The Fall River administration is seeking property for a potential future Indian resort casino site.
The community might find itself in a true conflict, bringing Kelo questions to Massachusetts. The issues of the highest and best use of the property may be the only way to stop the project.
Fall River City Councilor Ray Mitchell’s proposal for the city to "consider taking" — by eminent domain powers — a 230-acre property that the Aquinnah Wampanoag Indian tribe is eyeing for a possible resort casino site represents the latest troubling example of governmental overreach.
In an apparent attempt to address the "NIMBY" concerns expressed by residents in the rural eastern corner of the city where the undeveloped parcel sits, Mitchell has proposed the land taking to preserve as a bioreserve.
Mitchell is clearly putting the cart well ahead of the horse. While neighbors and at least some city officials do not support the idea of a resort casino, the Aquinnah plan is far from reality, and the tribe is looking at several locations throughout Massachusetts for its casino. For the city to take such a large private property at a significant expense — Mitchell estimates the cost of $1 million — would be a shortsighted attempt to stop a perceived "problem" that does not yet exist.
While Mitchell expressed hope that the city would be able to pay for such a land taking through federal and state preservation grants, that is also a long shot. And how much would permanently taking developable land off the tax rolls cost the city over the years?