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Real Estate & Property Law: Kelo and Beyond
Under the Radar
By Greg Alvarez
With all this talk of Kristen and Client #9, it's tough for much else to creep into the public consciousness. But beneath it all, the mammoth machinery of land use continues to chug on, under the radar. Even an act of "terrorism" fell to the side in the face of the alliterative Spitzer sex scandal. Outside Seattle a new luxury residential subdivision went up in flames, and suspicions arose that the ecoterrorist organization, the ELF, or Earth Liberation Front, was responsible. Although last year ten of the group's participants were convicted on similar acts that have occurred in other parts of the country, it appears they're back. The sign left to mark the crime not only had the acronmyn of the group, but also read "Built green? Nope black!," and called the $2 million homes McMansions. Sure, the houses probably are monstrosities, even though the developer's website claims the project is "the most popular and highest attended single site luxury home and garden tour in the U.S.", whatever this may actually mean. But shouldn't these green-minded types direct their anger at the public officials who permitted the development in the first place? In the end, have their goals really been met if not too many people heard about it?
How about what's going on in Los Angeles, which isn't much, on account of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's stalled efforts to bring the southern California behemoth into the class of other world cities, that one writer has argued, now rule the world. Whether this contention is true or not is a debate for another day, but for now the ironic truth is that the Mayor's plans have also fallen to the side because of his own little sexcapade. Villaraigosa's affair with a news reporter badly damaged his ability to do much of anything to bring Los Angeles closer to that corner towards a mass transit-oriented universe. Just as Spitzer's tryst forced everything to deeper in the paper, Villaraigosa's descent into decadence sent land use and public transit to the deaf ears of those he needs to make things happen. The surest sign of the decline is that one of the Mayor's pet projects, the revitalization of downtown, has fallen on hard times according to a recent report. This is not to say the groundwork laid will not prove fruitful down the road. But for now, the growth and change will occur in the background.
And from the annals of the good and bad of what goes on without most people knowing, let's start with the bad. A report recently came out in connection with the massive cleanup and development project ongoing in the New Jersey Meadowlands, grassy marshlands just west of Manhattan, and home to the old and new stadium for the New York NFL teams, as well as the soon-to-be old home of the New Jersey Nets. The analysis, issued by the state inspector general, uncovered the underhanded deals that were made in order to allow the original developer, Encap Golf Holdings, LLC, to bypass environmental regulations in its effort to throw up buildings and start earning income on the property. In another story of graft and corruption that seems inevitable when it comes to high-stakes land development, word was met with interest, but the question, as always, was how it happened when so many were supposed to keep watch over the project.
On the good side of the ledger, how about Bill, Wyoming, where a deal was struck between the Union Pacific Railroad and Lodging Enterprises, a hotel outfit, to bring a brand new facility to the "town," which boasts a population you can count on your fingers. The railroad needed an upgraded weigh station for its employees, who pass through this tiny speck of development in this coal mining section of the continent, and must stop for mandatory rest breaks here. Out of nowhere, upon the plains, rose the new 112-room hotel, not to mention a new 24-hour diner, back in December. This is an event hard to miss in those parts. But for the rest of us, it slipped under the radar, as we chose to focus on other things, like obsessing over Kristen's MySpace page, bringing her out of obscurity, and probably not too long from now, ushering her onto the stage for her chance at musical stardom. In the meantime, the landscape will continue to change, unbeknownst to most.
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