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Hannity

A Developer Defends the Rivera Beach Project in Florida

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," December 6, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Over the course of the past several nights, we've been telling you the story of the people of Riviera Beach, Florida. Because of eminent domain, as many as 6,000 people could lose their homes to make room for a new marina and more expensive housing.

Now, we've heard from homeowners who oppose the plan, the mayor who supports it. Tomorrow Sean will visit Riviera Beach, Florida, and he'll host the show live from one of the homes that could be destroyed.

Now this is a story that should concern all Americans, because if it could happen to them, it can happen to you.

And joining us now is one of the developers involved with this plan, James Webb.

Mr. Webb, what right do you or does anybody else have to take peoples' homes away or small businesses away and go in there and develop — not hospitals or schools — but yacht clubs and more expensive housing?

JAMES WEBB, DEVELOPER: Well, quite on the contrary, our interest is not to take any jobs away or to take any homes. I was brought into the project with the massive (ph) developer to create affordable housing and opportunity for economic empowerment.

COLMES: What are you building? Are you building — what kind of housing are you building?

WEBB: We're building single family homes, and we're also rehabbing existing homes for residents that might not otherwise be able to afford it.

COLMES: But aren't people being displaced and thrown out of their homes and businesses in order for this redevelopment to take place?

WEBB: I think that this project is probably one of the most misunderstood development projects in the country. With the facts that I've seen, we're looking at approximately about 347 homesteaders that could lose their homes and another 1,000 people that are renters that may actually be displaced.

COLMES: What right — what right does the government have, again, other than for building hospitals or schools or things in the public interest — I don't care whether it's 6,000, as have been reported, or 347. Whatever the number is, what right does the government have or a developer to come in and displace people?

WEBB: I agree with you 100 percent. Eminent domain, I'm not a proponent of eminent domain.

COLMES: But you're participating...

WEBB: And I'm not a proponent, as well, of regentrification or any of the other tactics that have been used historically that have taken property from African-Americans.

My participation is to make sure that, not only as I told the development team when they interviewed me to bring me into the project, that of the 380 businesses in this zone now, my interest is to make sure that they double that number by the time this development finishes.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Mr. Webb, you have yet to deal with this question. I want a direct answer to my question. I want to know up or down, yes or know, is it true to do what you want in this redevelopment will people who have lived in some homes for decades, will they lose their homes to make way for your projects, yes or no?

WEBB: The direct answer to that question, is No. 1, I'm not the massive developer (ph). I'm the developer of affordable housing.

HANNITY: This is a yes or no question, Sir. I'm asking, to do this development, will people lose their private residences and businesses? Will they be kicked out after the government pushes them out and gives them a check, yes or no?

WEBB: The government has that authority.

HANNITY: I didn't ask you if they have the authority. In this instance...

WEBB: You have to...

HANNITY: Sir, you've got to help me out here. Our audience needs to know...

WEBB: OK. All right.

HANNITY: ... for this project to be completed to build the yacht club, to build the condos, to build the development, will people be kicked out of their homes after they get a check from the government? Will they be forced out. Yes or no?

WEBB: Does it have to be a yes or no answer?

HANNITY: Yes, sir.

WEBB: I would say no the way that the question is phrased.

HANNITY: Sir, the fact is, the answer is yes. The answer is yes. I've talked to these homeowners. They're going to be thrown out of their homes. The government says, you must — some people have been there decades. They're going to be forced out so the government — not for roads, bridges or schools, but they're going to be forced out so the government can give it to a developer to build condos and a big yacht marina. Isn't that true? Tell me where I'm wrong.

WEBB: Well, you're wrong, because there's more than going on in Riviera Beach than just yacht development. You're talking about a community that's a blighted community. Let's talk about...

HANNITY: I don't care if it's blighted.

WEBB: ... the realty of the domain.

HANNITY: What you view as blighted is somebody's castle.

WEBB: Eminent — eminent domain is possible because of blight. Where does blight come from? Because of a lack of capitalization in these communities. This community is no different than any other community...

HANNITY: You did not answer my question. I'm looking...

WEBB: ... in America that's an African-American low-income community.

HANNITY: Sir...

WEBB: The blight itself is the root of the problem.

HANNITY: James — James, I can tell you're a smart man, Sir. You've got to answer my question here, because I'm looking at the neighborhood and maybe it's not West Palm Beach, which is right adjacent. Maybe it's not wealthy mansions, but these are the homes of people, hard working, law abiding — hang on a second — tax paying citizens.

Let me ask you, to do your development, I will ask you one more time, to do this development, will you be forcing people out of their homes? Look in that camera and tell us the truth, yes or no? The answer is yes, isn't it?

WEBB: I will not force anyone out, because I don't have the authority.

HANNITY: But the government will. The government is forcing them out to make way for your development, isn't that true?

WEBB: They have — they have the power and the authority to do that.

HANNITY: And they're going to use it here, aren't they?

WEBB: In some ways, they may as a last resort.

HANNITY: So how do you — how — what right do you have, sir, or anybody, government entity, to force taxpayers, American citizens out of their homes to give it to another American citizen because they're going to build a nicer house? Is that fair? Do you believe that's fair? Whatever happened to our rights to private property? Do you think that's fair?

WEBB: If they live — if they live in the nicer house that's being built, I think it's fair. And I think that if this program is explained to them correctly...

HANNITY: No, they're being thrown out! They're not going to get that property. They're done; they're out. They're going to get the money and say, "Sorry, we paid you."

WEBB: No, they're not. They're not done.

HANNITY: Oh, yes, they are.

WEBB: They're not done. They're not out. No, they're not. And the whole premise behind eminent domain is blight. We have to cure blight at the source. And...

HANNITY: You don't like what their house looks like, but that's their castle.

WEBB: ... I'm not.

COLMES: The premise should be hospitals, schools, things in the public interest.

WEBB: I've — I've rehabbed 500 of those properties over the last four years.

COLMES: You're kicking people out of their houses...

WEBB: I love the way their houses look. Part of what we're doing is rehabbing existing homes.

COLMES: You're throwing people out of their houses to build nicer houses.

WEBB: No, you've got the wrong guy. I'm not the guy throwing anyone out of their homes.

HANNITY: Yes, but you're a big part of this project.

COLMES: You're developing homes replacing other homes that people are being tossed out of.

WEBB: For the affordable housing portion, of course. That's what the...

COLMES: We will continue this tomorrow night. Thank you for being with us.

HANNITY: I'll be down. I'm going to be down there.

COLMES: Sean will be there for a special edition of "Hannity & Colmes," hosting from Riviera Beach, Florida. We'll take you to the homes that people could lose and you'll see why they're fighting so hard to keep what is rightfully theirs.

Watch "Hannity & Colmes" weeknights at 9 p.m. ET!

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