In St. Paul, an abuse of eminent domain

  • Article by: KAREN HAUG
  • Updated: October 17, 2008 - 1:49 PM
The St. Paul Port Authority wants to take my company’s property by eminent domain and kick my nearly 50-year-old family run business out of St. Paul. It is using a bogus environmental claim as an excuse to give my property to some yet-to-be-determined private developer. And if the Port Authority gets away with abusing the laws, your home or business could be next.

 

The Port Authority believes using eminent domain is a shortcut for economic development. But eminent domain throws a wrench into the machinery of the American Dream. It destroys the expectation that if you play by the rules, you’ll get to rise or fall on your own merits. That is why the Minnesota Legislature restricted its use in 2006.

Now the Port Authority wants to break the new eminent domain rules and use the environment as a decoy to take our land. But our property adheres to all Minnesota Pollution Control Agency directives. The bottom line is that there is no need to take our land to ensure that the property continues to be environmentally safe.

My business rents and sells large construction equipment and requires a large area of land to operate. We have contributed to such building as the Cathedral of St. Paul, Xcel Energy Center and most recently Regions Hospital. We are not a "dump" as the Port Authority has stated. We have been good stewards of the land, and have relentlessly complied with all laws and regulations. We have spent countless dollars investing in our property and making sure that it is well kept and organized. But somehow we are now in danger of losing our property.

Living under the cloud of eminent domain has been tremendously disruptive to our business and our employees. Despite the pretense of working for the public good, the Port Authority doesn’t seem to care about the people they want to displace. The potential loss of many long-term employees who can no longer afford the commute many miles outside the city but are critical to the success of our business does not enter the minds of the Port Authority. We are a family business and almost half of our employees have been with us for over 20 years. Those relationships are threatened if we are forced to move out of St. Paul.

Everyone who hears about this says, "How can they do that-its just wrong!" And they are right-what the Port Authority is doing is wrong. It is wrong because it threatens the viability of my business and my employees’ jobs just so some other private party can use our land for their private use. And it is wrong because it threatens the dreams of all small business owners.

Our business has contributed much to the community and does not deserve to be treated like this. If this is how the Port Authority uses taxpayer dollars to "attract" businesses to St. Paul, then the citizens of this great city are being robbed.

My employees and I are determined to fight this wrongful taking. We hope that the St. Paul City Council will look behind the bogus claims of the Port Authority and protect the property rights of small business owners like me, the jobs of hard-working people like my employees, and the dreams of all entrepreneurs and what they can achieve if they play by the rules of fairness and hard work.

Karen Haug is CEO of the Advance companies and is fighting an eminent domain action with the help of the Institute for Justice Minnesota Chapter.

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