The Facts About Freeport
by Timothy Sandefur
The abuse of eminent domain in Freeport, Texas, is one of the most notable in the country. It's the subject of Carla Main's excellent book Bulldozed, and PLF has participated in the case, helping to defend the Gore family business against bureaucrats who think they know better how to use the family's property. And of course, we all remember Lee Cameron, our favorite Texan anti-property rights visionary.
The Freeport newspaper, The Facts, now reports on the status of the whole project. The redevelopment agency was recently thrown out of office and replaced by a new board which has made some very interesting discoveries:
The new leader of the city's economic development board said Thursday he found records of potentially improper land transfers, mounting bills and a requirement for a sprinkler system estimated to cost more than $400,000 related to the controversial marina project.
Mayor Larry McDonald said he expects the latest problems to push the project's cost to $8 million — exceeding original estimates by $2 million — and taxpayers likely will be left to pick up the tab.
Economic Development Corp. President Dan Tarver told a meeting of the group's board Thursday night he made those discoveries two weeks ago while going through documents in the office of former development director Lee Cameron.
And it turns out that the redevelopment bureaucrats didn't even own some of the land that they sold to developers:
Tarver said he found deeds of sale from the corporation to Freeport Marina LLP on four pieces of waterfront property that were not the corporation's to sell. He also found bills of more than $6,000 and $3,000 dated in September for two 40-year leases the corporation must pay, Tarver said. Before the marina’s many project delays, the marina was set to open that month…. "We've got a marina that's built on land that was deeded to the developer that was deeded by an organization that didn't own the land," Tarver said. "I think the ultimate authority of that falls back on the city council to see what they want to do. While it could just be a formality of the city re-deeding the land again, we'll have to get legal advice on this on which way to go. It could be a formality and it may not. I don’t know, a legal authority will have to say."
And who is to blame for all these shenanigans? Well, (former) bureaucrat Lee Cameron points the finger squarely at innocent American citizens who are simply trying to protect their constitutionally guaranteed private property rights:
"If it wouldn't have been for people trying to block the marina, it would be completed and creating jobs and revitalizing the city," Cameron said.
Oh, yes. If y'all would stop demanding that the government respect your freedom, why we'd have so much more progress around here!
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