The following letter was sent to Farmington city officials today in response to their effort to take farmland from the Bangerter family via eminent domain.
Dear Mayor and Council Members,
In 2015, our organization reviewed the top 50 most populous cities in Utah on over 100 metrics pertaining to property rights, free markets, and personal freedom. That analysis resulted in your city being the second “most free” city in the state.
In fact, for the private property category, Farmington came in first place. It is with regret that we write to express our strong opposition to a recent effort that is inconsistent with a city of this ranking.
In a recent Salt Lake Tribune article, your city’s manager, Dave Millheim, is quoted as having stated, “We’d like to make our existing park a little bit bigger,” and that the city can’t be “without soccer fields.” Mr. Millheim continued, “The park is important from a community standpoint and we have to replace it.”
Our concern is simple and straightforward: the desire of some families to play soccer does not override the right of the Bangerter family to own and control their property.
While UDOT’s planned West Davis Corridor project requires mitigation of the park that will be removed, nothing compels Farmington to specifically target Mr. Bangerter’s property—not even the convenience of the land being adjacent to an existing park. Alternative sites exist, and either a parcel already owned by the city or land whose owner is willing to sell should be considered prior to forcibly taking a contested site whose owner resists the city’s desires.
We join with each petition signer and concerned citizen who has expressed opposition to the city’s eagerness to forcibly take this land from the Bangerter family. We urge you to abandon this effort and instead identify an alternative location.
Utah’s Constitution, to which each of you have taken an oath, recognizes Mr. Bangerter’s “inherent and inalienable right” to “acquire, possess and protect property.” This right shall not be infringed because of a desire—not a need by any means—to locate a field of sod in a certain location. Consistent with this constitutional protection, and because the government lacks a compelling need to forcibly take Mr. Bangerter’s property when other options exist, we hope that you will instruct UDOT to mitigate the park using another parcel of land.
We should also note that we are speaking with state legislators about potential remedies to compel this preferential treatment under law, so that a property owner’s right is better protected from the whims and desires of city officials. In the mean time, we hope that common sense prevails in this specific situation.
Please reconsider your actions to continue being a city that champions property rights, to serve as an example for other cities to follow.
President, Libertas Institute