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Philly council to hear eminent domain plan

Recent news came in regarding the plans of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority seizing properties by eminent domain for an affordable housing plan. Previously, a Philadelphia city councilman had proposed taking 43 properties in the Point Breeze community by eminent domain, an unpopular plan among some property owners. Those owners said they had plans for development on their lands.

Now, the plan has been amended, and the city intends to use its powers of eminent domain on 17 privately held parcels and 11 owned by the city. The change of heart came after a review of projects in the works, including some in the permit stage. City officials learned that some of the parcels actually are used as additional yard space for existing homes, as well.

The City Council is expected to consider the proposal soon.

The reduction of included properties still does not satisfy everyone who holds an interest in the Point Breeze neighborhood. One developer who has been an outspoken critic of the plans said the proposal headed for review still includes properties he owns or developers with whom he works.

In an opinion article recently published, the councilman who introduced the eminent domain idea said the city had followed guidelines set forth to qualify for federal stimulus money. He said Point Breeze meets the requirement that selected areas must have several vacant lots with blight as well as properties in foreclosure. The councilman also said the private owners had no plans to develop the property, which the owners have vehemently disputed.

It will be interesting to watch the debate that will ensure when property owners undoubtedly address the council members before they deliberate about the plan. Weighing the rights of private ownership against the public good always is a delicate balance.

Source: Reason.com, "Philly Plans Eminent Domain To Displace Private Projects With City Ones," J.D. Tuccille, Nov. 14, 2012

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