VITAL POLICY – OPINION – Knoxville Tennessee’s Everlasting Threat to Your Property Rights

Imagine getting a letter from the local government stating that it intends to take your property, and your neighbor’s property, for private development.


Your little residential community just doesn’t generate enough tax revenue; so, the city or county decides to take the whole neighborhood away from its rightful owners and turn it over to private developers, people who will put the property to a higher use and generate more tax revenue. The city wants a new shopping center, a sports complex, a private art museum, some hotels, and a few more restaurants, redistribution of wealth for the greater good they say. Decades ago, this practice was called “urban renewal”. The contemporary name for it is “redevelopment”, a politically correct label for the same form of evil.

Knoxville plead guilty to abusive property takings in the court of public opinion and made a formal apology to the citizens; but was the apology sincere?


The Housing Authority of the City of Knoxville, Knoxville Community Development Corporation (KCDC), is working to oppose legislation that would protect you and all 6.8 million Tennesseans from the evils of eminent domain abuse (property takings). This would be the same city that made a one hundred-million-dollar reparations resolution on December 15, 2020, apologizing for its past abuse of citizens, abuse that included eminent domain that forced thousands of residents out of their homes for private development. As my late grandmother Blanche Colley would say “Knoxville is talking out of both sides of its mouth”.

This calls into question the sincerity of Knoxville in making its multi-million-dollar apology for abusive property takings while they continue to oppose legislation that would stop the abuse once and for all. You be the judge after reading the facts and watching the videos linked in this article.


A loosie-goosy definition of “blighted area” under state code creates a mechanism for local governments to target and claim that entire areas are blighted, even though most of the targeted properties may have no sign of blight, enabling the forced taking of both blighted and non-blighted properties in the aggerate. Some would say “this cannot happen in America; this is socialism; they can’t take my property for private development”. In fact, Tennessee law enables cities and counties to do exactly that. Any doubts, read the Commercial Appeal article linked here on The Tennessee Blight Loophole.


In two videos linked here, the author of this Op-Ed speaks in favor of legislation proposed by State Senator Frank Niceley that would stop property rights abuses in Tennessee, and Ben Bentley, President and CEO of KCDC speaking in opposition to Senate Bill 2058 (2020).

In another video, linked here, Lou Alsobrooks, a taxpayer funded lobbyist with Harris Frazier Government Relations speaks in opposition to House Bill 0793 (2021). Mr. Alsobrooks is trying to preserve the abusive property taking power that cities and counties currently enjoy under an unconstitutionally vague definition of “blighted area”.

The proposed legislation preserves the ability for cities and counties to take blighted properties that pose a threat to public safety but stops the government from taking non-blighted property for private development.


There is a legitimate use for eminent domain, rare cases in which government must acquire property for power lines, schools, roads, and other constitutionally permissible purposes. The framers of the Constitution strictly limited such takings to “public use”. Their intention was to give property owners confidence that their possessions were secure, a way to create free-market wealth and capital, and to provide each citizen a means to achieve their God-given potential. But the United States Supreme Court has perverted the “public use” doctrine and eroded property rights via two landmark cases, Berman v. Parker and Kelo v. New London. These cases make it necessary for the states to protect property rights.


The Knoxville news media has enthusiastically reported on the one hundred-million-dollar resolution that the city of Knoxville made apologizing for the roughhousing of its citizens and the taking of property but has yet to report that the city housing authority (KCDC) has opposed legislation that would stop such abuse. I have contacted multiple news media outlets in Knoxville on this issue, crickets.


A policy advisor to Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon was contacted on March 4, 2021, in preparation for this article but would not comment on-the-record or connect me with the mayor as I had requested, instead stating that “Mayor Kincannon supports KCDC” and referred this author to the Deputy Communications Director (the PR guy). He should have known better. It is time for the Mayor of Knoxville (and city council members) to step forward and take a stand to protect property rights, or to admit that resolution R-367-2020 was just a hollow public relations stunt to appease a destitute and abused block of voters. I am waiting Mayor Kincannon.


Knoxville, Tennessee Resolution R-367-2020, Enacted December 15, 2020

T.C.A. § 29-17-102(c) Housing Authorities Power to Acquire “Blighted Areas”

T.C.A. § 13-20-201, Definition of “Blighted Areas”

Berman v. Parker, 348 U.S. 26 (1954)

Kelo v. New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005)

Source: David Seal is a retired Jefferson County educator, as well as a recognized artist and local businessman. He has also served Jefferson County as a County Commissioner and is a lobbyist for the people on issues such as eminent domain, property rights, education, and broadband accessibility on the state level.