OMT One Man's Trash...from Norman Leahy

Tuesday, May 30, 2006 :::

Kelo in Reverse

An odd tale from a small California community (where else?) that used eminent domain to seize land not from a small property owner, but from Wal-Mart.

City officials want a "villagelike atmosphere" in Hercules, with no retailer bigger than 64,000 square feet in this location. Local businesses however, don't seem to agree.

Doug Mull, a vice president of Lewis Co., which previously owned the land, said his company couldn't find any tenants interested in the property under the city plans. That's when his company proposed to let Wal-Mart open a larger store. After the city rejected the proposal, Wal-Mart bought the property and has continued efforts to build a store.

The city council agreed with outspoken residents who claimed that there is no demand for Wal-Mart's products in the area and that upscale restaurants, boutique stores and specialty retailers such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are needed instead.

Where were these tenants when Lewis Co. was trying to lease the property according to city's central plan? Apparently those businesses don't estimate the same demand for their products as the city government does.

There is a certain justice to this, if, as the author says, Wal-Mart has used the eminent domain card to advance store construction in others locations. But that does not excuse the blinkered belief (even a fatal conceit) among Hercules politicians and planners that they know better than the market what should be constructed where.

::: posted by Norman Leahy at 5/30/2006 0 comments


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