NorthSide on Trial

NorthSide on Trial

By Jason A. Orr

The trial has begun for the lawsuit filed by Cheryl Nelson

and other property owners who are threatened by the “pie in the sky” NorthSide

mega-development in St.

Louis, Missouri. The 1,500-acre, $8.1 billion development

project casts whole neighborhoods under a “blight” designation, which allows for

eminent domain to be used to seize their perfectly fine homes and

businesses.

Nelson says that this blight designation has decreased the

property value of her home by 30% since developer Paul McKee announced his

grandiose plan to build a shiny new neighborhood overtop the one that was

already there.[1]

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the NorthSide

project area was just fine before the developer showed up – even the report

financed by McKee that found the neighborhood to be “blighted” admits that 75%

of the structures in the area were in “fair” or “excellent” condition.[2]

The plaintiffs accuse the city of wrongly declaring their

neighborhoods as “blighted” in order to enable $390 million in tax breaks that

officials want to hand over to Paul McKee.

Aldermen Kacie Starr Triplet said that declaring a neighborhood blighted

is just a “procedural” step the city takes before granting a development project

such tax abatement.[3]

She added that eminent domain would not be used for the

project… even though the city reserves the power to use it at any time.[4]

Residents are urged to simply take her

word for it. Victims of eminent domain

abuse nationwide know not to believe these empty promises.

City aldermen, in the meantime, are looking for a quick-fix

for the economic trouble that has affected neighborhoods in the NorthSide area

in recent years. The development already

occurring without public subsidies or the threat of eminent domain is just too

slow for city officials who want to wave a magic wand and see prosperity and the

increased tax revenues that come with it.

“This was an opportunity to have a major development,” said Alderwoman

Triplet, complaining that “incremental development” was not on the same scale as

McKee’s large but financially uncertain project.[5]

Alderman Freeman Bosley Sr. does not even care that the

project is unlikely to work. “It

certainly might be a pipe dream," he said. "Until it actually occurs, you never

know. Let’s try it. Nobody’s going to get hurt.”[6]

Nobody gets hurt, except for Cheryl Nelson and hundreds of

other homeowners who may be booted out of their communities, so that a hot-shot

developer can bulldoze their neighborhoods to build more profitable and more

expensive houses.

Whom do these Aldermen represent?



[1]

Tim Bryant, “Bosley says give McKee a chance He says NorthSide is worth

pursuing,” St. Louis Post-DispatchMissouri),

Feb. 26, 2010 at B1.

[2]

Brian Flinchpaugh, “Testimony continues in NorthSide redevelopment court case,”

St. Louis Globe-DemocratMissouri), Feb. 25,

2010.

[3]

Tim Bryant, “Bosley says give McKee a chance He says NorthSide is worth

pursuing,” St. Louis Post-DispatchMissouri),

Feb. 26, 2010 at B1.

[4] Ibid.

[5]

Brian Flinchpaugh, “Testimony continues in NorthSide redevelopment court case,”

St. Louis Globe-DemocratMissouri), Feb. 25,

2010.

[6]

Tim Bryant, “Bosley says give McKee a chance He says NorthSide is worth

pursuing,” St. Louis Post-DispatchMissouri),

Feb. 26, 2010 at B1.