$28 million is a lot of money. I don’t think anyone would deny that. That’s how much some folks want to spend to widen Old Dawson Road, despite what a number of people who live on that road may want.
Now, we’re not talking about a section of Old Dawson Road that’s eaten up with businesses and widening might help improve traffic flow. Oh no, not in the least. After all, those parts of Old Dawson Road are already four-lane.
The plan, which is part of the fairly controversial TSPLOST plan, involves much more than making roads a little wider. No, it involves something more nefarious than that. To widen a road, it requires taking the property of our fellow citizens.
Take a look at your street. Chances are, you live on a two-lane street just like the rest of us. Now, imagine for a moment that the city or state decided to widen your road? Look at that street and imagine how they would do it.
To start with, they would have to take a significant chunk of your yard to do it. That brick mailbox you so lovingly built? Gone. That tree you planted to remember your grandfather? Adios.
Any effort to expand roads requires the government to take your private property to use in the effort. Imminent domain, something that we in Albany should be very familiar with after Phoebe – by way of the Hospital Authority – used it to seize the home of an elderly woman, isn’t something the government should use lightly. However, some have been told by various officials that they won’t use it. Why? Because they already own the right of way.
That may actually be true, but here’s the flip side of that. The city essentially seizes the right of way. There’s no negotiation, they just take ownership and only when they want to. Don’t believe me? Stop cutting your grass for the four feet or so right next to the road. See how long it takes for Code Enforcement to send you a letter. They don’t claim ownership when it comes to the upkeep of the property, only when they want to use it.
So let’s say they expand Old Dawson Road. What happens to the right of way? Well, they claim the next adjacent footage as the new right of way. That way, if they ever want to expand it again (or do something else), they can.
Property rights are supposed to be sacred to the American people. However, after the Supreme Court decision Kelo vs. New London, that’s been suspect. Even the aforementioned Phoebe case called the issue into question here in the Artesian City. However, we can’t just lie down and let government seize the property of our neighbors, and for what? To expand a section of road in a residential area when the residents themselves are opposed to it?
No, ladies and gentlemen, we can’t and we shouldn’t. The governments at all levels are supposed to be working for us, not the other way around. While many of the transportation plans are truly good ideas (like the interchange on the liberty expressway at Jefferson), this isn’t one of them.
There has been talk of an online petition. It wasn’t ready at the time of my writing this column, but will hopefully be ready by the time you’re reading this. I urge all residents of Albany and Dougherty County to protect the property rights of their neighbors and sign this petition. We must send a message that our property is not so easily taken away.
Written by Tom Knighton. Tom Knighton is the managing editor of Laws-n-Sausages.com, a political blog focusing on SWGA. He is the former co-owners of SWGAPolitics.com and currently serves as the Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Southwest Georgia