My concern about the reading is the worry that planners seem to have about compensating someone for their property loss. I understand how requiring the government to pay for all cases of eminent domain can be very costly and how that means less power in conducting what is determined to be best for a space. It means an additional expense for the community involved and makes real the possibility of not having the resources to follow through with every eminent domain concern. However, the reality is that Americans expect to have rights to their property, and they expect safety in those rights. It is society’s structure that is meant to look out for general well being; citizens themselves are not responsible for another’s well being. Society is meant to function so that any selfish citizen can keep from abusing the rights of others by merely looking out for his own self interest because there are laws in place that threaten his attractive rights. With that being said, it is not entirely decided that an individual’s welfare is necessarily less important than that of the larger community because each well being is not mutually exclusive. They are both important. And if it is not necessary to ignore one well being for the other to succeed, then there should be no reason why either has to be in danger.

It should not be difficult for planners and designers to get creative, but it might be challenging to express that creativity when it goes beyond their job. Law makers may be great at what they do but to be stuck on the fact that situations are hard is rather shortsighted. The world is not black and white, all or nothing. There are interests and marginalism to play with. Paying someone less than market value for their property is better than getting no compensation at all. Even an IOU would be better, although there might be many other methods of compensation the government can provide that do not involve money. But beyond that, laws can further be created to make selling or buying (perhaps even at market value) attractive enough so that the government does not need to go into its own pockets. Lingering on the distinction between police power and eminent domain is petty if there is no learning or growth involved. There are more creative ways to maintain good communities without having to make someone question their rights.

Advertisements