Letter: Does not support eminent domain for FSDB

LEANNA FREEMANLetter: Does not support eminent domain for FSDB

Leanna Freeman
St Augustine, FL

Dear Editor:

Our lawmakers were sent to Tallahassee to bring about fiscal responsibility and smaller government for state residents.

We rely on them to advocate sound financial decisions and legislation that will strengthen municipalities and individual rights.

They have been asked to pass House Bill 1037; which will give powers of eminent domain to the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, and remove the requirement that the school’s expansion be subject to City approval.

The bill is being lobbied by State Rep. William Proctor, who will retire in 2012.

Lawmakers should not pass House Bill 1037.

Our state should not support a bill that negatively impacts our community’s economy.

FSDB is located within the City of St. Augustine, a community of 13,000 residents. I have been told by realtors and appraisers that the impact of the proposal has already devalued neighboring properties and made them less desirable to potential buyers.

Reducing property values reduces the city’s tax base. The 13,000 residents who finance a city, which supports 5 million visitors per year, will be faced with a heavier burden.

The school in recent years purchased and removed from our local tax rolls at least two city blocks. The State funded the purchase of property zoned mostly single family residential for building non-single family facilities.

I wonder how the multi-million dollar purchase was approved and whether the right questions were asked at the time.

These properties were removed from the tax base and the weight was again shifted to the residents.

Every property owner should ask how the value of their property would be impacted if their neighbors were given powers of eminent domain. I suspect all response would be negative.

While visitors love our city because of its “livability,” it is clear that neighboring properties will be much less desirable when neighbors have powers of eminent domain and streets formerly lined with homes are lined with massive institutionally designed structures.

The school, its students and its employees are unarguably assets to our community. I hear no one speak more fondly of the students and their goals than the residents with whom they have the most interaction, the school’s neighbors. There are about 650 students at the 73 acre-school, which is down near ten percent from five years ago.

So, why the urgent need for unrestricted expansion?

In Proctor’s letter to the editor of The Record, he quoted the school president‘s declaration that there “are no current plans to acquire additional properties.” If there are no plans to acquire additional property, enrollment is on the decline and the impact of passing the bill is negative on property values and our community, then why seek eminent domain and why would a lawmaker support the passage?

As to building on the acquired property, why not do so in a way that would complement the neighborhood?

How about a structure designed to complement the neighboring homes?

Let’s hope the right questions are asked this time around.

Photo credits: © 2012 Historic City News staff photographer

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