Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
As I read the Bulletin article, “Paying Price for Progress” (Aug. 22, 2017), I was overwhelmed with feelings of indignation and disgust. The Hayes family’s residence of 35 years, along with its land and property, is being taken by the city of Manteca. Worse yet, the city-hired appraiser seems to be low-balling the home and property’s worth.
Existing where the city proposes building freeway ramps “allowing future guests of an indoor waterpark resort to access McKinley Avenue from the 120 Bypass”, the Hayes’ family home is facing the appraiser’s threat of eminent domain, under the dubious guise of “progress”. But this so-called “progress” is as an ambiguous a term as the phrase “for the greater good”. Who gets to define these concepts? To me, it just seems like a vague justification for taking private property so that the city can supposedly make money by clinching the waterpark resort deal. I understand the need to have land available to build a hospital, police station, library, or fire station, which directly benefit a city’s citizens. But taking a home and property from those unwilling to sell, based solely on a city’s money-making schemes, is simply reprehensible. To add insult to blatant injury, the city-hired appraiser is not even compensating the Hayes family in a fair manner.
It amazes me that the city would allow the appraiser to play hardball with its financial compensation offers to the Hayes family, when city representatives appear to embody financial generosity in their negotiations for a waterpark resort/hotel. The city has already spent $8 million in infrastructure for the possible hotel, as well as the city-owned Family Entertainment Zone. What is the price of the new freeway interchange and does the city bear this cost? Since its design directly impacts any proposed waterpark resort/hotel, will this business enterprise contribute to the interchange costs and if so, how much? Will Manteca representatives negotiate away part of the future resort’s hotel tax which rightfully belongs to the city, in the hope that a revenue split will lure the waterpark resort/hotel to commit to Manteca? When the Great Wolf resort was being discussed, the city toyed with the idea of increasing its hotel tax from 9% to 15%, since it was also an entertainment venue. That was supposed to bring millions of dollars annually into the city coffers. If city representatives agree to split any hotel tax revenue with the potential waterpark resort, what message does that send to other hotels in Manteca? Do any other hotels in this city get to keep part of the hotel tax? If not, doesn’t that say that Manteca representatives will let some companies and businesses play by a different set of rules, if there is a possibility that they’ll bring in the big bucks? As for trotting out the 500 to 1,000 new jobs argument, there is no legal requirement or guarantee that the majority of those jobs will go to Mantecans. So the city of Manteca would be making concessions that don’t necessarily benefit its own citizens.
It really bother me that individuals’ lives, like Eric and Jeanette Hayes, are disrupted for the supposed “greater good”, which I see as the “greater greed”. Eminent domain is a power and tactic that should be used only sparingly, not as a method to sweep away impediments, regardless of the emotional costs, to a city’s grandiose vision of an economic bonanza. What if a farmer in rural South Manteca did not want to sell his property to a developer who planned on creating a large commercial/residential development, which promised economic growth for the city? Could this developer encourage the city leaders to seize the land and force the sale using eminent domain, in the name of “progress” and supposed financial prosperity for Manteca? That is an extreme example, but it does make one question where the line is drawn.
Personally, I believe that if eminent domain is used to take the Hayes family’s house and property, they should not only be fairly compensated for the worth of the house, improvements, and value of the land, but in addition, they should also receive compensation for the distress and inconvenience of having to move, much like the “pain and suffering” damages awarded in court cases. I can hardly stand to imagine what it must be like to build a life and a home for over 35 years and then be told by the “powers-that-be” that you have to move. The city should have the decency to instruct its hired appraiser to offer the Hayes family a figure that, at the very least, makes the move worthwhile and takes some of the sting out with a generous financial package. After all, look at the millions of dollars the city is willing to gamble on the waterpark resort deal.