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Friday, August 12, 2005

An Airport Only a Dandelion Could Love

The Roanoke Times reveals (at least to me) a rather pernicious attempt on the part of the Franklin County, Virginia Board of Supervisors to exercise their power of eminent domain and condemn 330 acres belonging to 18 landowners for the potential construction of a general aviation airport.

The Times rightly denounces the effort:
An eminently weak case for an airport

Franklin County land takings for uncertain public benefit would be an abuse of eminent domain.

Franklin County apparently has a suitable site for a general-aviation airport. It apparently can get the federal government to pay much of the cost to build it.

One crucial ingredient is still missing, however: a plausible argument that the public benefit would be broad and extensive enough to justify using the power of eminent domain to take hundreds of acres from 18 landowners.

... land takings in pursuit of such vague, uncertain community benefits -- and quite specific benefits for a well-to-do few -- look distressingly similar to the abusive exploitation feared by critics of the high court's ruling.

If a more substantial case can be made for the airport as an economic development asset, supporters should make it.

Without far better evidence, Franklin County's elected officials have no business using eminent domain to take land from unwilling owners. (
The Times is right, of course, to put the smackdown on Franklin County's lamentable interest in economic development through the creation of an airport that will sprout plenty of weeds but nary a job for the hard-pressed area.

And as for the wealthy who might benefit from the airport, my guess is they'll do just fine without all the help. They can jet into Roanoke or they can helicopter into Smith Mountain Lake.

My suggestion to all concerned is: Let's first give them a reason to want to.