First, I am not the author of "The New Georgia Infrastructure Act"
(SB 5) which passed the state Senate two years ago 47-3. I am a
co-signer and a supporter. I am an architect in a real estate firm in
Savannah and have no financial interest in this bill whatsoever.
This legislation simply allows local government the option to use the
energy and efficiency of the free enterprise system to build public
projects (like water treatment plants) without raising property taxes or
SB 5 makes no changes to Georgia's existing eminent domain law.
Another bill in the State Senate (SB 86) would eliminate the ability of
government to take property solely to increase the tax digest or for
Republicans strongly defend the rights of private property owners and
SB 5 specifically states that the power to condemn property cannot be
delegated to private developers.
Thank you for your input on this legislation. I believe if you look at
the intent of SB 5 combined with the eminent domain restrictions in SB
86, you should agree that both issues deserve to be considered. The
process of debating proposed legislation is in the very early stages.
As these bills move forward, we will make every effort to improve the
product before it reaches the Senate floor.
Thank you for contacting me. As always, I appreciate the benefit of your
I certainly appreciate your concerns regarding the implications of Senate
Bill 5 on Georgians' private property rights. However, let me assure you
that this legislation in no way provides developers, or any private party,
with the right to exercise the power of eminent domain. In fact, the bill
does not expand the power of municipalities in any way to condemn
The Georgia General Assembly has the sole legal authority to determine
when the right of eminent domain may be exercised (O.C.G.A. 22-1-3).
Senate Bill 5 clearly states only public entities may exercise the power
of eminent domain and may only do so in the manner currently provided by
Georgia law (SB 5, 50-36-11). Further, the bill explicitly states that
"the power of eminent domain shall not be delegated to any operator under
any public-private agreement executed pursuant to this chapter."
(50-36-11). The law regarding the power to exercise eminent domain will
be absolutely unaltered by this legislation.
Many states are abusing the power of eminent domain to condemn property
for non-public purposes. To prevent these abuses in Georgia and protect
property owners, several of my colleagues and I have introduced
legislation this session that will actually limit the condemnation of
private property. Our proposal (SB 86) would prohibit public entities
from condemning property solely to improve the community's tax base or for
economic development. The measure explicitly prohibits the condemnation
of property for the purpose of transferring it to a private developer.
Any exercise of eminent domain will be strictly limited to facility and
infrastructure improvements necessary to serve the public good.
Ultimately, the goal of SB 5 is to provide local governments the option to
use the energy and efficiency of the free enterprise system to build
public projects without raising property taxes or increasing debt. This
measure will provide another tool to local government in the effort to
improve the infrastructure in their community. The legislation will
expedite their ability to finance and construct roads, water treatment
plants, schools, soccer fields, parks or any number of public facilities
by partnering with private entities. This will allow citizens to enjoy
the use of community improvements sooner rather than later.
Again, I fully appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns.
Rest assured that I will continue to work diligently to protect the
property rights of Georgia's citizens. Please do not hesitate to contact
me if you have any additional questions or concerns.
In my understanding (someone please correct me if I'm wrong) SB 5 doesn't change the eminent domain laws, but it sure gives a lot of incentive to abuse them. Now if SB 86 does indeed propose that property forcefully bought through the use of eminent domain cannot be turned around and sold/handed over to private entities, then it is well over due. But if that is the case wouldn't that eliminate the possibility of SB 5 ever being used?
Can someone smarter than I (which dang near all of you qualify) please explain this to me?
By JIM THARPE, CHRISTOPHER QUINN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 01/28/05
A state Capitol imbroglio has erupted over a proposal critics say would permit governments to hand over private property to developers with too little oversight.
Senate Bill 5 would permit private developers to build public projects such as fire stations, parks, office buildings and roads for local governments without competitive bids. The governments could form public-private partnerships with developers to finance the projects, condemning any private property needed under eminent domain — the legal right to seize land.
UNDER SENATE BILL 5
• A contractor may propose building a new school, park, sewer plant or any public facility, and submits a conceptual design, schedule, financing plan and location. Or a government may invite a company to make a proposal. Financing can include bonds, grants, leases back to the government or the charging of fees for use.
• The government has 30 days to review the proposal without public input. The details are kept secret until the government approves the deal.
• If it approves, the government can publish a notice that it is considering the project with a general description. Other companies can send a notice saying they will submit a bid within 90 days. The government does not have to submit a project for competing bids.
• The company can request the government condemn or buy land it has chosen for the project.
• The government works out details of financing and length of leases or payments. Fees and tolls are not subject to regulation by key state agencies. Prices can be renegotiated during the term of the agreement.
• The company would build the project, with the right to own and operate it. It would deed the property back to the government after a certain time.
The process of selecting projects also would be secretive, with no details released until the government essentially approves the project. The companies would operate and build the facilities for a profit, in some cases leasing them to local governments or charging fees for their use.
"You're taking from one private party and transferring to another private party," environmental lobbyist Neill Herring said. "It's a tyrannical, dictatorial use of power."
But state Sen. Dan Moody (R-Alpharetta), the bill's main sponsor, said the proposal allows governments to build infrastructure sooner than they would be able to under traditional financing arrangements. He said the involvement of the private sector would provide alternative financing not available to governments and not dependent on tax collections.
Moody said the proposal, which died in a House committee two years ago, has been miscast by its detractors.
"It has nothing to do with allowing someone to take advantage of someone else," Moody said. "The paragraph on eminent domain could be extracted from the bill in its entirety and nothing else would change."
The proposal has struck a nerve. Environmentalists, property rights advocates and others are lining up to bash the bill.
A recent editorial in the Bainbridge newspaper compared the proposal to the 1795 Yazoo Land Fraud in which the state's lawmakers took bribes to sell the state's western land claims. The Savannah Morning News also criticized the proposal in an editorial.
Radio talkmeister Neal Boortz alleged during his Thursday morning show that the proposal gives developers the ability to "to rape private property owners." Telephone lines were soon jammed at the Capitol offices of the bill's sponsors. "They're threatening our college interns who are answering the phones," said state Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson (R-Savannah), a co-sponsor of the bill. Johnson posted a defense of the plan on his Web site, contending that it would allow communities to tap private sectors' resources for projects of public interest, without raising taxes.
Moody stressed the bill, which has not yet been debated in committee, is at the very beginning of the legislative process. "I'm open for suggestions as to how we can perfect this bill to eliminate anybody's concern about anything in it," he said.
The Virginia-based law firm of Hunton & Williams was a primary force behind the proposed law. The firm consults for governments using such statutes to build projects with private help.
Mark Grantham, one of the firm's Atlanta-based attorneys, said fears about the abuse of eminent domain are unfounded. Local governments still would have to go through a legal process — just as before — to condemn private property.
"As a practical matter, a privately built project is not going to succeed if the public opposition is there to the ball field or sewer treatment plant," Grantham said.
He said the law has been used successfully in Virginia and Texas, other states where growth has outstripped the government's ability to keep up with new infrastructure.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider a New London, Conn., case that could clarify when localities can take private property for use in economic development. The city decided to develop a 90-acre site including a waterfront hotel and new residences. The city argued the improvements would revitalize the area, and used eminent domain to seize property from owners who wouldn't sell voluntarily.
The proposed Georgia law concerns even some of those who generally favor public-private partnerships as a way to assist government.
Georgia Public Policy Foundation spokeswoman Benita Dodd said the organization is concerned about the secretive way the proposals can be considered by governments and the lack of competitive bidding. "Competitive bidding has got to be part of the process. That's a way to protect the public," Dodd said.
A.K.A. Chavez Ravine
Los Angeles, California
Tenants: L.A. Dodgers (NL; 1962-present); L.A. / California Angels (AL; 1962-1965)
Opened: April 10, 1962
Owner: Los Angeles Dodgers
Land area: 300 acres
Cost: $23 million
Location: In Chavez Ravine, on a hill overlooking downtown Los Angeles. Left field (N by NW), Glendale Boulevard; third base (W by SW), Sunset Boulevard; home plate (S by SW), 1000 Elysian Park Avenue; first base (S by SE), Pasadena Freeway (I-10); right field (E by NE), Los Angeles Police Academy, Elysian Park, and Golden State Freeway (I-5); Stadium Way encircles the park.
When Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley was negotiating with the city of Los Angeles in 1957 over the deal that would take the Dodgers out of Brooklyn, he and a county supervisor took a helicopter ride over Los Angeles to look for potential stadium sites. When they flew over the empty 300-acre lot at Chavez Ravine, surrounded by freeways and within sight of the downtown skyline, O’Malley is said to have pointed and asked, "Can I have that one?" The supervisor replied, "No problem."
(What they try to tell you happened.)
Dodger Stadium was baseball’s only privately financed stadium built since Yankee Stadium (1923) and until Pacific Bell Park (2000). Until Denver’s Coors Field was built in 1995, Dodger Stadium and Chicago’s Wrigley Field were the only National League parks built exclusively for baseball. The Los Angeles / California Angels shared Dodger Stadium from April 17, 1962 until September 22, 1965. The stadium was known as Chavez Ravine when the Angels were playing there.
NOTE: This is as I remember it from the newspapers and TV news commentary at the time.... I was living in Los Angeles at the time it happened and know the Chavez Ravine area since I lived and worked just a short distance from it during most of the following proceedings.
The Real Truth:
The story in the first paragraph is partially true, with one major exception. Chavez Ravine was not an empty 300 acre lot as they would try to have you believe.
At least 200 acres of that property was owned by either people whose family had acquired it thru "Spanish Land Grants" during the early days of Californiia, or occupied by Mexican "Squatters" who lived in shanty shacks on the 100 acre "empty lot" long enough to have established "squatters rights" of eminent domain. Most of the houses that were there were of "stucco" construction several decades old. Because of the "history" of this property the taxes collected on it by the City of Los Angeles were insignificant, if any. The City of Los Angeles at first tried to purchase this land from the landowners for "pennies on the dollar" of its true "real estate value" due mainly to its central location near downtown Los Angeles and the developing Freeway System being built during this period. (An ideal location for easy access to a sports complex.) The majority of these landowners were approached by lawyers who knew the true future value this land was worth and offered to represent these landowners for a small percentage of the final sales price, but only if they could get the "true value" of the land. The "haggeling" over the value of the land went on for over a year.... finally, the city began to proceed with "condemnation" of the property for the "benefit of the people" in acquiring this land for PUBLIC USE. The City of Los Angeles was successful in this "condemnation" and acquired the property at almost NO COST to the city government and THEN EVICTED ALL THE RESIDENTS. They then contracted out the development and construction of the stadium to a private firm (pretty much on a consignment basis). Almost as soon as the stadium was completed, THE LAND was sold to private developers (can you say Walter O'malley and his investors) for a "penance" amount of money at that time ($23 Million is only the value of the "improvements"). During the next decade, there were many stories disclosed about the "corruption and bribes" involved in these proceedings.
If someone with better research ability than I have can find the news articles and reports of these events, please post the "links" here.
The above example seems to "mirror" what could happen if GA SB5 is passed and becomes law. Even though those who have sponsored and signed this proposal may not be openly or obviously able to profit from it, they are in a position to have friends who CAN & WILL make large profits from any involved projects (but, of course, they wouldn't think of accepting "kickbacks" or "gifts" for helping out their "friends"). Most of us are aware of how "Ghost Corporations" are used to hide such investments (Can you say "Charles Walker"?)
I haven't read all of the proposed GA SB5 in detail, so if I am in error, please point it out to me and others.
Question: What's the half-life on a bill that's rapidly becoming radioactive?
State Sen. Dan Moody (R-Roswell) on Monday insisted that life remains in his bill to make it easier to form public-private partnerships for anything from schools to tollways — and which critics say makes it easier to confiscate private property and hand it over to developers.
He'll have a hearing on it Tuesday, and said he welcomes improvements. "People should be applauding — including the talk show people," he said.
But Democrats in the chamber, who are mere observers on this one, have already dubbed S.B. 5 to be "DBW." That's Dead Bill Walking.
This land grab is happening in Norwood, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati.elmo There we have Joy and Carl Gamble.elmo They've been living in their house for 35 years now.elmoelmo A private developer wants their home for a shopping mall and some apartments.elmo Enter Mayor Thomas Williams and the City of Norwood.elmo The Gambles have been ordered to leave their home by Thursday.elmo The city needed some sort of excuse, so the Mayor says that the neighborhood is "deteriorating" because, as this champion of private property rights puts it, "there's noise and congestion and everything."elmoelmo
So that's what it takes now?elmo If there's noise in your neighborhood, of if there's traffic congestion, that's all the government needs to pay you some lowball price, force you out and hand your property over for a developer to build some malls, condos, apartments or whatever.elmoelmo
You know what this is about, don't you?elmo Money.elmo Follow the money.elmo The shopping mall and the apartment complex will bring in more taxes then these private homes do.elmo So if you're a politician looking for more tax money to spend to buy votes so that you can keep your nice little position of power, why not force people who pay little in property taxes out of their homes and hand the property over to some fancy developer -- a developer who has probably already fattened your campaign war chest -- and let that developer build a shopping mall and some apartments!
A lot of you have been listening to me cite these examples of violations of basic property rights .. and you sit around and shake your heads.elmo It's a real shame, isn't it?elmo Well, you had better start doing more than shaking your heads.elmo It could be your home next week or next month.elmo If you believe in private property rights it is time for you to get proactive.
How about a link?elmo Here you go, The City of Norwood!elmo Knock yourselves out!