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End Justifies Means
by Ron Davis
The operation of a Washington shopping center has fallen into the hands of a government body despite objections that the takeover is illegal.
The shopping center is the aging Alderwood Village in Lynnwood, and the objections arose when the city of Lynnwood bought the property to build a convention complex next to the site.
Also affected by the city’s convention plans is the owner of land adjacent to Alderwood Village. He owns and operates a video-rental store on property that the city will acquire through condemnation. Hoping to abort the convention project and thus prevent a takeover of his property, he argued that the city has no legal right to acquire and then manage a shopping center.
City officials countered that the shopping center site is needed for current parking and later expansion of the convention complex. Meanwhile, they added, the shopping center will provide revenue from tenant rentals to help finance the two initial phases of the convention project.
The video-store owner nevertheless sued on grounds that the operation of Alderwood Village is “beyond the legislative authority granted to public entities and constitutes an impermissible means of financing a public project.” In fact, no state law actually allows a public body to operate a shopping center as a financing device.
A Washington appellate court ruled, however, that the interim operation of the shopping center is simply a means to an end. Explained the judges, “Alderwood Village was not acquired for the purpose of [the city’s] becoming a perpetual landlord of a shopping center. It was acquired to provide parking for phases one and two of the convention project and for eventual expansion of the project. The interim leasing of the property as an additional revenue source is incidental to the public use of the overall project—even if the project could not be accomplished without that revenue source.” (City of Lynnwood v. Video Only, Inc., 77 P.3d 378)
Decision: October 2003
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