The Gastonia City Council is having a monumentally difficult time conducting a rational community development process. Recently, the Council voted 4 to 3 to approve condemnations for a $3 million “greenway”, which apparently Gastonia residents do not want.
The Gaston Gazette’s editorial provides an apt description of the difficulties and uncertainties of using eminent domain for projects that that barely fit the definition of “public use”. Fortunately, North Carolina property owners will vote on a state constitutional amendment in 2012 that will limit eminent domain to traditional public uses.
Obviously weighing on the mind of Council member Brenda Craig is the council’s decision to use eminent domain threats to take the land of two Gastonia residents so the city can construct a greenway to connect downtown to Rankin Lake Park.
Rankin Lake, you’ll remember, is where the council is spending almost $3 million on a re-do after voters told them not to.
Mrs. Craig, criticized by some council members for bringing up the topic as a last-minute agenda item, voted against condemning the property. Two other council members, Dale Burkett and John Howren, sided with her. The three were out-voted by Keith Tidwell, Walker Reid, David Kirlin and Major Jennie Stultz, who put their “vision” of Gastonia ahead of private property rights.
City Attorney Ashe Smith advised against such a resolution, calling eminent domain a useful tool in the government toolbox.
A hammer, perhaps?