Vision 2025 and eminent domain abuse

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National Review Online has a story today about eminent domain abuse in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. Centennial Baptist Church, located in the historically African-American neighborhood across US 412 (and years ago, across the Katy tracks) from downtown Sand Springs, is being condemned to make way for a "power center" -- a collection of big box stores like Home Depot and Bed, Bath, and Beyond. This is a classic condemnation for private benefit of the sort that was green-lighted by the U. S. Supreme Court in last year's Kelo v. New London case.

This condemnation is part of the Sand Springs Keystone Corridor Redevelopment project, Sand Springs' piece of the Vision 2025 pie. (That link has a couple of clickable aerial maps showing what's currently within the target area and what is planned to replace it. The target area is bounded by Highway 97 on the west, Main Street on the east, US 412 on the north, and Morrow Road on the south.)

Vision 2025, if you're not from around here, is a 13-year 6/10th of a cent county-wide sales tax, funding a downtown sports arena and a variety of projects across the county -- $535 million all told. In order to win the support of each of the smaller towns for the big sports arena in downtown Tulsa, each town got to pick a project for funding. Money to acquire the old African-American neighborhood for retail redevelopment was the City of Sand Springs' choice.

The NRO story makes the point that many property owners in the neighborhood are willing sellers and that a couple of the neighborhood's churches have moved to Tulsa. But Centennial Baptist wishes to stay and to continue its ministry. The entire target area isn't being cleared -- a fast-food restaurant and an auto parts store are being allowed to stay. Centennial is on Morrow, on the southern edge of the area. If Centennial were allowed to stay, there would still be plenty of room for new development.

An initiative petition is being circulated which would limit the use of eminent domain for private benefit, but it will come too late for Centennial Baptist Church. The only hope for the church is for the City of Sand Springs to relent. From the City's point of view, anything that replaces the church is better than the church because it will pay more property and sales tax than the church, which is exempt.

I've written a couple of entries about this neighborhood in the past -- the first was a call for someone to interview Harlem Globetrotter great Marques Haynes, who grew up there, as part of documenting the neighborhood's history, and the second was an e-mail from Ruth Ellen Henry of the Sand Springs Cultural and Historical Museum about the history of the neighborhood. One interesting fact in Ms. Henry's e-mail -- the area was donated by Charles Page, the philanthropist and industrialist who founded the town, as a refuge to blacks taking refuge from the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot.

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4 Comments

keep me posted on this one - this stuff really gets my BP up!

Hmm.. Interesting about the "fact" that Charles Page donated this land in response to the race riot.

While Charles Page may have been a sympathetic person, up until only a few years ago, the Sand Springs home had not admitted any blacks to either of the Widow's colonies. I know, I used to live there for many years. Never once did I see a black family in the Colonies. My mother had brought up this fact to the SS Home Board at one of their meetings years ago, and it was brushed off.

If I'm not mistaken, all land within the Home's trust cannot be used for outside commercial ventures and/or development. The Home itself must provide the funding.

While Page may have donated this land (which, for some reason, I have my doubts about), is it still under some kind of jurisdiction of the Home? There are several properties on which there are businesses in Sand Springs, but rent is paid to the SS Home.

I think if one were to dig into the Home's recent history, there could possibly be abuses by those in charge.

Sorry, this is getting long..

I'm afraid that the Sand Springs Home has deviated from the original intent Charles Page had envisioned for Sand Springs.

Check out Laura Ingrahams must reads - this story made it.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 17, 2006 11:33 PM.

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