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Who's "Taking" Whom?
Lee Walton

Mercy! Mayor Joseph "Pericles" Riley sure got his knickers in a wad over the pending House "Takings Bill" in his recent Palter & Chatter Op-Ed. What a classic example of his imperial attitude toward his "subjects" and those who dare to disagree. In the interest of fair play, let's examine a few of his better known "takings":

Who is "taking" the taxpayers of Charleston County for a ride in an empty bus as he helps CARTA's incompetent Director to the keys of the ½ % Sales Tax "Piggy Bank"?

Who "took" us all for a bath in the SC Aquarium and hoses us down annually for more City taxes to keep his Acropolis from "floundering"?

Who "took" a multi-million dollar federal grant and loaned it to the developers of Charleston Place as the poster-child of "good-old-boy" deals with a no-payment, no-interest loan that has yet to pay back a penny in over two decades?

Who is assisting in the "taking" of a historic church for re-adaptive use as a private theater in the middle of a historic downtown neighborhood?

Who supported the "taking" of a historic Sea-Island Plantation on James Island for a re-adaptive use as a college campus?

Who is "taking" the last large, vacant urban green space on the Peninsula and selling it in another "good-old-boy" deal for yet more hotels and high-end condominiums that only wealthy "Come-here's" can afford?

Who gave us the "shaft" as he "took" over $2 million in taxes to build a tunnel under Maybank Highway just to show everyone he had the power to do it?

Who "took" the Dill Sisters' Will intended to leave a large nature preserve and passive green space, used all his resources to break it, and then helped to sell the majority of the land to a "good-old-boy" who developed over 1,400 housing units on it?

Who assisted another "good-old-boy" to "take" his low-income housing project, level it and then redevelop it into new trendy residential homes that displaced a significant percentage of the Peninsula's minority population?

Who had the audacity to "take" credit for downzoning a sizable chunk of Lawton Bluff from multi-family to single-family housing? Hundreds of James Islanders successfully fought and won this battle against "Pericles" during the late 1970's and early 1980's.

Before we follow "Pericles" further like a flock of barnyard geese, let's look at what the pending "Takings Act" will accomplish. Basically, it will "level the playing field" between the powers of local government and private landowners. This bill, and at least two others now being debated, have their common genesis in a recent US Supreme Court ruling, Kelo v. City of New London, which held that New London could exercise its power of eminent domain and take Ms. Kelo's home away from her for a public purpose, then sell it to a private developer to build a shopping center. The key element in this case redefined "public use" in the 5th Amendment to include "public purpose", a much broader, subjective definition. This ruling has precipitated a national awareness and debate about private property rights, eminent domain, "takings" and "just compensation" due to landowners whose land values are reduced by zoning changes or more restrictive land use regulations.

Make no mistake about it! South Carolina's proposed "Just Compensation for Land Use Restrictions Act" will have profound, long-range effects that will restrict and temper future local government actions, which could reduce the fair market value of private land.

One of the basic imperatives of local government is to protect and enhance the value of real property by establishing and enforcing zoning and land use regulations that increase property values for all landowners and, not coincidently, the underlying tax base. Such power, if equitably exercised, should "float all boats" for the benefit of every landowner. The proposed "Just Compensation Act" addresses the relative fairness of such imperatives to protect and enhance the real property values of the majority, albeit while sometimes causing losses to a few. The proposed "Act" does not mandate that local governments must automatically compensate landowners when new regulations reduce their land value, but it does give the damaged landowner the legal right to bring an action against local government to recover the loss suffered by the "taking" of value from their land. The proposed Act also will establish a detailed framework for mitigation or litigation to equitably resolve the adverse impacts of "takings" that reduce land value.

So, why the recent foot-stomping temper tantrum by "Pericles" and his public lambasting of legislators who dared to vote for the "Just Compensation Act"? First, the proposed legislation will shine a lot more "day light" onto possible "takings" and the deliberation of future land use regulations proposed by local governments. Second, it will temper "Pericles'" imperial mandates by requiring more open deliberations between all stakeholders. The "Act" will also require detailed cost-benefit evaluations that must recognize all adverse impacts and public costs precipitated by more restrictive land use regulations. Finally, the Act" will chill the current annexation fever for undeveloped land in exchange for favorable zoning and "good-old-boy" development agreements like those given to the Daniel Island and Cainhoy landowners. The proposed "Takings Act" will mandate that local governments zone newly annexed property for the greater, long-term public good and best interest of all landowners - a zoning that is appropriate, equitable, and able to stand the test of time.

Will "Pericles" get his way by "foot stomping and name-calling" or will cooler heads in the State Legislature prevail?

Your Comments:

I think the name "Pericles" for Mayor Riley fits him to a T. Athens eventually fell to Sparta if my history serves me right. May we should all form CARR---> Citizens against re-electing Riley before he throttles Charleston any further

Posted by: jim Fragale at April 1, 2006 05:30 PM

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