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Micromanaging private property

By Scott Tibbs, December 18, 2005

The CVS on the north side is moving a few blocks to the south, into the vacant lot where Burger King used to be. It will be a very attractive building.

First, a quibble with the title of the H-T article: "Downtown CVS coming". A better headline would have been "CVS relocating downtown" or something similar, because the headline gives the impression that Bloomington will have a new CVS.

Here is something that disturbs me:

The first sketch didn't make the city happy, but the only design advice given was to come up with a more urban not suburban look that would better fit into Bloomington, said planning director Tom Micuda.

Why is that your right to decide, Tom? What right does city government have to determine how the 14th Street CVS looks, so long as it meets all applicable laws and ordinances and the building is up to code?

This kind of thing is exactly why so many people view city government as anti-business. Here you have a company wanting to improve an ugly piece of property by putting a store on it, and city government is quibbling about how the building looks. Even without seeing the original design, it is a safe bet that it was a significant improvement over how the lot looks now, especially given the surrounding area.

Elsewhere in the same edition of the Herald-Times, members of the Historic Preservation Commission toured the Von Lee Theatre.

I know this isn't popular, but let's be realistic here. The Von Lee is not going to be a movie theatre again. It's not going to happen. Kerasotes attached a covenant to the property preventing the owner from showing movies, a legal contract agreed to by consenting adults. The building has been vacant for five years and is getting run down and ugly. It is prime real estate and needs to be refurbished. It probably would have been by now had city government not been so restrictive about what can be done with the property.

While I think "historic preservation" has gone way too far in this city, I understand the desire for historic preservation and the community interest in it. Can we agree, though, that these restrictions on private property rights constitute a "taking" under the Fifth Amendment? ("Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.") If city government wants to preserve the Von Lee for posterity, let them buy it.

It's time to get some people into city government that respect private property rights more than what planners or historic preservationists want. We missed that opportunity in 2003, but we have another shot in 2007. Candidate filings for City Council and Mayor are only 13 months away.