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September 29, 2015

Perilous Words: Eminent Domain

Harry M. Covert

The words “eminent domain” are more frightening for counties, cities and towns everywhere than “this is the Internal Revenue Service.”


Downtowns throughout have suffered when developers and redevelopment housing authorities decided to overrun and overrule citizens and businesses. Ultimately, eminent domain action does away with good consciences and, in the vast majority of the deals, property owners are skinned, swindled and sent packing.


In Frederick County, it is now more disturbing than ever that the county executive of our charter government has literally gone to war. Borrowing from a previously used title, Her Worship is running amok. Plus, she’s turning citizenry to a battleground probably unseen before.


Her hatefulness to former decisions of the recent Board of County Commissioners is unending and quite out-of-hand.


The ongoing conflict regarding the future of the Citizens Rehabilitation Care and Montevue Assisted Living facilities is terrible. Actually this condition and others must be described as caitiff – cowardly.


Threatening a county takeover under eminent domain of the property is despicable. The previous legal authority transferred the county property to Aurora Holdings IV. To date the county owes $3.25 million to Aurora.


The deal by the previous administration was all legal and proper. The operators of the facility have not taken the situation lying down. They’ve filed suit in the U.S. District Court. The judiciary has demanded the county executive and Aurora try to work out an agreement. It is doubtful a solution will be found anytime soon.


Another question has been circulating. Why wasn’t a recall effort included in the creation documents of our county charter? Too late, now; and the odious management style continues toward Jan Gardner’s allies and opponents.


The Aurora facilities are nice on Rosemont Avenue. Care of locals who need the services is in trouble. Frederick taxpayers were losing $5.3 million annually on the facility, according to those familiar with the matter.


Other research shows Ms. Gardner had the idea to build the $34 million facility. At present she refuses to share the costs of outside legal counsel with other elected officials. Attorney fees are at $750 per hour.


Eminent domain, as threatened last week by the county executive, is intended as a sledgehammer to beat down Aurora. This probably won’t have the effect she wants, and the Frederick County-Aurora fight will be decided by a federal judge.


Frankly the eminent domain ability is not a solution to smoothing mediations. Sure, it is sweet and good for the local government which tries to avoid fair market prices.


What was once legally approved now continues to be a continuing costly matter for taxpayers. Does anyone truly believe the current management style is frugal, businesslike and caring to taxpayers? There is lots of discussion to the contrary.


For the present those in authority are banking that the public in general has short memories. With some exceptions, the community is like a lamb led to slaughter – emotionless to what will befall everybody.


The day will come when locals wake up, look to shaker-uppers and discover populist candidates may have the right idea.


It is rather disturbing that the once calm, dignified communities of Frederick County are on the cusp of political explosion, the likes of which have been unseen heretofore.


Who is gearing up for the campaigns of a few years hence? The wheels are turning.


Who is going to be Frederick’s Donald Trump, Baltimore’s Ben Carson or California’s Carly Fiorina? Are any provokers at the ready?


It is not too early to be looking around –and over the shoulders.


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