Liberty in Action Saves “Mayberry”

March 31, 2016

IJ’s activism team scored a huge victory for property rights when the town of Mount Airy, North Carolina, abolished its redevelopment commission and removed private properties from its redevelopment plans.

Mount Airy is the basis for the fictional town of Mayberry, the setting of The Andy Griffith Show. It is a quiet town and was home to the late, great Andy Griffith himself. But it quickly became the battlefield for a property rights struggle that enveloped the entire town, sculpting the landscape of a city commission election and leading to the dissolution of a rogue redevelopment commission.

In the center of Mount Airy lies an abandoned factory known as the “Spencer’s property.” Intending to revitalize the site, the City Board of Commissioners created the Mount Airy Redevelopment Commission (RDC), giving the new authority specific instructions to plan only for the redevelopment of the government-owned properties and to keep away from private property. Unfortunately, that is not what happened.

A city commissioner appointed to serve on the RDC included private businesses and homes in the redevelopment plan, against the wishes of his colleagues on the Board of Commissioners. In September 2015, the RDC promulgated the Westside Redevelopment Plan, recommending that the city declare 20 properties “blighted” and append them to the Spencer’s property for redevelopment. If property owners did not cooperate, the RDC could authorize eminent domain.

The attempted land grab dominated the local news and led to pointed questions during the election for four of the five city commissioners’ seats and the vacant position of mayor. The RDC planted a challenger in each election, but each fell to a candidate who opposed the redevelopment of private properties.

IJ’s activism team organized the property owners and created the Mount Airy Property Rights Alliance with one mission: Remove the private properties from the plan. MAPRA and IJ received excellent media coverage and worked closely with local activists to send a clear message to the Board of Commissioners that something must be done.

Supported by IJ, MAPRA demanded respect for their property rights at a public hearing of the Board of Commissioners, which then voted 4–1 to dissolve the RDC and manage the project themselves. Barely a week later, the commissioners voted to redraw the boundaries of the redevelopment plan, removing every privately owned property from its footprint. It is another victory for IJ’s activism team, which has saved more than 16,000 homes from eminent domain abuse.

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