IJ Arizona Chapter & Castle Coalition Score Victory For Property Rights
Arizona’s usually sunny sky was threatening rain just hours before Scottsdale’s City Council would vote whether to remove the threat of condemnation from hundreds of local businesses. Defying the clouds, members of the Castle Coalition marched toward City Hall to rally against eminent domain abuse. To the activists’ delight, the clouds parted and only liberty reigned.
Three years after being named “Most Livable City” by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Scottsdale declared its downtown a slum. Did the City’s downtown deteriorate rapidly? Absolutely not. The slum finding was required by state law to designate the downtown’s several “redevelopment areas.” Redevelopment designations authorize Arizona cities to use eminent domain.
Following the designation, the downtown area languished. Long-term leases were difficult to sign. As rumors circulated about developers conspiring with council members to condemn their property for various redevelopment projects, business owners feared investing additional resources. Developers also purchased property, purposely left the buildings vacant and refused to maintain common areas. The developers then had the gall to use those conditions to justify their proposed takings.
Fed up with redevelopment, property owners asked the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter to draft a Citizens’ Petition requesting the City Council to repeal downtown redevelopment areas. Two similar petitions had failed previously. After attending a Castle Coalition training seminar held in March, activists collected more than 100 signatures from local property owners and merchants and worked with IJ AZ to coordinate an aggressive media campaign. Castle Coalition members Judy Peters and Susan Wheeler were especially active every step of the way.
Required to vote on the petition within 30 days, the Council took up deliberations in September. Armed with two editorials supporting the petition and with two campaign pledges from newly elected council members, it appeared the petition might carry by one vote. However, public testimony and media scrutiny changed the tide, and the petition carried unanimously, thus clearing downtown Scottsdale’s cloud of eminent domain.