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Real Estate & Property Law

: Kelo and Beyond

For Better or Worse

By Greg Alvarez


As we move into the holiday portion of the year, it's alternatively fun and depressing to look back at the prior calendar and see how fast it all went. In the same vein, it is also a popular exercise to look back at the year, and take an accounting on how things are going out there, and revisit our friends to find out how the heck they're doing. I feel like doing the same thing for some of the stories I've been tracking in the land use world over the course of this year. Sure, I'm jumping the gun a bit on the recap for 2007, but there have been a few tidbits in the news that got me to thinking about whether some of these trends and happenings have taken a turn for the better, or for the worst. One story that popped up again in the news is out of my birthplace of Cleveland, which is suffering disproportionately hard from the foreclosure crisis that continues to affect homeowners across the nation. Unfortunately, it appears the fears reported have grown worse. Crime has infiltrated such places as Slavic Village, a working-class community in the metropolis. Not exactly new to crime, the area has nonetheless seen fortunes turn worse when homes are foreclosed. According to one source, on average, once the owners are forced to move, it takes about 72 hours for looters to strip everything valuable from a home, down to the piping. Approximately 800 homes stand vacant in the community.

How about in China, where from time to time we looked at the situations facing the hyper-growth economy of the largest market in the world. One such storyline comes from the Three Gorges Dam project, the gigantic harnessing of hydroelectric power occurring in the hinterland of the nation. After having displaced over a million people, rumblings are beginning to surface about the environmental degradation and geological instability caused by the construction. In addition, as the nation seeks to continue to harness its hydroelectric potential, there is a call for additional relocations and upheaval for more locals. In the end, the economic and social well being of those living in these regions may not be improved materially with all the hubbub. And besides, China is still building coal-burning electric plants to satiate most of the increasing demand for electricity.

With the stories thus far, it is enough to put a damper on our impending turkey fests. How about all the talk I devote to approaches to improve the environmental state of our built environment? In Fort Collins, Colorado, which believes it is, "Where Renewal Is a Way of Life," they are facing two proposed energy projects that demonstrate the difficulty in defining the term "clean energy" sources. One project involves the, at first blush, "clean" source of solar power. The other is the oft-evil nuclear power source. However, at closer inspection, the solar initiative will require the use of cadmium, a carcinogen, and the nuclear initiative, which involves the extraction of uranium near the town, would actually support power plants with no carbon emissions. Why must everything be so complex? Why can't we have at least one feel-good story where everything works out well?

Sure, it may seem like things are imploding in around us. Throw in global warming, and it only makes one even more uneasy as we hop in our cars, and on planes, to travel long distances to be with our loved ones for the holidays. Around this swirling turmoil, it is actually a good thing that it is time for the holidays. Because putting aside the minor squabbles bound to happen when families reunite for the season, be thankful they are there, to lean on and realize that there is still some good out there in the world.

Full post as published by Kelo and Beyond on November 21, 2007 (boomark / email).

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