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Make the farmer ‘an offer he can’t refuse’

By Chris Thompson

The neighborly thing to do before ripping a farmer’s land out from under him through eminent domain would be to make him an official offer for the property.

It would not have taken much for someone from the city of Oak Creek to approach Earl Giefer with an offer. A simple, “We want your land, and here’s what we’ll pay you for it.”

But Doug Seymour, Oak Creek’s director of community development, said the city never made such an offer before launching into the ongoing debate over whether Giefer’s farm is blighted and therefore eligible to be taken through eminent domain.

State law does not require such offers; basic human decency does. This is not some abandoned, disgusting piece of land. This is a farm run by a 94-year-old man who, by all evidence, really wants to keep his property.

Whether that property is blighted is wide open to interpretation. It certainly doesn’t jibe with the city’s development plans for the area. It might even be rundown.

But it never should have come to a contest over who can best massage perception to match the letter of the state’s condemnation law. It never should have come to the city of Oak Creek trying to take Earl Giefer’s farm through eminent domain.

These people are neighbors, after all. Neighbors shake hands, talk and, when the topic turns serious, they negotiate, maybe even argue. They try to swing a deal.

If that doesn’t happen, well, then it’s only neighborly to walk away.

Chris Thompson is the editor at The Daily Reporter. He’s friends with most of his neighbors and has not, as of this blog post, tried to take their land through eminent domain.

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