Boynton Beach Drops Eminent Domain Plans


by Timothy Sandefur

Great news out of Florida. The city of Boynton Beach has abandoned its plans to condemn 12 properties in Boynton Beach for purposes of private development. This case is close to my heart, because some years ago, when the Heart of Bonyton Plan was first being implemented, PLF sent an attorney to speak to local residents and explain what eminent domain meant to them. These residents were understandably alarmed, and demanded that their city officials explain their plans. The city held a special meeting, therefore, called “Why Are We Doing This,” at which the director of the city's Redevelopment Agency explained, and I quote:

Boynton Beach has a population of 62,847 compared to 61,627 in Delray Beach.  These two cities are almost identical in population.  However, when comparing median household incomes, Boynton Beach ranks lower at $39,845 than Delray at $43,371.  Boynton Beach ranks higher in median household income than West Palm Beach at $36,774 . . . .  The purpose of this redevelopment, is to compensate for the loss of one of the City’s major taxpayers.  Our property tax values are meager compared to other cities and this redevelopment is our attempt to enhance property values within this City.  Our choices are to expand our tax base, raise property taxes or reduce services to our citizens . . . .  In Boynton Beach, there is a significant amount of property that pays little or no taxes.  Given that reality, we must do other things to compensate for that loss of tax dollars.

In other words, if you kick poor people out of your city, you won’t have any more poor people in your city. Well, I suppose that’s true. But is it constitutional?