“Not in my back yard!” has become almost clichÃ© in many tussles over land use and zoning, including one involving an Arizona school district trying to keep a sex shop from opening near two of its schools.
Officials in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Phoenix’s Deer Valley School District are considering “condemning and buying the land where a Castle Boutique Megastore is scheduled to open in October,” according to the Freedom Forum. The store is less than a mile from Deer Valley Middle School and Barry Goldwater High School.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
But Castle Boutique owner Taylor Coleman told the ArizonaRepublic, “They cannot show a compelling government reason why they need the property, other than … to stifle free speech. If you don’t like my content, don’t go shopping in the castle.”
The school district would pay fair market value for the property using taxpayer bond money, David Cantelme, a Deer Valley School Board member who proposed the idea, told the Associated Press.
The school district has about a 90 percent chance of winning the right to take over the property “because Arizona courts have been liberal in awarding condemnations for government use,” Bob Kerrick, a Phoenix attorney who has represented property owners, told AP.
“If in fact the school district will use the land for a legitimate school purpose, then on its face, it looks like they can use eminent domain,” he said. “It is the property owner who has a heavy burden in defeating condemnation.”
Eminent domain is a legal concept under which government can take private property, with compensation, for public use.
But buying Coleman’s property is an expensive endeavor. Coleman estimated he had invested up to $4 million in his project, according to the Freedom Forum.
Last year, “Deer Valley voters approved $77 million in bonds for school facilities,” the Freedom Forum reported. “About $12 million of that is earmarked for support facilities. Cantelme’s idea is to build a warehouse or central kitchen at the Castle Boutique location.”
Attorney’s for the school district told AP they are still investigating the process and looking into the legality of using the bonds to purchase the land.
Castle Boutique is scheduled to open in October.