| Tuesday October 21st 2014

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If an airplane crashes on your land and nobody sees it… is it really your land to begin with?


What the hell do they need 2200 acres for? How big is the memorial going to be? Is anyone else annoyed that they’re going to spend $58M on this project? Or am I just really cold-hearted and unsympathetic?

The government will begin taking land from seven property owners so that the Flight 93 memorial can be built in time for the 10th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks, the National Park Service said.

Flight 93 crash siteIn a statement obtained by The Associated Press, the park service said it had teamed up with a group representing the victims’ families to work with landowners since before 2005 to acquire the land.

“But with few exceptions, these negotiations have been unsuccessful,” said the statement.

Landowners dispute that negotiations have taken place and say they are disappointed at the turn of events.

The seven property owners own about 500 acres still needed for what will ultimately be a $58 million, 2,200-acre permanent memorial and national park at the crash site near Shanksville, about 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

“We always prefer to get that land from a willing seller. And sometimes you can just not come to an agreement on certain things,” park service spokesman Phil Sheridan said.

“Basically, at this point, we have not been able to acquire all the land we need,” he said.

Even with willing sellers, Sheridan said title questions, liens and other claims can arise that would have to be worked out and could delay the project.

Flight 93 Memorial“We had a group of people who took some very heroic actions. It’s just fitting and right that we get this done in time for the 10th anniversary,” he said.

The next step will be for the U.S. Justice Department to file a complaint in federal court. A court would have to decide the matter and would set a value on the land.

Two owners account for about 420 acres the park service plans to condemn, including Svonavec Inc. — which owns 275 acres, including the impact site where 40 passengers and crew died. About 150 acres are owned by a family that operates a scrap yard.

Most of rest of the land to be condemned are small parcels, two of which include cabins.

Tony Kordell said the park service visited him late Friday afternoon and made him an offer for his 150 acres. He declined to give the price, but said his attorney requested the appraisal used to determine the value on Monday.

He’s not gotten that appraisal, he said Thursday. On Wednesday, he was told the park service would condemn the land.

The property Kordell owns includes the scrap yard, which must be relocated and he said cost to move the business also hasn’t been determined. The property includes where the visitor center, parking lot and park walkways will be placed, he said.

“We’ve been working with (the park service) all along. We’ve given them rights to come on the property” to do planning, he said.

“All it’s going to do is cost a huge amount of money for attorneys,” he said.

Randall Musser owns about 62 acres that the park service wants to acquire.

“They apologized about the way it’s come together, but what’s sad is they had all these years to put this together and they haven’t,” he said.

Musser served on the committee that helped establish the park’s boundaries and said landowners were promised in 2002 that eminent domain would not be used.

Flight 93 Memorial rendering“It’s absolutely a surprise. I’m shocked by it. I’m disappointed by it,” said Tim Lambert, who owns nearly 164 acres that his grandfather bought in the 1930s. The park service plans to condemn two parcels totaling about five acres — land, he said, he had always intended to donate for the memorial.

“To the best of my knowledge and my lawyer, absolutely no negotiations have taken place with the park service where we’ve sat down and discussed this,” Lambert said.

Lambert said he had mainly dealt with the Families of Flight 93 and said he’s provided the group all the information it’s asked for, including an appraisal.

While he knew that condemnation was a possibility, he thought it was an unlikely scenario and that the park service and family group had wanted to acquire the larger parcels before dealing with owners of smaller properties.

“I was never told that May was the drop-deadline,” he said.

Patrick White, the vice president of Flight 93 Families, welcomed the park service’s action and had planned to ask for it at an upcoming meeting with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

“We appreciate the timely nature of this decision, which will keep us on the timetable for the tenth year dedication of the permanent memorial,” he said in a statement.

Sheriden said condemnation is rarely used. The last time the park service used it, he said, was to acquire a tower at the Gettysburg battlefield in 2000. The tower was demolished to return the battlefield to the way it looked in 1863.

In February, government officials and representatives of the 33 passengers and seven crew members killed when the plane crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, pledged to dedicate a memorial on the site by the 10th anniversary. Officials said then that more than 80 percent of the needed land had been secured.

United Flight 93 was traveling from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco when it was diverted by hijackers with the likely goal of crashing it into the White House or Capitol. The official 9/11 Commission report said the hijackers crashed the plane as passengers tried to wrest control of the cockpit.

Land ownership is a complete illusion anyway. During the time that one “owns” the land, one must pay the government annual property tax to retain ownership. Property “owners” are essentially leasing land from the government, and any failure to make the annual payment will result in eviction. Couple this with eminent domain (the land is yours until the government decides they want it), and the concept of ownership is eroded beyond much value.

Here’s a great example of how little “ownership” means in the US. In 2005 the Supreme Court determined that Eminent Domain may be used to seize non-blighted private property in order to transfer ownership to another private entity (i.e., non-public use).

Flight 93 National Memorial
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