Saturday, November 19, 2005

Politics Ain't Beanbag: Use Eminent Domain

Councilwoman Sandy Carmany is in a quandary about whether the city should purchase Bill Agapion's half-burned, other-half-nasty apartment complex on the corner of Friendly & Cedar Sts. for $1.6 million -- well above its market price.

So, from the safety of my armchair, I offer brave advice to the Council: use your power of eminent domain.

I share most people's wariness about that solution of last resort, but I think Mr. Agapion's customary nose-thumbing at minimum housing standards has pushed the city about as far as it should allow itself to be pushed.

If the city pays $1.6 million for this mess, Mr. Agapion will have effectively soiled the city's carpet, then rubbed the citizens' collective noses in it.

Reasons other than avoiding civic humiliation militate toward using some constitutional muscle here. To wit:

1. The city's Comprehensive Plan calls for redevelopment of urban neighborhoods; see especially sections 6A.1, 6A.2, 6A.4, 6B.1, 7C.3. Acting on the basis of the Comp Plan ensures that the city is not acting capriciously or precipitously.

2. The taking -- at market price -- and resale could (and should) be conditional upon developing the property according to the just-adopted Cedar Street Plan so as to ensure that the neighborhood's low-income residents can continue to live there. The Cedar Street plan is also perfectly consonant with sections 6A.1 and 6A.2 of the Comp Plan.

3. If the redevelopment is under the control of Housing and Community Development director Andy Scott, it will be done well. I mean, really well done. The projects that have come from his department -- Willow Oaks, East Market Street, Southside -- are all national award-winning, cutting-edge developments. These efforts are in no way to be confused with the Project Homestead or St. James fiascos.

To those of you who are freaking out about the use of eminent domain, let me say that in my opinion, Bill Agapion is the poster boy for the downside of strong property rights.

In the exercise thereof, I think he has provided substandard housing to his tenants, reduced property values to his neighbors, and a bad public profile for our city. I believe he has wasted countless tax dollars in code and law enforcement time and effort. All of this is a direct result of our collective high regard for the rights of individual property owners and our attendant reluctance to enforce minimum standards vigorously.

Politics ain't beanbag, it's hardball -- and Mr. Agapion plays for keeps. Time to throw him our best high-and-inside fastball.


Anonymous said...

You chose "B."

My choice is "A," but yeah, I know, I know...

David Wharton said...

Yes, but I'll pray for "A".

Christians are supposed to be hopeful, after all.

Anonymous said...

Agapion is to property rights as the KKK is to free speech rights.

Patrick Eakes said...


A classics professor used a sports metaphor.

Jay Ovittore said...

As someone who was outraged at the eminent domain ruling from the Supreme Court, I happen to agree with it's use in this situation. Mr. Agipion is a slumlord. If the city doesn't act on this, he will continue his slumlording. Kodak moment-Ovittore and Wharton agree. Just poking fun David, we agree to disagree a lot, but I consider you a friend all the same.

jimcaserta said...

There is a big difference between Kelo (recent Supreme Ct. case on eminent domain) and this instance. In Kelo, homes were being taken, and in this case the property is about as unimproved as it can get.

Diane Grey Davis said...

Hey Folks,

We might be helping Agipion by purchasing his property at an inflated price. But we should consider that he has made lots of improvements to his Cedar Street property in the past year. New roofs, bringing plumbing and floors up to code and improving the house on the corner of Cedar and Friendly.
I have been told that the apartments that were destroyed were not insured. Maybe the city should not rush into anything until we have a better handle on how Mr. Agipion intends to use the property in the future. He might consider building more up-scale housing or mixed use units if he thinks there is money to be made.

ALSO - What about other properties that he owns?

He will probably benefit financially if Greensboro extends our sewer lines out to Pleasant Garden so that a grocery store can possibly be build or rehabed at a shopping center he owns.

What are we thinking?

The man might not be nice, but he is obviously smart.