Why You Need a New City Council. Part 1
Let’s be honest, between the Presidential, Senate, and State Representative races, the Shelbyville City Council race may not be on the forefront of your mind.
As such, to keep the race engaging, between now and Election Day I will be blogging about the issues I see Shelbyville facing, and how I plan to address them if elected. I will write the truth, my true self, the way I see the issues and the ways in which God allows me to see the world, my country, and my community. I will be brutally honest with you, perhaps to a fault; all to explain and show you what I believe are true issues affecting our community. As a disclaimer, I may offend you. Why? Because the things that need to be said are things that affect real people, good people, people that have done great things at previous times to make this community good. However, this is not a contest of who is a good person or not. Every person on City Council is a wonderful person and has dedicated their time and energy to this community; I am grateful to know all of them. However, having a full heart for the community does not always make you the right person to draft laws. The role of a Councilman is to draft the laws of the community, more specifically to draft those laws in conformity with Constitutional principles. The things I say between now and Election Day will only go to pinpoint the issues I believe are diverting us from Constitutional principles and standards, things that as a newcomer to Shelbyville, worry me, especially when I want to provide the best community to my children, and in turn, your own children.
Issue #1: EMINENT DOMAIN- Shelbyville’s “low hanging fruit”
For those who want the CliffsNotes version, this blog will discuss how the City has threatened to use the powers of Eminent Domain to take property from a small business in Shelbyville, why I believe doing so is wrong, and how if I am elected, I will seek to prevent our local government from doing so.
So what’s the story? It began in 2013 when Leonardo Castaneda and Alissa Barker purchased a 7-acre lot on Seventh Street in downtown Shelbyville. The lot was an old lumberyard with multiple buildings and truck loading docks. Leonardo liked the property for two reasons; the first was that the warehouse space was large enough for him to operate San Juan LLC. For those that may not be aware, San Juan LLC is a Hispanic wholesale business, Leo (as is friend’s and family call him) supplies your favorite Urbanspoon Mexican restaurant with the ingredients and materials they need. The second reason was because he had plans to use the 7-acre property as his family’s retirement plan. Leo recognized the great potential (like the City has) 7 acres in downtown Shelbyville could have.
As such, upon purchasing the property, Leo invested $50,000 into the property and entirely paid the property off in 2.5 years. His business went from barely making ends meet to producing a yearly revenue stream of approximately $400,000. Leo actually had big plans for this 7th street property, plans that would have turned what Leo believed to be an eye sore on the community, into a newly renovated and thriving Shelbyville business; The TRUE AMERICAN DREAM.
So what happened?
The City had a plan of their own; You can find this plan here: http://www.shelbypz.com Shelbyville 7th Street Corridor Plan
The “plan”, was developed long before Leo invested his life savings into the seventh street property. On September 9th, 2010 the City hosted its first meeting to discuss what should be done with the 7th Street corridor, this meeting would be followed by 2 others, open to the public, where 30-40 residents would determine the fate of the majority of property owners along 7th street. The Mayor, FOUR sitting Shelbyville City Council members, and multiple city employees were among the participants.
It was determined that a project needed to be planned for and implemented in order to create a “community based vision for the corridor [that ensures] it is an attractive and functional connector between downtown and the park entrance [clear creek]”.
This plan was to be implemented in 3 phases. The phasing projects were designed in the following manner: It was recommended that phase 1 “include the ‘low-hanging fruit,’ where both cosmetic and functional improvements can be made with little or no property acquisition or zoning changes.”
“The first phase also includes city acquisition of the former lumber yard site (Leo’s property), which is urgent and will allow the city to insure the development of the site reflects the ideas put forth at the community meetings.”
So there you have it, in 2010 the City had recommendations and plans to take the “low hanging fruit”, currently, Leo’s 7th street property. In fact, obtaining Leo’s land was urgent, yet the land sat unused until 2013 when Leo finally bought it. The City could have easily purchased the land when it was for sale, but chose not too. Now, being a day late and a dollar short, the City has decided to take what they want. Had they purchased the property when they had the opportunity, Leo would not have invested his life savings into purchasing and improving his property on 7th street. What do I mean by this? After Leo entirely paid off the 7th Street property, he obtained estimates, plans, and designs to demolish the dilapidated buildings on his property. He drew up plans for developing a storage rental facility on his new property. It was estimated to be a $750,000 investment.
For this reason, in July of 2015, Leo and Alissa went to CUB bank, in Shelbyville, with the desire to obtain a business loan to demolish the dilapidated buildings and construct a storage unit facility. However, after an initial meeting that seemed to be promising, in September of 2015, Leo and Alissa were informed by CUB bank that CUB would no longer be able to assist them. The following month, Shelbyville’s Mayor began making phone calls to Leo and Alissa attempting to purchase their 7 acres and multi-warehouse property for $150,000.
By March 10th, of 2016, Leo and Alissa had verbally rejected the same offer by the City to purchase their property multiple times. In a letter dated March 10th, they received their first written offer. That first written offer explained that failure to accept the $150,000 would result in Eminent Domain proceedings.
On March 11th, 2016, they coincidentally received a letter from the City detailing multiple code violations that needed to be addressed. By June 14th, 2016, Leo and Alissa responded in writing with a rejection to the offer. Rather than be the City’s “low hanging fruit”, they have chosen to fight the taking and/or negotiate for a reasonable price.
The issue facing Leo and Alissa is very similar to an issue addressed by the Supreme Court in the Kelo v. City of New London decision. In that case, there was a city development plan to acquire private property from everyday property owners. The Court stated that this was permissible because the economic development was for a public purpose. They reasoned that while it has long been accepted that the sovereign may not take the property of person “A” for the sole purpose of transferring it to another private party, “B”, a State may transfer the property if future use by the public is the purpose of the taking.
What does this mean for us? It means we are at the epicenter of Constitutional and Originalist overreach, the very dissent in the Supreme Court case describes what is happening here in Shelbyville. Be aware, the City’s actions are sending a compelling message to us all, if you buy property in Shelbyville, you buy it knowing that the City may take it from you at their discretion and give it to your neighbor.
Here is what I believe; I base my beliefs on foundational principles, like the Constitution and the Bible. Additionally, much reason can be drawn from the dissenting opinion in the Kelo case.
You can expect that when I am your Councilman, I will always vote on the side of the Constitution, the individual, and always before the independent vision and goals of the Council. We have reached a point where our Council, in my opinion, believes they know what is best for the community without regard to the principles that made us great, and without listening to you, the community. I believe you know how to utilize your property better than our City Council does. My vision for your community is that you be able to dream about building a business free from the fear that your local government may come and take it, simply because they don’t like how you are utilizing your property. It is my intention to propose an ordinance preventing our local government from using the power of eminent domain to seize your property for private use. As such, I’ll leave you with this quote:
“I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, there is something profoundly un-American about using the brute force of government to bully someone.”
-U.S. Senator Rand Paul