About a week ago I read an article in the Hanford Sentinal that made a statement to the effect that property owners had the right to leave their properties vacant. This set me to thinking, “Is that really a Right?'

So many people seem to think that whatever they want, they have a right to it. When I was in school, when they taught kids about how our government works, there were only certain things that had been outlined as rights, namely Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. In addition, the first ten amendments to our Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights.

The right to the Pursuit of Happiness is not a guarantee that one will achieve Happiness, it is just the Right to pursue it. But here lies the conflict. When the right of the property owner to leave their property vacant infringes upon the rights of the business owners for the Pursuit of their Happiness, it becomes the duty of the local government to resolve this conflict. Eminent Domain is the tool by which the people that we have elected to serve our community may resolve this conflict.

But it is recognized that where one person's rights begin another person's rights end. How does this apply to Eminent Domain? In the sense of an economic district of a town, one must look at the consequence of a prolonged vacancy of business space. It devalues the properties within that district. It causes blight. It causes reduced commercial traffic to the district, reducing the sales of the businesses still struggling to do business in that district, which may cause them to close permanently. And each business that goes out of business results in less sales tax revenue for the entire town. In other words, what affects that business district affects the entire town.

One additional note: There are options for the property owners who may face Eminent Domain proceedings . They can develop the property for a business to occupy that space, Or they may sell their property willingly, in which case the property owner is in control of the process.

Jeff Porterfield


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