Land Grab In Huntersville
On Monday, June 7, the Huntersville’s Town Board of Commissioners did something that had never been done in the town’s history, voting to condemn private property. I was the only commissioner to vote against this land grab. For those keeping score at home, private property rights in Huntersville lived to be 137 years old: RIP 1873 – 2010.
For some background, developer AAC is building a large, multi-use development (commercial and residential) called Bryton, in southern Huntersville, that could be upwards of a $1-billion investment into the town. In order for AAC to meet their requirements, they had to make some necessary road improvements to NC Hwy 115. To do that, they had to buy property along the road frontage. AAC was able to buy all the necessary property except for a piece belonging to the Dellinger family.
After a year and a half of negotiations between the two parties, an agreement on price couldn’t be reached so AAC came to the Town Board, in closed session (without the Dellingers being present), and asked if Huntersville would consider condemning the property for them. The Town Board indicated it would and asked the town attorney explore the process. Two meetings later, AAC was back before the Town Board in another closed-session meeting, where board members voted 3-2, authorizing the Town to condemn this property from the Dellingers.
Finally, on Monday, June 7, the Town Board voted to condemn the Dellinger’s property on a 4-1 vote (commissioners Sarah McAulay, Ken Lucas, Ron Julian and Danae Caulfield in favor; Charles Jeter against).
I was shocked and saddened by the decision of my colleagues on the Huntersville Town Board, who voted to take land away from one private entity solely for the benefit of another private entity. Their attempt to justify the decision, claiming it was really about road improvements, simply does not pass the sniff test. The simple fact of the matter is that AAC and the Dellingers were in a negotiation over price. Keep in mind that this was not a necessary road improvement for the Town, and arguing such is untrue. In my five years on the Town Board, not once has widening this section of NC Hwy 115 been considered by Huntersville in our Top 15 Road Priority List, any MTC or MUMPO plan, our Town’s CIP list or any other public listing. In fact, if Bryton wasn’t being built, neither would this road widening.
It has gotten so distorted by some who voted for condemnation that one commissioner stated that she was honoring private property rights by voting for condemnation, since the Dellingers had asked to be condemned. What she neglects to add is that the Dellingers were not asking to be condemned, they were simply accepting the inevitable fact that the Town and AAC was going to condemn their private property, if the they didn’t accept the latest purchase price offer. It was an acknowledgement of a foregone conclusion, not a request.
Another commissioner accused one of the Dellingers of being selfish for caring more about themselves than the so-called “good” of the Town. Really? Are Huntersville’s leaders so misguided that they actually believe the residents should work to benefit the Town, and not the other way around?
Sadly, all of this is true. And worse yet, three of the four commissioners that voted for this land grab are registered Republicans who come espousing their conservative values every campaign season. So come the fall of 2011, three candidates for office are going to go around Huntersville touting their conservative beliefs and their Republican credentials. The Meck GOP will even include them on all their flyers and ask the residents to vote these three Republicans back into office.
Personally, I believe a true conservative Republican doesn’t vote to take away property from one citizen to give to another. Unfortunately, I’m the only elected official in Huntersville that believes that anymore. My hope is that voters will remember this next fall and make sure that we hold people accountable for what they say and that those we vote into office actually serve and vote the way the say they will during the campaign trail.
For at least another 18 months, that won’t be the case in Huntersville.
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