Martin Wilkins and Unaccountability

The more people learn about what more and more looks like a theft of property from International Paper by the Effingham County Economic Development Authority, the more people should get hacked off. Sure, the EDA is paying IP, but it more and more seems this was a power play by Martin Wilkins, the Chairman of the EDA, and the EDA.

Read this.

“Our case involved raw land with nothing on it but trees,” Wilkins said. “That is a lot different than government taking people’s homes for urban renewal.

This was also a situation where owners were selling the property but refused to negotiate with us,” said Wilkins. “The amount they are getting is about the same they would have gotten if they negotiated privately with us. But for whatever reasons, they wanted it to go to court.”

What it appears to amount to is the EDA did not like being ignored by IP and forcibly took the land from IP as a result. What is most galling, however is that the land is in an area of residential growth and the EDA has deigned to put an industrial park right in the middle of the area.

IP Realty lawyers argued the property was more suitable for residential development. They noted a new elementary school is opening adjacent to the site next fall. Water and sewer infrastructure in the area is suitable for residential plans that included 5,000 houses and 1,000 town houses.

Even the Chairman of the EDA admits

With south Effingham property selling rapidly for residential development, “We had to get it now or it would be gone forever,” said Wilkins.

This is another example of out of control, unaccountable, unelected people trying to shove their weight around. This is also why unelected instruments of government should not have eminent domain power. If it’s not a utility seeking a right of way or elected people who can be held accountable, there really is no reason for this.

When I worked with development authorities, those I worked with worked hand in hand with the county or city and let those instruments of government exercise eminent domain power. That way the voters could hold someone accountable. That should be the norm.

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