Eminent domain is necessary for a strong country because not everyone can differentiate between what is good for the country and what is good for themselves. However our founding fathers realized that there was a lot of potential for abuse and were very specific on how the power of eminent domain could be used. That changed in 1954 due to the Supreme Court ruling in Berman v. Parker and was made even less specific more recently in 2005 in the ruling Kelo v. City of New London. Such an out cry arose over the loose interpretation that many states have now enacted tougher requirements to use eminent domain to prevent abuses by governments. Suddenly a government right next door is trying to abuse the use of eminent domain and I have a front row seat.
Maharishi Vedic City (a.k.a. Maharishiville), which is located just north of town, is trying to condemn private property and turn it into a city park. Here are the facts:
1. The property that Maharishiville is trying to condemn consists of 148.95 acres outside the current city limits. Over 1500 acres of undeveloped land that also could be used remain inside the city limits.
2. Maharishiville made a "fair" offer for the land at $2675 per acre. According to the Jefferson County Assessor's Office, the land is worth $5000 per acre according to a recent sale by the same landowner of adjacent lands.
3. Maharishiville has only been in existence for six years and was incorporated in 2001. The farm that they are trying to condemn has been owned by the same family for over 100 years and is listed as a Century Farm on the Historic Register of Iowa.
So why all of a sudden are the gurus wanting to use brute force to take over a historic farm to turn into a city park outside of city limits when 1500 acres within city limits exists and is unused? It is because the Maharishi disagree with how the owner of the land intends to use it.
The Palms have been farming for over a hundred years in a rural area and that means livestock. They want to improve their livestock capability by buildings some state of the art buildings with moderated climate and feeding systems. However, the gurus decided six years ago that they were going to build their utopia right in the middle of all this agricultural land and now are offended when someone wants to use it as such. Initially they lied and said that they had that land marked out as a park all along but when word got out, they now admit that they just don't want it next to where they chose to locate their city. The farm existed first by 94+ years and yet they think they have the right to take it.
Even by today's loose federal standards of the use of eminent domain, they haven't a prayer of winning the case. The government has allowed eminent domain cases to proceed based on the argument that the taxable value would increase. In the case of the Palms, it would decrease by turning it into a city park that is tax-free on county tax rolls. Even more fortunate, Iowa was one of the states that passed a stricter interpretation of eminent domain after the badly ruled Kilo v. City of New London ruling a couple years ago.
The gurus are on the losing end but that isn't stopping them. They voted to proceed and are going to have an open meeting before condemning the land. That will then force the Palms to hire a lawyer and defend their land in district court costing them time and money. The Palms have said they would and I pray that they do. When they win, I hope they turn around and sue the ass off of Maharishiville right before they build their hog buildings on the upwind side. I also hope that this will serve as a lesson that when you choose to build your utopia house or city out in the country, you have to take the good AND the bad along with it.