CLOSE
Original image
IStock

7 Maddening Examples of Eminent Domain

Original image
IStock

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.

Original image
Ikea
arrow
Design
How IKEA Turned the Poäng Chair Into a Classic
Original image
Ikea

IKEA's Poäng chair looks as modern today as it did when it debuted in 1976. The U-shaped lounger has clean lines and a simple structure, and often evokes comparisons to Finnish designer Aalto’s famous “armchair 406.” Its design, however, is ultimately a true fusion of East and West, according to Co.Design.

In 2016, the Poäng celebrated its 40th birthday, and IKEA USA commemorated the occasion (and the 30 million-plus Poäng chairs they’ve sold over the years) by releasing two short videos about the armchair’s history and underlying design philosophy. Together, they tell the story of a fateful collaboration between Lars Engman, a young IKEA designer, and his co-worker, Noboru Nakamura.

Nakamura had initially come to IKEA to learn more about Scandinavian furniture. But the Japanese designer ended up imbuing the Poäng—which was initially called Poem—with his own distinct philosophy. He wanted to create a chair that swung “in an elegant way, which triggered me to imagine Poäng,” Nakamura recalled in a video interview. “That’s how I came up with a rocking chair.”

“A chair shouldn’t be a tool that binds and holds the sitter,” Nakamura explained. “It should rather be a tool that provides us with an emotional richness and creates an image where we let go of stress or frustration by swinging. Such movement in itself has meaning and value.”

Save for upholstery swaps, a 1992 name change, and a new-ish all-wooden frame that's easily flat-packed, the modern-day Poäng is still essentially the same product that customers have purchased and enjoyed for decades. Devotees of the chair can hear the full story by watching IKEA’s videos below—ideally, while swinging away at their desks.

[h/t Co. Design]

Original image
MODS International, Amazon
arrow
architecture
You Can Now Shop for Tiny Houses on Amazon
Original image
MODS International, Amazon

Whether you’re in the market for board games, boxed wine, or pickup trucks, you can likely find what you’re looking for on Amazon. Now, the web retailer’s catalogue of 400,000,000 items includes actual homes. As Curbed reports, Amazon will deliver a tiny house made from a shipping container to your current place of residence.

The pint-sized dwelling is made by the modular home builder MODS International, and is selling for $36,000 (plus $3754 for shipping, even for Prime members). The container is prefabricated and move-in ready, with a bedroom, shower, toilet, sink, kitchenette, and living area built into the 320-square-foot space. The tiny house also includes heating and air conditioning, making it a good fit for any climate. And though the abode does have places to hook up sewage, water, and electrical work, you'll have to do a little work before switching on a light or flushing the toilet.

Becoming a homeowner without the six-digit price tag may sound like a deal, but the MODS International home costs slightly more than the average tiny house. It’s not hard for minimalists to find a place for about $25,000, and people willing to build a home themselves can do so without spending more than $10,000. But it's hard to put a price on the convenience of browsing and buying homes online in your pajamas.

[h/t Curbed]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios