungled planning on the easements for Colgate; he is wrong about ownership and auction of the Morristown College site; he is wrong about the use of eminent domain in Morristown industrial parks; he is wrong about eminent domain with respect to railroad-owned property; his view with respect to Atmos Energy property is incorrect to the extent that it makes his assertions invalid.

    Powell's lame reaction to this string of errors was, "Oh, riiight."


    Powell needs to stick to blogs about Elvis chocolate and peanut butter cups and worldwide orgasms.

    It's true, Morristown voters put thumbs down on the initiative to take Jefferson County land by eminent doman.

    Those who run Jefferson County, however, later agreed to include property that was formerly relatively valueless land inside the third Morristown industrial park.

    One day, Jefferson County will benefit wildly from this move.
    Despite public assertions to the contrary, it was a no-brainer for all there.

    As to the analogy with criminal law, it's my understanding that an attempt to commit an offense rates lower than the actual offense.

    In a more practical matter, as with the Howell property in Morristown that's currently the object of a condemnation case, that's how disputed issues are resolved.

    Howell and the city of Morristown disagree on the value of the property. How uncommon is that? It will be settled to the satisfaction of both parties in chancery court or in the Tennessee Court of Appeals or the Tennessee Supreme Court or in U.S. District Court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

    That's the process. You set your sights low when you put this idiot Powell as an authority.

    If Joe Powell is your authority, you are at a distinct disadvantage. Carry on, editor.

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  18. you can't have it both ways, Anonymous.

    how can eminent domain usage both exist as you say local voters and Jeff Co. disapproved of it and then not exist at the same time?

    check with the attorney's website mentioned regarding the Atmos case, as they detail their success in defeating the city's attempts.

    as for the railway case, i'm simply reporting what i heard when the city attorney informed councilmembers of the conflict. perhaps he was mistaken about the case?

    and like it or not, the conflict over easements for a major industrial development from a company like Colgate could have been much better handled, in my opinion. and yes, agreements have been made this month to try and resolve it, hopefully it won't cost taxpayers too much in court costs.

    and if you can't refrain from insults in discussing issues such as these, then stop commenting.

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  19. Anonymous,

    Please refrain from attempting to take me on or correct me or tell me what you think I ought to know.
    I do a fairly impressive job of thinking for myself, thank you.

    I've known Joe for 15 1/2 years. I've read his reporting, listened to his radio reports, and actually sat in on meetings where Eminent Domain disputes were the issue. I was there on election night back in the mid '90s when the city LOST. Again, I think for myself. I trust Joe based on experience. Based on what I know, my sites are right on target.

    I don't know who the heck you are because you are too much of a coward to step out into the light and name yourself. You aren't Deep Throat for goodness sake, which means you are remaining Anonymous because you don't want the community at large to know who you are. It would be harmful to you socially? It could mean you'd be in trouble at your job? It's easier for a coward to lob rocks from a rooftop, isn't it? I guess us "idiots" are actually brave enough to show our faces.

    You say you are new to blogs, so where does a newbie like yourself get off telling Joe how to run his?

    So it's OK if I try to take your property because it's less of an offense than actually getting away with it? (For those keeping score, chalk that one up to "Anonymous misses the point," or perhaps "Anonymous avoids the point all together.")

    I don't need your permission to "carry on."

    Please, in referring to me let it be known that I am not, editor, I am The Editor.

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  20. Anonymous12:23 PM

    editor,

    I'd think that someone who so vocally professes her own intellectual attributes would know the difference between "sights" and sites. Thought you ought to know that, carry on.

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  21. Anon -

    with each comment you make, your propensity for "carrying on" with your desire to pick fights, to rage, to whine and deny any reality other than your own, to be offended that someone else has an opinion or viewpoint other than your own just becomes more pronounced. and kinda sad, too really.

    go back to your own playground if you do not like it here. go bear-bait your friends or employees or whoever who regularly browbeat.

    not.one.soul.here.cares.what.you.think.

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  22. Joe,
    I think it's kinda funny that the only response Anonymous can offer is to go after my jet-lagged word usage (and all this time I have refrained from correcting Anonymous' spelling, usage, grammatical, and puntuation errors).

    I wash my hands of the insipid cretin.

    Joe, could you pass me an Elvis Reese's?

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