Monday, June 27, 2005

The Attempt to Take Dayton Beach

Business owners on the Daytona Beach boardwalk are fighting for the right to keep their businesses:
The future of the Daytona Beach boardwalk will soon be in the hands of a Volusia County circuit judge. The city is trying to force some business owners along the boardwalk to sell out to make room for luxury hotels and condos. The city wants a total makeover for the boardwalk area and has handpicked a developer for the $150 million project, but some of the business owners who were there first will not go down without a fight.

The Daytona Beach boardwalk has been one of the symbols of the tourist town for decades, but some city leaders have decided it's run down and they're trying to force local business owners to sell out on the grounds that their property is blighted.

"I found that there wasn't a substantial amount of deteriorating structures currently. So, therefore, I cannot come to the conclusion that the area is blighted," said urban planning expert Ethel Hammer.

Hammer testified at a court hearing on behalf of some of the business owners who stand to lose what they've built. They have taken the city to court to protect their property rights, but the city wants them gone and is trying to use eminent domain, which can allow local governments to seize private property to make way for new development. But the original business owners say the city's definition of blighted property goes way too far.

"Your yard, landscaping, mildew on your house, I don't think that goes to the heart of declaring an area blighted," said Hammer.

Testimony should wrap up Tuesday. Judge John Watson could very well decide the case immediately, right from the bench, or issue a written ruling in a few days.