Kansas Redevelopment Plans Could Force Business Owners Out

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," March 24, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: We continue our special series on eminent domain abuse tonight. We have brought you stories from California to New Jersey. And tonight we take you 1,320 miles from our studio here in the Big Apple of New York City to the "Little Apple," the city of Manhattan, Kansas, where a small town redevelopment plan has started a metropolitan-sized controversy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 1999 our planning department started looking at how we could reinvest and revitalize our downtown. Eighteen community leaders sat on a steering committee, and we focused on everything from housing to relocation to business to infrastructure needed.

PENNY FERLEMANN SIZEMORE, LOSING BUSINESS: All of a sudden I got a letter from the greedy developers and trying to put a price tag on my property here and to say, "I offer this money and you sell your property to me."

And it was just a sudden offer. And I never prepared to sell my property here, because this piece of property is a guarantee for my life and my retirement and also for my son’s education.

And I can say from the beginning our commission and our community leaders have not wanted to use eminent domain. Eminent domain, tool of last resort.

MARLENE FERLEMANN, LOSING BUSINESS: People would sit at the meetings and they would say, "But that’s my property. That’s my property." And they would show a building sitting there. And there was no consideration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The developers in the city found a way to work around my building. And I’m happy for that. And I’m only — only hoping that they can find a way to work around these two remaining buildings, two last property owners, to give them a chance to become a part of this development and not exclude them.

FERLEMANN: It’s not mortar and dirt. It is my inheritance, and my inheritance is a lot more than just the buildings. My inheritance is the tie that I have with the understanding of the love that went into what I have acquired.

SIZEMORE: I told them what you did here is exactly as bad as what happened in China, the communists did. And one of the commissioners says, "It’s not the same. You shouldn’t compare us with the Chinese communists, because we pay money for you." And I was astounded by this answer. And I just think it’s the same.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don’t think we should be compared to communist China. Using an example of China is something that — I guess, I’m not sure this project is directly apples to apples comparison, though.

SIZEMORE: I begged them and don’t take my property away. And I told them my story, what happened in my family before. Please don’t let this happen to me in America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The "Little Apple," unlike the Big Apple, has a personality that we treasure. And we want to keep it that way. We want private ownership of buildings and to be able to have your ma and pa restaurant and stores. That’s what makes it special living here, and we want to keep it that way.


COLMES: And joining us now is Penny Ferlemann Sizemore. Penny, thank you for being with us.

This is exactly the kind of thing you would expect in a totalitarian regime. In fact, it did happen — right — in China and now it’s happening. It’s amazing that it’s happening to you in the United States.

SIZEMORE: Right. That’s what I think.

COLMES: Where do things stand now for you and your property? What’s the latest on your situation?

SIZEMORE: My situation is I went to Manhattan, Kansas, yesterday and met with some of the people there and to try to tell people the situation and what the government is doing is wrong. But the people were scared. They didn’t come to the meeting. Actually, only two people appeared there.

HANNITY: Penny, it’s Sean Hannity. You talked to your relatives and friends back in China. They joke, you know, you escaped one communist country and you brought this up.


SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: You know what? For the government to just take your property and it has nothing to do with anything that’s going to benefit the community, you talk about this happened to your family in China in the 1950s. Isn’t that true?

SIZEMORE: Yes. Yes. That’s true. Actually, it was at the beginning of the 1950s, and it is a very common practice for the communists to take all the properties away.

HANNITY: I saw you crying in the video that we aired earlier today. This has got to be devastating for you. What is the status and what are you going to do at this point?

SIZEMORE: Right now I don’t know. But, you know, I’m so happy that the Kansas Senate legislators have already passed a first round vote that they’re going to limit the power of the eminent domain abuse.

But at the same time, the city tries to ask the lawmakers to allow them get through this — get through this project.

COLMES: We — we thank you very much for being with us tonight. We’ll be following this.

And we want to hear about your eminent domain stories, as well.

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