Eminent Domain: Roadway Rumble in Rowlett

 

Todd W. Gottel , Mayor City of Rowlett
Todd W. Gottel , Mayor
City of Rowlett

If out in Hood County or down in Duval County, what’s happening in the City of Rowlett would seem to me “business as usual”.

So, what’s happening in Rowlett, Texas? Takings. Eminent domain. Think: eminent domain for a private property owner.

Back in the day when founders were putting the finishing touches on our beloved U.S. Constitution, there were added ten amendments. These ten are called The Bill of Rights. To refresh your understanding, rights come from God, not from government, as in “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Pursuit of Happiness – Just words?

At the time Thomas Jefferson was busily constructing the Declaration of Independence, he had input from various contributors. Jefferson originally intended to write “Life, Liberty and Property”. George Mason preferred the word “property” to describe an unambiguous natural right.  Benjamin Franklin told him “property” was too broad and preferred the phrase “the pursuit of happiness”. Debates continue to this day on the meaning of those four words.

Back in 1964 Arthur Schlesinger wrote an essay on this subject. Schlesinger observed that the language of the day – pursuit – means ‘practice’; practicing business, enjoying rewards from others for the use of one’s property. For examples: a farrier practiced his business of making and mounting horseshoes for the benefit of nearby horse owners who in turn rewarded him for his services.

Looking over to Rowlett

City of Rowlett Meeting Agenda for City Council, Tuesday, January 20, 2015
City of Rowlett Meeting Agenda for City Council, Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Public street? Indeed? Taking the property of one owner for the exclusive benefit of another property owner does not violate the “takings clause” of the Fifth Amendment?

No person shall be … deprived of … property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. – Fifth Amendment

My question for Mayor Todd Gottel and Rowlett City Council members: How would a publicly funded street constructed upon land taken from one land owner for the exclusive benefit of another not violate the Takings Clause?

Todd W. Gottel Mayor tgottel@rowlett.com
Robbert van Bloemendaal Place 1 robbertvb@rowlett.com 
Tammy Dana-Bashian Place 2 tdana-bashian@rowlett.com
Carl Pankratz, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Place 3 cpankratz@rowlett.com
Debby Bobbitt Place 4 dbobbitt@rowlett.com
Rick Sheffield Place 5 rsheffield@rowlett.com

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