And So the Power-Grabbing Grows
I’m not sure why Governor Carcieri would choose this time in the history of the state and nation to add to the messages that Rhode Island sends out to reinforce its image as a state in which various factors make it very difficult to operate and advance. He has declined to veto legislation (PDF) that leverages for another purpose the legal authority of school districts to force the sale of private land to the town so as to expand schools.
The town of North Providence will be purchasing a 15-acre lot with the explicit purpose of blocking a specific developer and maintaining open space. If that’s the precedent, now, then via simple General Assembly statute, a town council may thwart the development plans of businesses and individuals in the name of “passive recreation.”
To be honest, I’m not sure that Article VI, Section 19 of the state Constitution — which the legislation cites as authority — actually permits the act. The language of that section deals with taking extra land when a public use is being planned; in this case, the town is taking land that happens to abut a park that already exists. Section 18 empowers the General Assembly to permit the taking of “blighted and substandard areas,” and there may be other sources of land acquisition within Rhode Island law. The cynic in me suspects, however, that there’s a reason those permissions were not cited.