Montgomery Residents Accuse City of Demolishing Homes to Sidestep Eminent Domain Laws

The blight ordinance has "given the government too much power because it's arbitrary," he said. "I can look at a property with layman's eyes and say it can be torn down, but legally these people have rights."

"Why not give people fair market value for their property?" he asked. "They're not concerned about their citizens, they're concerned about the bottom line."

McCall says he had not finished building his house when it was demolished. After buying the property less than a decade ago, he tore down a portion of the structure that already existed on the land, including an aging wooden foundation, and was re-building with a new addition for him, his wife and his two children to live in.

"It was an off-and-on thing," he said. "I had to keep renewing my permit."

Strange said the city saw it differently and that McCall had dragged his feet.

"It was a started building that never got finished," he said.

When the house was torn down, McCall estimated he had spent between $150,000 and $200,000 on the renovations.

McCall said he was eventually awarded $123,000 in damages in district court, but the city appealed. No final decision has been made. For now, the property sits empty.

Many of those involved, including Hurst, said they have no intent to sue, fearing it will make a bad situation worse. They say they just want the city that they are proud of to start doing right by its residents.

Hurst said the typical Montgomery resident that has had their house torn down is black, poor, uneducated on what their rights are and not politically connected.

Walsh said the Castle Coalition is hoping to change at least some of that. Members will be traveling to Montgomery on Saturday to host a free workshop at the St. Matthews Missionary Baptist Church. Frustrated residents will be given tips on how to protect their homes as a unified group by contacting state and federal leaders and making sure their stories get publicized.

"These issues are so politically and morally reprehensible that if these members of the public can fight back they can win in the court of public opinion without going to court," she said. "Especially in this economy you don't seize something somebody has worked their entire life for, for economic development."

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