2.16.2007

The End of "Quick Take" Misuse in Baltimore City

Good news for anyone opposed to authoritarianism, Baltimore's "quick take" system that allowed for the seizure of property in "emergency" situations has been struck down. Of course, the problem was that the city was taking property in situations that were clearly not emergencies at all. The seizure in question was particularly disturbing, because it was done specifically to appease big developers.
The state Court of Appeals, in a blunt opinion that harshly criticized the city's favored property seizure technique, found Baltimore had no good reason to take a Charles North bar called The Magnet last year with a sped-up version of eminent domain called "quick take."

...

By condemning the bar and about 20 other Charles North properties, Baltimore officials aimed to assemble a sizable tract that would entice developers. The goal was revitalizing the depressed area between Mount Vernon and Charles Village along the busy Charles Street corridor.

The city filed a quick take petition on The Magnet in March, gaining immediate possession of the property without a hearing.
The city has no right to seize a legitimate business to make way for developers. Developers who are nowhere near ready to even begin building in the area.

Judge Carthell was correct in his decision:
"The City failed to provide sufficient reasons for its immediate possession of and title of the subject Property," Carthell wrote. "Without evidence that the continuing existence of a particular building or property is immediately injurious to the health and safety of the public, or is otherwise immediately needed for public use, there is no way to justify the need for immediate possession of the Property via quick-take condemnation proceedings.

"This is as opposed to offering a property owner the full process to which he or she is constitutionally due, via the exercise of the regular condemnation power."

"The basic rule in America has always been that government must give you your day in court before it takes your property," said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Timothy Sandefur, who filed a friend of the court brief in the case. "But in Maryland and other places, bureaucrats have been exploiting their emergency powers when it's not an emergency. They try to take property first, and ask questions later. It's wonderful to see the court issue such a strongly worded decision striking down such practices.
This decision should end the predatory use of "quick take" in Baltimore City, but this situation raises other important questions. Primarily, who is in bed with the developers here and why are they allowed such a lack of scrutiny. Yes, "quick take" is done, but the corrupt people who utilized it illegally are still around. Who are they, where is their apology, and why do they still hold jobs with the Baltimore Development Corp?

Join me in emailing both the Baltimore Development Corp. and Mayor Dixon to get the answers.

2 comments:

Bruce Godfrey said...

Hi Andy. A brief synopsis of Judge Dale Cathell's rather lengthy opinion is available here.

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