Centene Corp. Hears A Can’t
Huge news in Clayton yesterday as an Appeals Court rejected Clayton’s, and Centene Corporation’s, bid to acquire three properties on Forsyth by eminent domain for Centene’s large and controversial expansion and retail project. I am less radical on the issue of eminent domain than others here at SMI, so you can look forward to posts with additional analysis and more gloating from others, but there is no doubt that the area in question is absolutely NOT blighted by any normal understanding of the word.
The appellate court concluded, however, that a study by a planning firm, PGAV, suggesting the area was blighted was insufficient evidence for city aldermen to make the blighting determination.
I know this area very well, and the buildings in question are very nice, productive properties. To reach this determination the three judges really just had to go for a walk along Forsyth. The buildings in question are just not as productive as some would like them to be. That, however, does not forfeit their rights as property owners. I truly hope that a negotiated compromise, in a traditional business (i.e. pay for for the land), not legal, manner is reached and this project goes forward, as it will be great for Clayton.
In fairness to Clayton, they are not doing anything that has not already been done numerous times by neighboring cities like Richmond Heights, Brentwood and Maplewood. Clayton is just doing it (or trying to do it) after the Kelo decision when people are much more aware of the abuses of eminent domain. Clayton is also oppoosed by people much more powerful, and wealthier, than people who have lost the eminent domain battles in other parts of St. Louis County. You may have caught that one of the property owners fighting the development is a ‘Danforth.’ I am guessing that most people don’t remember the names of the people in Evans Place, hell, I can’t even Google Evans Place and it wasn’t torn down until the 90’s.
What I just wrote is not a defense of the project as much as looking at both sides, which is always positive even when one side is pretty clearly in the right. It is a good thing that judges, and hopefully politicians, start to define ‘blight’ much more stringently. Clayton is not blighted, but I still hope the project moves forward without the use of eminent domain.