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7 Maddening Examples of Eminent Domain

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If there’s one guaranteed method to raise the collective blood pressure of a community, it’s invoking the controversial land grab practice known as eminent domain. The right of local government to seize private property if they argue it will benefit the greater good (with increased tax revenue or a better economy) has been debated for decades.

Though property owners are compensated, not everyone is willing to stick a price tag on their memories. Nor are the goals of development always as admirable or necessary as they’re claimed to be. Here are a few infamous cases of people who found themselves displaced for less-than-sensible reasons.

1. The Golf Course Manager Needs Your House

There is no shortage of golf courses in West Palm Beach, Florida, which is why John and Wendy Zamecnik were particularly frustrated that the county had targeted their neighborhood for a facelift. In the mid-1980s, over 300 homes were purchased to make way for a new course. Most families sold and moved willingly; the Zamecniks were one of a handful who did not. They watched as the community of empty houses became dilapidated and ransacked while their own land values plummeted. At one point, their home was earmarked to be the residence of the golf course’s manager. According to the Sun-Sentinel, protracted legal battles culminated in the couple being forced out of their home in 2002. The postscript? The golf course was never built.

2. The Church That Never Had a Prayer

Governments can often use some disingenuous tactics to invoke eminent domain, especially when they’re trying to displace non-taxable religious organizations—including the one organized by Reverend Fred Jenkins, who had ambitious plans for his North Hempstead, N.Y. church, St. Luke’s. In 1997, Jenkins spent a considerable sum buying a “fixer-upper” property and sorting out the zoning paperwork so he could move his congregation out of a modest basement location. According to the Christian Science Monitor, no one had told Jenkins the property had been tagged as a redevelopment site three years prior. He had been allowed to spend money for renovations and other plans that would be useless. Worse, the Town offered him $50,000 less than he’d paid for it, leaving him with a mortgage even after the church was destroyed.

3. The Judge with Conflicting Interests

Nevada is often ground zero for cases involving casino expansion. When John Pappas died and left rental property to his widow, Carol Pappas, she and her sons expected to continue operating their small strip mall on the land. But in 1994, Las Vegas demanded Pappas turn it over so they could build a parking garage as part of a redevelopment. She refused; Vegas sued. Presiding Judge Stephen Huffaker ruled that the city could begin bulldozing. But according to the Los Angeles Times, Huffaker failed to mention he had financial ties to the redevelopment plan by owning shares in a local casino. The Pappas family took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and eventually settled with the city for $4.5 million.

4. Condemned—and Billed for a New Sidewalk

In the late 1990s, Bill Brody purchased and renovated four buildings in Port Chester, N.Y. that housed 10 small business shingles. When the city made a deal with a developer to reinvigorate the downtown area, they failed to formally inform Brody he had only 30 days to lodge a complaint; the law stipulated that a newspaper notice (that he never saw) was enough. Unaware of the time limit, Brody was helpless as the village first seized and then demolished his buildings—but not before billing him $40,000 to improve the sidewalk. Worse, they took over a year to compensate him while, according to the New York Times, collecting rent from his tenants.

The good news? Brody eventually won his litigation against the city. The bad? It took over a decade.

5. Death and Taxes

The quagmire of bureaucracy can sometimes blind officials to the very personal consequences of ushering a family out of their home. In Hurst, Texas, the prospect of a large shopping mall meant over 100 houses would need to be vacated and demolished in 1997. Leonard Prohs was among 10 homeowners trying to hold out, though he requested an extension for a very valid reason: His wife was in an area hospital dying of brain cancer. The court refused his request. According to the Free-Lance Star, Prohs had to leave his wife’s bedside in order to move his belongings out. The land was eventually occupied by, among other stores, a Pet Smart and a Starbucks.

6. Something Smells

In the early 1990s, residents near a sewage treatment plant in Bremerton, Wash. successfully petitioned the city to do something about the smell. The city began condemnation proceedings on dozens of properties nearby, claiming that the land would be used, according to the Kitsap Sun, to "create an odor easement." But as soon as their eminent domain invocation was completed, the paper reported that Bremerton did an about-face and instead sold the land to a car dealership for nearly $2 million—without doing a single thing about the odor.

7. Only a One-Car Garage?

When Lakewood, Ohio discovered their waterfront properties were appealing to condominium developers, they began to plot the exodus of hundreds of residents out of the area. But with occupants resisting, the city had to come up with a way to classify their area as “blighted,” or run down. Because the homes and apartments were well-maintained, Lakewood opted for higher standards: homes were earmarked for seizure because “blighted” was defined to mean anything less than a two-car garage, three bedrooms, and central air conditioning. The entire plan was distasteful enough that, according to a 2003 CBS News report, citizens eventually voted the acting mayor out of office.

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Testing, Testing
Sleep More Soundly with These Sweat-Busting Sheets
Courtesy of BEDGEAR
Courtesy of BEDGEAR

Catching quality Zs is vital to our health: Not only can lack of sleep cause impairment similar to what people experience when they've knocked back a few drinks, but it's been linked to health issues like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, among others. It can be particularly challenging to get adequate shut-eye in the heat of summer, when sheets and blankets feel like the enemy and it's not unusual to wake up clammy in a puddle of your own sweat.

That kind of situation inspired Eugene Alletto to found BEDGEAR in 2009. When Alletto’s son was having sleep issues due to allergies, he discovered that the only mattress protectors available were vinyl, which made his son overheat while he was trying to sleep. So Alletto went to work creating his own bedding that would keep people at the perfect temperature for snoozing, no matter what the season, and allow for maximum recovery.

To BEDGEAR, sleep isn't just a period of rest, it's an activity—so it's fitting that the company found inspiration for its products in exercise. “Eugene determined that the performance fabrics like we wear to exercise could be engineered to provide functional benefits in bedding products,” Shana Rocheleau, VP of Strategy at BEDGEAR, told Mental Floss via email. “It was this key insight that spiraled into the wide performance products offering BEDGEAR has today.” The line started with mattress protectors and has since grown to include mattresses, pillows, sheets, blankets, and more.

All of this sounded very intriguing to me: I live on the top floor of my building, and temperatures in my apartment regularly hit 80 degrees—so I’m accustomed to waking up a sweaty mess in the middle of the night (at least before we put in our window air conditioning units). I was eager to see if the company's Dri-Tec Performance Sheets—which promise to "help you sleep cool and dry to ensure maximum recovery"—would help me get a better night’s rest, and BEDGEAR sent me some to try out.

According to Rocheleau, every product in the company’s line is designed chiefly with one thing in mind: air flow. “Air flow is essential to maximum sleep comfort and getting the most recovery out of the time you have to spend in bed,” she says. “When your body gets overheated, you will begin fidgeting, [but] when you sleep at the right temperature, with bedding layers that balance your body heat with your room environment through optimized air flow, [it] makes it easier for your body to follow its natural circadian rhythm of dropping two degrees at night for cellular rejuvenation, and reduces sensations of restlessness.”

To that end, when designing its products, “BEDGEAR’s product development team focused on designing a fabric that could aid in controlling humidity by keeping moisture away from your body with breathable fabrics,” Rocheleau says. “A less humid environment allows your body to cool down more quickly.”

The company doesn’t do thread counts (which it says are complicated, can be misleading, and might not actually help you sleep better, anyway) but instead uses CFM, or cubic feet per minute, “the speed at which air flows into or out of space,” Rocheleau explains—a standard unit of measurement in the HVAC and vacuum industries. Their highest performance sheets, the Dri-Tech Lites, have a CFM rating of four (736 cubic feet per minute); Dri-Tec, the sheets that I tested, have a CFM rating of 3 (407 cubic feet per minute). By comparison, Poly-spandex knit sheets (125 cubic feet per minute) and 100 percent cotton sheets with a 1200 thread count (3.89 cubic feet per minute) both have a CFM rating of zero.

BEDGEAR's product development team spent six years developing and perfecting the Dri-Tec sheets. They're made of a polyester material that evaporates moisture and expels heat, and are also equipped with ventilated mesh hems and side panels, which have a 3D structure that keeps air circulating. “Your sheets should enhance your sleep, not disrupt it by making you feel trapped by heat and/or fabrics,” Rochleau says.

Users rave about the Dri-Tec sheets ("So these sheets have 100x more airflow than traditional sheets!!! Holy cannoli!!!"), and I wasn't disappointed, either. The sheets are incredibly soft; they don’t get wrinkly or cling to you when you sleep, and yet they’re designed to move with you. (My partner and I are both restless sleepers, and I’ve found that I’m disturbed by his movements less with these sheets that I was when we were using cotton ones.) You hardly notice them, which is sort of the point. Plus, the fitted sheet has a band that keeps it securely in place, no matter how much you move around. (If only it were possible to add a similar feature to the top sheet to prevent sheet stealing.)

But best of all, since we started using the Dri-Tec sheets, I haven’t had a sweaty wake-up once. Which is not to say I haven’t woken up (I have two cats who love to climb all over me when I’m sleeping), but when I did, I noticed that I wasn’t sweaty at all.

BEDGEAR’s sheets are definitely more expensive than most of what you’ll find at Target: Depending on the size and type, they can run up to $280 a set (which is on par with the high thread count sheets from other brands). But according to some estimates, we spend up to a third of our lives sleeping, or trying to sleep—so if snoozing is a struggle for you, these sheets might be worth the investment. You can find their products on BEDGEAR's website or at retailers around the country.

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DIY
13 Ingenious Uses for Tension Rods
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Tension rods are inexpensive tools for hanging curtains. But if you’re only using them to set up window treatments, then you’re missing out on a ton of other uses for these versatile DIY miracle workers. They come in a range of lengths and load-bearing limits, and can be installed in a minute or two. Snag a few different sizes of tension rods—which are cheap and removable for when your tastes change—and start experimenting with these creative projects.

1. INSTALL A HANGING HERB GARDEN.

You'll need a sturdy tension rod to fit your chosen window's width and a group of small hanging plant pots for this project. Place the rod within the window frame at the desired height, hang (or string) the planted pots along it, and ta-da—an instant, space-saving herb garden. This also works with your favorite sun-loving flowers or ferns. “You will never have to worry about the rod coming down, and the window placement will lend a lot of sun for flower and herb planters," Justin Krzyston, president and CEO of Stonehurst Construction and Design in Los Angeles, tells Mental Floss. "You can hang almost any kind of plant from the rod for a practical and fun way to garden indoors.”

Once your herbs are grown and picked, tie them into bunches with twine. Dry the herbs by hanging them upside-down from—you guessed it—a tension rod placed in a door frame. Dried herbs will last much longer than fresh.

2. ARRANGE YOUR ACCESSORIES.

Hang tension rods within your existing closet to corral scarves, necklaces, and small bags. “You can even hang S-hooks from the tension rod to separate your bracelets and smaller items,” Krzyston says. Hooks also make it easier to remove and put back items because you won't need to remove the rod from the closet wall to retrieve them.

3. STORE CLEANING PRODUCTS.

Annie Draddy, organizer and co-founder of New York-based personal organizing service Henry & Higby, likes to use tension rods for cleaning storage. “Use a tension rod under a sink to hang spray bottles and other cleaning implements,” she tells Mental Floss. Hanging the spray cleaners at the top of the cabinet leaves more room for other items, like sponges, towels, and buckets.

4. ORGANIZE KITCHEN CABINETS.

It’s difficult to keep all your trays and pans organized in your kitchen cabinets, especially if they’re all different sizes—but that’s where tension rods can help, Draddy says. She recommends installing a few tension rods vertically inside the cabinet and standing up flat items, like baking sheets and pans, cutting boards, pot lids, and trays, between the rods. The arrangement saves space and makes it easier to grab the pan or cookie sheet without dislodging everything else in the cabinet.

5. CREATE A BUNK BED SCREEN.

Kids who share bunk beds will love the extra privacy that tension rods and curtain panels can offer, Krzyston says. This project works best on the bottom bunk because the rods are installed between the bed posts. If the top bunk's posts extend to the ceiling, you can double this project for the top and bottom beds.

To make the world's easiest no-sew bunk bed curtains, you will need three tension rods that fit the head, foot, and side of the bunk bed; a measuring tape, scissors, four or five lightweight curtain panels depending on the size of the bed, straight pins, iron-on fusing web, and an iron. Then follow these steps.

First, install the rods between the bed posts and measure the height from the rod down to the platform of the bed (past the mattress)—this will be the curtain's length. Next, lay each curtain flat with the backside facing up. Measure the same distance down from the rod pocket, and add two inches—the extra fabric will be your hem. Draw a line with a pencil across the curtain at that length, or mark with pins, and then cut each curtain along the line. Lay a piece of the iron-on fusing web across the curtain, 3 inches from and parallel to the end. Fold up the two-inch hem over the web and pin in place. (Now, measure the sides of the curtain to make sure they're of equal length, and adjust if necessary.)

Iron the hem to fuse it in place, removing the pins as you go. Once the fabric is cool, install the curtains on the rods. “The sturdy construction of the bed will lend an easy place for the curtains to hang without worry of them coming down,” Krzyston says. Boom: super-cool bed fort!

6. KEEP TUB TOYS TIDY.

This trick works on tubs with walls on three sides. Find a tension rod roughly equal to the longer side of your tub. String an even number of shower rings on it and install along the wall side of the tub. Then, hang small plastic bins from the rings (two per bin, which keeps them level) for storing small toys, and you’ll never have to step on a Paw Patrol toy again.

7. CONCEAL CLUTTER.

Are your bookcases and shelving units packed with odds and ends? Disguise the clutter behind an easy-to-assemble screen. Pop a tension rod between the sides of the cabinet at the height of the stuff you want to hide. Then, hang a curtain or drape a piece of patterned fabric over the rod, and you’ll have a custom-made junk-concealer. You can even string clip-style curtain rings on the rod and clip on a fabric panel—the rings will make it easier to push the panel to the side when you need to retrieve items from the shelves. Try it anywhere you need to mask garbage bins, Costco-sized pantry items, or other unsightly necessities.

8. CATEGORIZE BOOKS.

Short tension rods can take the place of cumbersome bookends and leave you more space for storing and displaying actual books. Install the rods vertically within the bookshelf to corral paperbacks, hardcover titles, magazines, or notebooks. You can also organize and divide your collection by theme or subject matter by installing rods vertically between the sections.

9. SET UP A CLOTHESLINE.

Make your space-saving indoor clothesline by putting a tension rod in the doorway of your laundry room or in any unused corner. You can pin garments to the rod with clothespins or air-dry shirts on hangers. The rod can also serve as a finishing area for freshly ironed clothes. The best part: Pop out the rod when you're done, and it will look like laundry never happened.

10. MAKE A FORT.

You don’t need to buy anything fancy to provide kids with a few hours of fun. Insert a tension rod under a desk or table, in the hallway, or in a low-traffic doorway. Have the kids drape a sheet or blanket over the rod, spread it out, and weigh down its edges with pillows—instant hideway! Or build a "condo" with multiple rods at varying levels down an entire hallway. The special space will boost the kids' imaginations and spark creative games.

11. HIDE THE LITTER BOX.

Litter boxes are a fact of life if you have a cat, but that doesn’t mean her business has to be visible. If the litter box is sitting in a corner of a closet, you can conceal it and create storage space at the same time. Install a shelf on the wall above the box at your desired height. The shelf's width should be about the same as the closet, and its depth roughly equal to the litter box (you might want to turn the box so the longer side is against the wall, but make sure the cat can still get in). Install a tension rod just under the lip of the shelf and hang short curtains (use the curtain-customizing method in #5) or drape a piece of fabric over the rod. Now Princess will have some privacy, and you can store her food, litter, and other feline accoutrements on the shelf.

12. CAMOUFLAGE UNDER-BED CLUTTER.

Choose a longish tension rod and install it between the legs of the bed on its visible side. Cut an oblong piece of fabric that, when doubled lengthwise over the rod, will hide the clutter underneath the bed. Repeat the steps for other sides of the bed. You’ll never have to see the mess again, and you can change the fabric's pattern or color whenever your design aesthetic evolves.

13. CONSTRUCT A BLACKOUT COCOON.

City dwellers have to deal with bright streetlights seeping in their windows at night. Even with the curtains closed, the light pollution can disrupt sleep. Ensure restful slumber with this fast blackout hack: Slide a tension rod that is roughly the width of your bedroom window into the rod pocket of a blackout curtain panel of similar width. Then, install the rod and curtain inside window frame, allowing the curtain to closely cover as much window area as possible. Close the existing curtains for a virtually pitch-black boudoir.

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