Oklahoma Community Celebrates Lifting of Blight Designation

Homeowners in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, are enjoying a satisfying victory after they joined forces to overturn the city’s bogus blight designation that had hung over their thriving community.

The specter of eminent domain began to haunt the Camino Villa mobile home community in January 2008 when the city declared the entire neighborhood of 400 people “blighted” and began talks with private developers regarding commercial redevelopment of the area.[1] Residents knew this put their homes on the chopping block.

‘“We could have sat on our laurels and let the powers that be run us over like a Mack truck,”’[2] property owner Grace Weber recalls.

But that is exactly what they did not do. To prove their beloved community was not “blighted,” home owners painted their fences, cleaned their yards, and made general improvements to their properties, even helping elderly neighbors and those without the financial means to make their own improvements. In addition, residents spoke publicly against eminent domain abuse at council meetings and hired an attorney to represent them.

Their tremendous efforts met some success in 2009 when the development authority banned eminent domain to acquire any of the mobile homes in Camino Villa. But again, residents did not “sit on their laurels.”[3]

Instead, this dynamic community protested the blight designation, knowing this label depressed their property values and discouraged private investment in Camino Villa. The City Council acknowledged their concerns by unanimously voting to remove the blight designation on August 3, 2010.[4] Relieved, property owners rejoiced that the homes they had worked so hard to own were no longer under the cloud of condemnation.

Oklahoma is one of only seven states that have yet to reform their eminent domain laws in the wake of Kelo. This community is just another example of how badly reform is needed to ensure every home and business is safe.

 

[1]Susan Hylton, “Broken Arrow mobile home park residents want blight status removed,” Tulsa World, August 1, 2010.

[2]Susan Hylton, “Mobile home park residents win fight over ‘blight,’” Tulsa World, August 4, 2010.

[3]Susan Hylton, “Broken Arrow mobile home park residents want blight status removed,” Tulsa World, August 1, 2010.

[4]Susan Hylton, “Mobile home park residents win fight over ‘blight,’” Tulsa World, August 4, 2010.