Abusive eminant domain: Council seizes 103-year-old woman’s thriving business

The Seattle City Council unanimously voted to force an elderly Spokane woman to sell her parking lot so the city can use it for public parking.

Myrtle Woldson, 103, has repeatedly turned down the city’s offers to purchase the lot near the Seattle waterfront, so the city took matters into its own hands, voting Monday to use its power of eminent domain to force the sale, according to Q13Fox.

Eminent domain gives the government power to take private property for public use after paying fair-market value.

The United States saw eminent domain exercised on a grand scale 60 years ago during the construction of the interstate highway system. It’s also been used to build schools, government buildings and bridge approaches.

Singer Joni Mitchell once lamented in a song that “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” But to take a parking lot so the city can put up a parking lot is a new one.

Not surprisingly, none of the Seattle City Council members would talk to the press after the vote, Q13Fox reported. Local property-rights activists were only too happy to offer their opinion, though.

“In this case, the city of Seattle is using eminent domain to seize a parking lot, so they can use it as a parking lot,” said Glen Morgan of the Freedom Foundation, an Olympia free-market think tank. “There’s no public good in that at all.”

Morgan said several bills are under consideration in the state Legislature that would restrict the purchase of property by eminent domain.

“Eminent domain was originally intended for stuff like roadways, expanding roads, schools,” Morgan said. “Situations that are for the public good.”

Fox News reported:

According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, the city wants to acquire Woldson’s property to mitigate the loss of other parking lots during the construction of a $2.1 billion tunnel that will replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

City officials have said that they plan to keep the lot for surface parking, even though city and state transportation documents call for structured parking along Seattle’s central waterfront area, including Woldson’s lot, the newspaper reported.

Gary Beck, president of Republic Parking Northwest, which operates the lot, told the Puget Sound Business Journal that Woldson once turned down a $20 million-dollar offer for the property.

Watch the report from Q13Fox.

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