Saturday, February 19, 2011

Eminent Domain

Some of the first apartments I lived in when I moved away from home were in the Central West End in St. Louis. This was in the 70s and Barnes Hospital/Washington University began what seems a never ending process of expansion.

I would end up losing three apartments to them before I gave up and moved back to the Soulard neighborhood.

The last one they forced us out of was owned by an old woman named Effie. She told us Effie meant grandma in Polish. She and her late husband had moved from Poland during WWII.

Effie owned two 4 family flats. She loved visiting everyone. She putzed around like she was working on the place, but it was really only an excuse to see what everyone was up to.

Effie came to us in tears with news that Barnes was taking her buildings. There was nothing she could do about it. They found her a little bungalow on the south side, but she still didn’t want to sell.

Effie’s son fought it out in court for her, but Barnes had too much money and power. Effie died in that little bungalow a year later.

There is a legal battle in St. Louis over a sign painted on the side of a building near my house. The brick house is owned by a non-profit ministry called Sanctuary in the Ordinary and managed by Neighborhood Enterprises, Inc., which is headed by Jim Roos. They used to manage a 2-family building of mine.

The city's Board of Adjustment voted 4-1 in July to uphold the city's denial of a permit allowing a 369-square-foot painted sign on the south side of the building. The sign is visible from Interstates 44 and 55 and Gravois Avenue coming into downtown.

Roos and the Missouri Eminent Domain Abuse Coalition decided to appeal. The issue is now in federal court.

Roos says the mural is on the building to protest the potential that it and other property between 13th Street and Tucker Boulevard south of Lafayette Avenue could be taken by eminent domain for a shopping center to the west.

While the city sent out letters in May saying it is no longer interested in the property, it didn't remove the blighting designation that allows the city to take it if it wanted.

Apparently the sign could stay if it depicted an American flag, said something about Jesus, or could be considered art.

This is turning into a big problem for the city because if they deny Roos’ right to display the sign based on content, it’s a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Personally, I think the city just can’t stand anyone getting such a great advertising space for free.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's awesome that they officially ruled in favor of that sign!
Dylan Udell