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June 23rd, 2005, 03:45 PM
Supreme Court Rules Cities May Seize Homes

Jun 23, 1:12 PM (ET)

By HOPE YEN

WASHINGTON (AP) - A divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that local governments may seize people's homes and businesses against their will for private development in a decision anxiously awaited in communities where economic growth often is at war with individual property rights.

The 5-4 ruling - assailed by dissenting Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as handing "disproportionate influence and power" to the well-heeled in America - was a defeat for Connecticut residents whose homes are slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. They had argued that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

As a result, cities now have wide power to bulldoze residences for projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue.

The case was one of six resolved by justices on Thursday. Among those still pending for the court, which next meets on Monday, is one testing the constitutionality of displaying the Ten Commands on government property.

Writing for the court's majority in Thursday's ruling, Justice John Paul Stevens said local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community. States are within their rights to pass additional laws restricting condemnations if residents are overly burdened, he said.

"The city has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including - but by no means limited to - new jobs and increased tax revenue," Stevens wrote.

Stevens was joined in his opinion by other members of the court's liberal wing - David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. The bloc typically has favored greater deference to cities, which historically have used the takings power for urban renewal projects that benefit the lower and middle class.

They were joined by Reagan appointee Justice Anthony Kennedy in rejecting the conservative principle of individual property rights. Critics had feared that would allow a small group of homeowners to stymie rebuilding efforts that benefit the city through added jobs and more tax revenue for social programs.

"It is not for the courts to oversee the choice of the boundary line nor to sit in review on the size of a particular project area," Stevens wrote.

O'Connor argued that cities should not have unlimited authority to uproot families, even if they are provided compensation, simply to accommodate wealthy developers.

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," she wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

Connecticut residents involved in the lawsuit expressed dismay and pledged to keep fighting.

"It's a little shocking to believe you can lose your home in this country," said resident Bill Von Winkle, who said he would refuse to leave his home, even if bulldozers showed up. "I won't be going anywhere. Not my house. This is definitely not the last word."

Scott Bullock, an attorney for the Institute for Justice representing the families, added: "A narrow majority of the court simply got the law wrong today and our Constitution and country will suffer as a result."

At issue was the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property through eminent domain if the land is for "public use."

Susette Kelo and several other homeowners in a working-class neighborhood in New London, Conn., filed suit after city officials announced plans to raze their homes for a riverfront hotel, health club and offices.

New London officials countered that the private development plans served a public purpose of boosting economic growth that outweighed the homeowners' property rights, even if the area wasn't blighted.

Connecticut state Rep. Ernest Hewett, D-New London, a former mayor and city council member who voted in favor of eminent domain, said the decision "means a lot for New London's future."

The lower courts had been divided on the issue, with many allowing a taking only if it eliminates blight.

Nationwide, more than 10,000 properties were threatened or condemned in recent years, according to the Institute for Justice, a Washington public interest law firm representing the New London homeowners.

New London, a town of less than 26,000, once was a center of the whaling industry and later became a manufacturing hub. More recently the city has suffered the kind of economic woes afflicting urban areas across the country, with losses of residents and jobs.

City officials envision a commercial development that would attract tourists to the Thames riverfront, complementing an adjoining Pfizer Corp. research center and a proposed Coast Guard museum.

New London was backed in its appeal by the National League of Cities, which argued that a city's eminent domain power was critical to spurring urban renewal with development projects such Baltimore's Inner Harbor and Kansas City's Kansas Speedway.

Under the ruling, residents still will be entitled to "just compensation" for their homes as provided under the Fifth Amendment. However, Kelo and the other homeowners had refused to move at any price, calling it an unjustified taking of their property.

The case is Kelo et al v. City of New London, 04-108.

---

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All right reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

The ruling in Kelo v. New London is available at:

http://wid.ap.org/documents/scotus/050623kelo.pdf

Ninjahedge
June 23rd, 2005, 05:45 PM
Heard about this on another site.


the debate is whether or not the few that do not want to give up their housing in a depressed run-down area are entitled to stay there despite the ill effects of not being able to proceed with urban center renewal.

Nost of the people there took their offers for houses few wanted to buy and that was that. But some are stubborn.

Do they have a right to do this? If an area NEEDS redevelopment to make it viable again, SHOULD the government be able to step in and pay them out?

Schadenfrau
June 23rd, 2005, 06:04 PM
Hotels, retail stores and other private business are most certainly not for "public use".

lofter1
June 23rd, 2005, 06:12 PM
But now the Supremes have expanded "Public Use" to the broader "Public Good" ... how vague is that?

I was having a discussion about this very thing with my attorney today. I'm in the process of negotiating a lease and had a question about the eminent domain clause -- and thought I had my questions answered. Now this could seemingly change that.

Ahhhh, more attorney's fees ...........

TomAuch
June 23rd, 2005, 09:31 PM
Well...you could make the case that building a Wal Mart is "for the public good."
Let's say that those corporatistas down in Bettonville decide to plop one of their stores in your town. Your house and back yard are needed in order to create a 500-car mega parking lot. You refuse, but town officials step in, and argue that because Wal Mart offers cheaper goods than the other stores, it will lead to a lot of purchases, and in turn more tax revenue that can be used to help the town. But in reality, they are just helping to put up another store that hires people for minimum wage and no health-care (forcing you, the tax-payer to pay for their welfare and emergancy needs). Why should a town have the right to take your house just to build another Wal Mart? This ruling will only benefit corporations and screw the prinicipal of private property. Condemning people's land for parks and highways is one thing (and skyscrapers and stadiums are a gray area, considering Manhattan's density and the lack of open space) because those things WILL benefit the public, but condemning property to give money to private entities is wrong.

johnwk
June 23rd, 2005, 10:14 PM
America`s public enemy No. One: The SCOTUS !

If you think the SCOTUS is not Americas most formidable domestic enemy, and that a number of its members are not using their office of public trust to advance the fortunes of the rich and powerful, I suggest you study the following opinion: KELO et al. v. CITY OF NEW LONDON et al. (http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin/getcase.pl?court=US&navby=case&vol=000&invol=04-108)


Justice O'Connor sums up the tyranny of the majority in the following words:


Today the Court abandons this long-held, basic limitation on government power. Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded--i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public--in the process. To reason, as the Court does, that the incidental public benefits resulting from the subsequent ordinary use of private property render economic development takings "for public use" is to wash out any distinction between private and public use of property--and thereby effectively to delete the words "for public use" from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Accordingly I respectfully dissent.

Also see the dissenting opinion of Justice Thomas:

Long ago, William Blackstone wrote that "the law of the land ... postpone[s] even public necessity to the sacred and inviolable rights of private property." 1 Commentaries on the Laws of England 134-135 (1765) (hereinafter Blackstone). The Framers embodied that principle in the Constitution, allowing the government to take property not for "public necessity," but instead for "public use." Amdt. 5. Defying this understanding, the Court replaces the Public Use Clause with a " '[P]ublic [P]urpose' " Clause, ante, at 9-10 (or perhaps the "Diverse and Always Evolving Needs of Society" Clause, ante, at 8 (capitalization added)), a restriction that is satisfied, the Court instructs, so long as the purpose is "legitimate" and the means "not irrational," ante, at 17 (internal quotation marks omitted). This deferential shift in phraseology enables the Court to hold, against all common sense, that a costly urban-renewal project whose stated purpose is a vague promise of new jobs and increased tax revenue, but which is also suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation, is for a "public use."

I cannot agree. If such "economic development" takings are for a "public use," any taking is, and the Court has erased the Public Use Clause from our Constitution, as Justice O'Connor powerfully argues in dissent. Ante, at 1-2, 8-13. I do not believe that this Court can eliminate liberties expressly enumerated in the Constitution and therefore join her dissenting opinion. Regrettably, however, the Court's error runs deeper than this. Today's decision is simply the latest in a string of our cases construing the Public Use Clause to be a virtual nullity, without the slightest nod to its original meaning. In my view, the Public Use Clause, originally understood, is a meaningful limit on the government's eminent domain power. Our cases have strayed from the Clause's original meaning, and I would reconsider them.


JWK
ACRS

The servant has become the master over those who created a servant.

muscle1313
June 24th, 2005, 07:20 AM
In my opinion it means the Nets move to Brooklyn is a lock now - Most important thing to happen to Brooklyn development in 50 years.

Jasonik
June 24th, 2005, 07:59 AM
With this as a precedent I don't see any reason why all tax exempt church and university property shouldn't be siezed and returned to the tax base as "...an economic development plan that [a city] believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including - but by no means limited to - new jobs and increased tax revenue..."

lofter1
June 24th, 2005, 09:32 AM
Theoretically, this opens things up to all sorts of seizures.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in NYC, as each attempt at "taking" will have to go through Community Boards and various other agencies.

The lawyers must be salivating... all those new billable hours!!

Ninjahedge
June 24th, 2005, 10:40 AM
OK, to argue the other side, what if this is the case:

What if your town has not had any commercial development in 20 years?

What if your town is in debt because of budget problems and delinquent tax collection?

What if your town does not have enough money to provide things like schooling or police protection that would encourage people to come in.

What if your town had an opportunity to get a Merc research facility (no, no chemical waste, so don't go on a tangent) and not a "Wal Mart parking lot".

What if the values offered for your building were 150%-250% greater than appraised value?

Lemme give you some info from a friend on another site, see if the stuff goes through here:


Originally posted by -Gemini-

Hedge,

Some golf shows were on and the 5pm news was kicked back to 6pm. I'll try to record a noon time news program this time.


I was however able to track down some photos from google (after about 3hours of searching...uhhh)

http://www.xetasoft.com/MyU/pic1.jpg



http://www.xetasoft.com/MyU/pic2.jpg


http://www.xetasoft.com/MyU/pic3.jpg



In case people were wondering cost/per house for some of the individuals who did not want to see, it was also in this mornings paper:


Address - Appraised - Purchase - %of appraised value



24 Fraser St - $74,500 - $127,000 - 170.47%



28 Fraser St - $72,300 - $109,000 - 150.76%



33 Twelfth St - $56,400 - $106,500 - 188.83%



34 Twelfth St - $19,100 - $35,000 - 183.25%



74 Tenth St - $53,300 - $117,000 - 219.51%



75 Tenth St - $77,200 - $118,000 - 152.85%



78 Tenth St - $67,100 - $94,000 - 140.09%



29 Eighth St - $48,300 - $123,000 - 254.66%



39 Twelfth St - $65,500 - $119,000 - 182.68%

[cleaned up chart for legibility -s]

johnwk
June 25th, 2005, 08:29 AM
Hotels, retail stores and other private business are most certainly not for "public use".



What is most alarming about this transfer of an American family`s property by government to a private profit making business entity is that the business entity, Pfizer Inc, is a internationally owned business operation with ``investors`` who are not even American citizens!

In other words, the force of America`s government is now being used to take the property of American citizens and hand it over to foreign financiers and investors!

But heck, the writing was on the wall when the Stupid American allowed government to transfer the power of regulating Americas money to a private banking institution called the federal reserve. As Thomas Jefferson correctly warned:

``If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, (i.e., the "business cycle") the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.``

Unfortunately, not one in ten thousand Americans understand how the federal reserve system, a private banking institution, is plundering the nation and picking the peoples pockets.

``History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance``, said James Madison

And, Jefferson further wrote: ``I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Already they have raised up a moneyed aristocracy that has set the government at defiance. The issuing power (of money) should be taken away from the banks and restored to the people to whom it properly belongs.``

Indeed, our founding fathers did in fact provide protection against such abuse when they authorize Congress, and only Congress, to coin our nation`s money and regulate the value thereof, and intentionally forbid a private banking institutions` notes to be made a legal tender.

JWK
ACRS

``As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there is a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be aware of change in the air - however slight - lest we become unwitting victims of darkness.``___Supreme Court Justice William Douglas

BrooklynRider
June 28th, 2005, 10:22 PM
With this as a precedent I don't see any reason why all tax exempt church and university property shouldn't be siezed and returned to the tax base as "...an economic development plan that [a city] believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including - but by no means limited to - new jobs and increased tax revenue..."

Right on! God knows that I need one more Duane Reade around the corner and he wishes to sacrifice something more valued that his son - REAL ESTATE - to fulfill the prophetic vision. I mean, you can really pray anywhere, but, when it comes time to buy a pantyshield, the confessional becomes useless.

bkmonkey
June 28th, 2005, 11:48 PM
I think alot of people are simplu overacting to this verdict. In my opinion, this verdict simply affirms the rights of communities to develop areas which are blighted or not of much public use. Yes, while the argument can be made that cities are now able to buldoze low income houses for rich town houses, another equally compelling argument can be made. What about cases, in which the city has bought out all but a few of the properties, and these individual properties refuse to sell. Should these certain individuals be allowed to halt the progress of an entire city? The court did not pave the way for any paticular action, rather it left the powers of eminent domain to our elected officials. Officials, can now use their judgement, according to how they see fit. These elected officials will be kept in check by votes, if the power of eminent domain is abused then people will retaliate. The bottom line is.. all the judgment said is talk to your local officials not us... .

BrooklynRider
June 29th, 2005, 10:24 AM
...What about cases, in which the city has bought out all but a few of the properties, and these individual properties refuse to sell. Should these certain individuals be allowed to halt the progress of an entire city?

As a matter of fact, the answer is "yes". It is easy to sit there and make the theoretical statements, but, when they are coming for your house, you'll be sorry you didn't back other people up.

This ruling opens the door for the use of "discretion" by government entities. I know of no government official or entity that shows an ounce of it. We are in a society where money speaks and the more money you have the more your voice is heard. This is an absolute attack on small property owners and escalates the subversive class warfare already underway through our tax system revisions.

muscle1313
June 29th, 2005, 08:31 PM
I think alot of people are simplu overacting to this verdict. In my opinion, this verdict simply affirms the rights of communities to develop areas which are blighted or not of much public use. Yes, while the argument can be made that cities are now able to buldoze low income houses for rich town houses, another equally compelling argument can be made. What about cases, in which the city has bought out all but a few of the properties, and these individual properties refuse to sell. Should these certain individuals be allowed to halt the progress of an entire city? The court did not pave the way for any paticular action, rather it left the powers of eminent domain to our elected officials. Officials, can now use their judgement, according to how they see fit. These elected officials will be kept in check by votes, if the power of eminent domain is abused then people will retaliate. The bottom line is.. all the judgment said is talk to your local officials not us... .

Excellent post. Couldn't have said it better myself. Simply a reaffirmation of the way things have gone for a century. A change in this ruling could have stopped the Nets arena.

muscle1313
June 29th, 2005, 08:35 PM
As a matter of fact, the answer is "yes". It is easy to sit there and make the theoretical statements, but, when they are coming for your house, you'll be sorry you didn't back other people up.

This ruling opens the door for the use of "discretion" by government entities. I know of no government official or entity that shows an ounce of it. We are in a society where money speaks and the more money you have the more your voice is heard. This is an absolute attack on small property owners and escalates the subversive class warfare already underway through our tax system revisions.

Totally disagree. For one or two Nimby's to have the ability to stop a borough's or city's progress absolutely scares the daylights out of me.

ZippyTheChimp
June 29th, 2005, 10:09 PM
What about cases, in which the city has bought out all but a few of the properties, and these individual properties refuse to sell. Should these certain individuals be allowed to halt the progress of an entire city? The court did not pave the way for any paticular action, rather it left the powers of eminent domain to our elected officials. ... .
It is true that the Supreme Court left the individual decisions on Eminent Domain actions up to the states, but that was not the central argument of the case before the Court. It concerned whether the government has the right to seize private property for use by a private developer.

The rationale that an increase in the tax base is a public good can be applied to any piece of property in the U.S.

The concept of property rights is suddenly not so sacrosanct.

Schadenfrau
June 30th, 2005, 10:59 AM
Proposal: Replace Souter's home with 'Lost Liberty Hotel'

June 29, 2005

WEARE, N.H. --Following a Supreme Court ruling last week that gave local governments power to seize private property, someone has suggested taking over Justice David Souter's New Hampshire farmhouse and turning it into a hotel.

"The justification for such an eminent domain action is that our hotel will better serve the public interest as it will bring in economic development and higher tax revenue to Weare," Logan Darrow Clements of California wrote in a letter faxed to town officials in Weare on Tuesday.

Souter, a longtime Weare resident, joined in the 5-4 court decision allowing governments to seize private property from one owner and turn it over to another if doing so would benefit a community.

The letter dubbing the project the "Lost Liberty Hotel" was posted on conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh's Web site. Clements said it would include a dining room called the "Just Desserts Cafe" an a museum focused on the "loss of freedom in America."

A message seeking comment from Souter was left at his office Wednesday morning. The court has recessed and Souter was still in Washington, one of his secretaries said.

A few police cruisers were parked on the edge of Souter's property Tuesday.

"It was a precaution, just being protective," said Lt. Mark Bodanza.

Clements is the CEO of Los Angeles-based Freestar Media that fights "abusive" government through a Web site and cable show. He plans to move to New Hampshire soon as part of the Free State Project, a group that supports limiting government powers, the Monitor reported.

The letter was passed along to the board of selectmen. If the five-member board were to endorse the hotel project, zoning laws would have to be changed and the hotel would have to get approval from the planning board.

"At this point, the Board of Selectmen are taking no action," said Laura Buono, board chairwoman. The board met Tuesday night.

"Am I taking this seriously? But of course," said Charles Meany, Weare's code enforcement officer. "In lieu of the recent Supreme Court decision, I would imagine that some people are pretty much upset. If it is their right to pursue this type of end, then by all means let the process begin."

"I have to offer him the luxury of due process," Meany said Wednesday, adding that he planned to tell Clements that "he has started the process backwards." Meany said he will tell Clements he first must petition the selectmen, next the planning board, then the zoning board before "he comes to me for a building permit."

Souter's two-story colonial farmhouse is assessed at a little more than $100,000 and brought in $2,895 in property taxes last year.

The Supreme Court case involved the city of New London, Conn. The justices ruled that City Hall may take over property through eminent domain to make way for a hotel and convention center.

In his majority opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens said New London could pursue private development under the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property if the land is for public use. He said the project the city has in mind promises to bring more jobs and revenue.

At least eight states -- Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, South Carolina and Washington -- forbid the use of eminent domain for economic development unless it is to eliminate blight. Other states either expressly allow private property to be taken for private economic purposes or have not spoken clearly to the question.

© Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

BrooklynRider
June 30th, 2005, 01:59 PM
Excellent post. Couldn't have said it better myself. Simply a reaffirmation of the way things have gone for a century. A change in this ruling could have stopped the Nets arena.

You are using an arbitrary project as an example. The law is not arbitrary. It applies to everyone. As much as we might support a particular project, it places the "absolute ownership" of any property in question. In effect, we are allowing the state to decide what happens with property everywhere and whether it is in its interest to seize it. The interest of state and citizenry is not always mutual.

I do believe that in your argument as well as BKMONKEY's you two are lining up as the NIMBYs. You agree with this ruling as long as they aren't coming to seize and bulldoze your homes. That's a NIMBY position.

Ninjahedge
June 30th, 2005, 03:33 PM
You are using an arbitrary project as an example. The law is not arbitrary. It applies to everyone. As much as we might support a particular project, it places the "absolute ownership" of any property in question. In effect, we are allowing the state to decide what happens with property everywhere and whether it is in its interest to seize it. The interest of state and citizenry is not always mutual.

I do believe that in your argument as well as BKMONKEY's you two are lining up as the NIMBYs. You agree with this ruling as long as they aren't coming to seize and bulldoze your homes. That's a NIMBY position.


Um, no.

That is not a NIMBY

That is NIMH. Not In My House.

Get your generalizations correct young man!!!! ;)

bkmonkey
June 30th, 2005, 06:37 PM
Alas no.... I am not a NIMBY or a NMH

Infact I believe Ratner's development is a exellent example of how this should be done. He went around the area, paying people off to avoid using emmient domain. His offers were so high that many of the people in the are could not refuse. This is why Ratner now owns most of the area. He has even offered the people who live in apartments (people that he has no obligation to) temporary apartments, and permanent new ones in the Atlantic Yards. However, for the few (an I mean few) people who stand in the way, simply on the premise of principal, this is when emminent domain should be used. If someone is forced out of their homes they should be compensated several times the value of their homes. However, as the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, these people with no reason besides belief (no financial reason) cannot be allowed to stand in the way of a MASSIVE development that could change the face of a city. Its like a mouse derailing a train.

ZippyTheChimp
June 30th, 2005, 07:56 PM
Alas no.... I am not a NIMBY or a NMH

Infact I believe Ratner's development is a exellent example of how this should be done. He went around the area, paying people off to avoid using emmient domain. .
But don't you see that by that statement, you are reinforcing Brooklyn Rider's point that the particular example of Ratner's project does not justify the far-reaching implications of the ruling.

The original intent of the project was to use Eminent Domain to acquire the property, but as the CT case moved to the Supreme Court, Ratner saw the threat and began to buy up property.

muscle1313
June 30th, 2005, 08:28 PM
I do believe that in your argument as well as BKMONKEY's you two are lining up as the NIMBYs. You agree with this ruling as long as they aren't coming to seize and bulldoze your homes. That's a NIMBY position.

Wrong assumption. I would welcome the Nets arena in my backyard in a second.

My neighborhood is full of Nimbys. Not me. I have been in favor of every condo built on my avenue, in favor of Loehman's Seaport Plaza built on my avenue, in favor of Applebee's built on my avenue, in favor of 2 hotels built on my avenue, and in favor of the new Venice Marina project they are trying to build next to the United Artists theater that I was in favor of. A lot of people fight development in their backyard. I beg for development in my backyard. In fact a few years ago while everybody in this neighborhood was fighting development, I bought development in my backyard - A luxury condo in my neighborhood.

I am jealous of the people that live in the footprint of Atlantic Yards. They are getting a million bucks for their condos that aren't worth half that much on the open market. You can cry for those guys. Boo hoo!

muscle1313
June 30th, 2005, 08:36 PM
PS - Thank you to my wife for telling me to buy the development in my backyard. Best move I ever made. I was making a ton in the stock market in the 90s and I was saying stocks, stocks, stocks and my wife was saying condo, swimming pool, gym, sauna, ocean, beach. I gave in and we bought December of 1999. Listen to your wives!

BrooklynRider
June 30th, 2005, 09:57 PM
Alas no.... I am not a NIMBY or a NMH

Infact I believe Ratner's development is a exellent example of how this should be done. He went around the area, paying people off to avoid using emmient domain. His offers were so high that many of the people in the are could not refuse. This is why Ratner now owns most of the area. He has even offered the people who live in apartments (people that he has no obligation to) temporary apartments, and permanent new ones in the Atlantic Yards. However, for the few (an I mean few) people who stand in the way, simply on the premise of principal, this is when emminent domain should be used. If someone is forced out of their homes they should be compensated several times the value of their homes. However, as the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, these people with no reason besides belief (no financial reason) cannot be allowed to stand in the way of a MASSIVE development that could change the face of a city. Its like a mouse derailing a train.

Why is it that Ratner is such a great guy for buying people out, but people who won't "sell out" are standing in the way? Another plan, called The Unity Plan (which I found equally uncompelling) was also presented. Explain to me why Ratner Ratner's property, such as the aethetically offensive Atlantic Center shouldn't have been condemned, seized and given over to another developer? How do you argue for Ratner's footprint conveniently skirting around other sites owned by other major developers? The "footprint" was very selective in what parcels he would raid and what parcels he would not.

I am actually in favor of a development at the yards, the only thing Ratner did not do that might have made me reconsider him was offer up Atlantic Center. Considering everyone talking about "public benefit" and "community benefit" that place was a blight from the moment it opened. You can go back and read media reports on the negative impact that building had on the whole neighborhood. You can visit it and see the big wall it through up against Clinton Hill and Fort Greene. The footprint of the Atlantic Yards project could have been shifted and enlarged by simply giving up that building - which Ratner DID NOT WANT TO DO. So, if he wasn't willing to sell out his space, why are we stealing from property from people who are taking the same position?

muscle1313
June 30th, 2005, 10:24 PM
Rider - I think in essence you are saying that Ratner should condemn his own development (Atlantic Center) to build Atlantic Yards. Illogical in any development plan to say the least. Your opinion on Atlantic Mall may be the majority here, but lets get real on development please.

BrooklynRider
June 30th, 2005, 10:51 PM
Rider - I think in essence you are saying that Ratner should condemn his own development (Atlantic Center) to build Atlantic Yards. Illogical in any development plan to say the least. Your opinion on Atlantic Mall may be the majority here, but lets get real on development please.

He absolutely should have. It hasn't been able to hold a tenant, except Pathmark, and the DMV is now a major tenant. He wasnts to build up. He can start on his own property. Atlantic Center is reviled. It would've been hard to argue with the bigger plan had he chipped in his own blighted dump for redevelopment as well.

muscle1313
June 30th, 2005, 11:13 PM
Wow, you think a developer is going to condemn his own recently developed property. Tell me more.

bkmonkey
July 1st, 2005, 02:52 AM
Hmm... I think what makes Ratner's development special, the amount of economic ativity, (jobs, housing, redevelopment, etc) that it will bring to the Downtown Brooklyn Area. It is rare to see so many politicians agree on such a topic, but it's happening. Even acorn, which is usually very suspicious of developments such as this, is endorisng Ratner.I am not in favor of using emminent domain on a regular basis, however... when living in New York, one accepts a certain risk, after all the city is always changing. As long as people are compensated (extremly compensated), then they should not be allowed to stand in the way of development (on a large scale) who determins important developments ( our elected officials, thats why they are elected.). Its important to remember that Atlantic Yards is the biggest development in Brooklyn in 25 years, and one of the key developments in Brooklyn's history. Imagine the day when we wake up and say to ourselves "we could have had all that, if it not were for that one persone who didnt feel like moving". That would be a very sad day. It is extremly important that we protect the rights of people, I am all for that, but we have to be practicall and sometimes exceptions must be made for the bigger picture. I believe that the Atlantic Yards warrents these measures due to its economic impact and its size, and I think most New Yorkers agree.

bkmonkey
July 1st, 2005, 02:58 AM
oh yes... and I would be completly for seizing the Atlantic Center, if another developer had a plan similar to Ratner's, which was dependant on that area. However, name a developer who has conjured such a development, and has the money, and the resources to get it done. This is New York... ideas and visions are constantly tossed around but never actually completed, however, Bruce Ratner has shown that he gets things done, (Metro-Tech, Atlantic Terminal, New York Times Tower etc). The fact that this is his brainchild forfills those requirements... he is the only interested developer. Need I remind you that those railyards (as well as the area that was above atlantic station) were vacent for years, and no one was interested...

ZippyTheChimp
July 1st, 2005, 01:14 PM
http://www.snopes.com/info/inthenews.asp (http://www.snopes.com/info/inthenews.asp) Proposal Made to Seize Souter's Property


Jun 29, 6:03 PM (ET)
WEARE, N.H. (AP) - Following a Supreme Court ruling last week that gave local governments power to seize private property, someone has suggested taking over Justice David Souter's New Hampshire farmhouse and turning it into a hotel.

"The justification for such an eminent domain action is that our hotel will better serve the public interest as it will bring in economic development and higher tax revenue to Weare," Logan Darrow Clements of California wrote in a letter faxed to town officials in Weare on Tuesday.

Souter, a longtime Weare resident, joined in the 5-4 court decision allowing governments to seize private property from one owner and turn it over to another if doing so would benefit a community.

The letter dubbing the project the "Lost Liberty Hotel" was posted on conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh's Web site. Clements said it would include a dining room called the "Just Desserts Cafe" an a museum focused on the "loss of freedom in America."

if ((typeof tag336_2) == 'function') {tag336_2();} A message seeking comment from Souter was left at his office Wednesday morning. The court has recessed and Souter was still in Washington, one of his secretaries said.

A few police cruisers were parked on the edge of Souter's property Tuesday.

"It was a precaution, just being protective," said Lt. Mark Bodanza.

Clements is the CEO of Los Angeles-based Freestar Media that fights "abusive" government through a Web site and cable show. He plans to move to New Hampshire soon as part of the Free State Project, a group that supports limiting government powers, the Monitor reported.

The letter was passed along to the board of selectmen. If the five-member board were to endorse the hotel project, zoning laws would have to be changed and the hotel would have to get approval from the planning board. Messages seeking comment were left with Laura Buono, board chairwoman.

"Am I taking this seriously? But of course," said Charles Meany, Weare's code enforcement officer. "In lieu of the recent Supreme Court decision, I would imagine that some people are pretty much upset. If it is their right to pursue this type of end, then by all means let the process begin."

Souter's two-story colonial farmhouse is assessed at a little more than $100,000 and brought in $2,895 in property taxes last year.

The Supreme Court case involved the city of New London, Conn. The justices ruled that City Hall may take over property through eminent domain to make way for a hotel and convention center.

In his majority opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens said New London could pursue private development under the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property if the land is for public use. He said the project the city has in mind promises to bring more jobs and revenue.

At least eight states - Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, South Carolina and Washington - forbid the use of eminent domain for economic development unless it is to eliminate blight. Other states either expressly allow private property to be taken for private economic purposes or have not spoken clearly to the question.

BrooklynRider
October 5th, 2005, 11:34 PM
Florida city considers eminent domain
By Joyce Howard Price
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published October 3, 2005

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Florida's Riviera Beach is a poor, predominantly black, coastal community that intends to revitalize its economy by using eminent domain, if necessary, to displace about 6,000 local residents and build a billion-dollar waterfront yachting and housing complex.
"This is a community that's in dire need of jobs, which has a median income of less than $19,000 a year," said Riviera Beach Mayor Michael Brown.
He defends the use of eminent domain by saying the city is "using tools that have been available to governments for years to bring communities like ours out of the economic doldrums and the trauma centers."
Mr. Brown said Riviera Beach is doing what the city of New London, Conn., is trying to do and what the U.S. Supreme Court said is proper in its ruling June 23 in Kelo v. City of New London. That decision upheld the right of government to seize private properties for use by private developers for projects designed to generate jobs and increase the tax base.
"Now eminent domain is affecting people who never had to deal with it before and who have political connections," Mr. Brown said. "But if we don't use this power, cities will die."
Jacqui Loriol insists she and her husband will fight the loss of their 80-year-old home in Riviera Beach.
"This is a very [racially] mixed area that's also very stable," she said. "But no one seems to care ... Riviera Beach needs economic redevelopment. But there's got to be another way."
In the Kelo ruling, a divided Supreme Court held that private development offering jobs and increased tax revenues constituted a public use of property, but the court held that state legislatures can draft eminent-domain statutes to their satisfaction.
Dana Berliner, senior lawyer with the Institute for Justice, which represented homeowners in the Kelo case, said "pie in the sky" expectations like those expressed by Mr. Brown are routine in all these cases.
"They always think economic redevelopment will bring more joy than what is there now," she said. "Once someone can be replaced so something more expensive can go where they were, every home and business in the country is subject to taking by someone else."
Last week, the Riviera Beach City Council tapped the New Jersey-based Viking Inlet Harbor Properties LLC to oversee the mammoth 400-acre redevelopment project.
"More than 2,000 homes could be eligible for confiscation," said H. Adams Weaver, a local lawyer who is assisting protesting homeowners.
Viking spokesman Peter Frederiksen said the plan "is to create a working waterfront," adding that the project could take 15 years and that "we would only use condemnation as a last resort."
Viking has said it will pay at least the assessed values of homes and businesses it buys.
Other plans for the project include creation of a basin for megayachts with high-end housing, retail and office space, a multilevel garage for boats, a 96,000-square-foot aquarium and a manmade lagoon.
Mr. Brown said Riviera Beach wants to highlight its waterfront.
"We have the best beach and the most attractive redevelopment property anywhere in the United States," he said.
Mr. Frederiksen said people with yachts need a place to keep and service them. "And we want to develop a charter school for development of marine trades."
Mr. Brown and others said this could be one of the biggest eminent-domain actions ever. A report in the Palm Beach Post said it is the biggest since 1954, when 5,000 residents of Washington were displaced for eventual development of the Southwest D.C. waterfront, L'Enfant Plaza, and the less-than-successful Waterside Mall.
The fact that Riviera Beach is so financially downtrodden may seem ironic because as Mr. Brown notes "it sits right across the inlet from Palm Beach," one of the nation's wealthiest areas.
"Palm Beach County is the largest county east of the Mississippi, and we have the second-highest rate of poverty in the county," the mayor said.




Copyright © 2005 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Law & Order
October 5th, 2005, 11:37 PM
Not reading the article, Im assuming the houses will be taken from the poor and lower middle class, in order to create activities for the rich?

lofter1
October 6th, 2005, 12:04 AM
^ But, of course. :rolleyes:

What do the poor need houses for anyway?

lofter1
October 7th, 2005, 10:13 AM
The new American pastime?

Landowners must yield to ballpark

THE WASHINGTON TIMES
By Tim Lemke
October 6, 2005

http://www.washtimes.com/national/20051006-120902-5838r.htm


The District will begin using eminent domain to acquire parcels of land at the site of the Washington Nationals' ballpark by the end of this month, after unsuccessful negotiations with nearly half of the landowners.

City officials said they expect to file court documents to take over at least some of the 21-acre site in the coming weeks and have $97 million set aside to buy the properties and help landowners relocate.

The city made offers to all 23 landowners on the site last month but received no response from 10.

"We think there are some that we'll have good-faith negotiations with," said Steve Green, director of development in the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. "There are some we haven't heard from at all."

Many property owners on the site said the city's offers are inadequate. Others are suing the city on the grounds that it has no right to use eminent domain to acquire land at the site, despite a Supreme Court ruling affirming the right of municipal governments to take private property for the purpose of economic development.

In April, the city notified property owners on the site that they would be required to move out by Dec. 31.

City officials said the District is on target to have title on all of the land by that date, but they don't expect to have full possession of the site until early next year, with construction on the $535 million stadium to begin in March. That would give the construction team, led by Clark Construction Group of Bethesda, about two years to build the ballpark in time for Opening Day of 2008.

Officials said that timetable remains realistic. Clark built the 80,000-seat FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins, in less time.

"Twenty-four months is not bad," Mr. Green said. "There's always the possibility of doing it in 22 or 23 months."

Meanwhile, the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission has been sparring with the new Anacostia Waterfront Corp. (AWC) on the location of ballpark parking.

The AWC, which the city created to promote development along the Anacostia River waterfront, said it prefers an underground parking garage beneath 600,000 to 800,000 square feet of office and retail development.

The commission said that would run up too many costs and take too long to build.

"We're not going to do it," said Mark Tuohey, chairman of the sports commission. "We don't care what they say. There's no money."

In order for parking to be built above ground, the commission must change a zoning requirement. A hearing before the zoning board on the issue is scheduled for Oct. 17, but could delay the process further. If the commission is denied a zoning change, it would have to turn to the D.C. Council for legislative permission or take the case to an appeals court.

"If we lose and it goes to the court of appeals, that takes years," said commission board member Linda Greenan. "That's not a good strategy."

Any discrepancy over development of the stadium site could affect ballpark financing negotiations, which have reached a sensitive stage.

"It could cause confusion on Wall Street, which is exactly where we don't want it right now," said John Ross, a special adviser for the city's chief financial officer and a commission board member.

City officials insist on below-ground parking because it would fit with plans for a retail and entertainment district near the ballpark. They are considering removing parking entirely from the cost of the stadium and paying for it separately, using tax-increment financing or other revenue streams.

Mr. Green said the debate over parking is not delaying completion of a lease agreement for the stadium, which Major League Baseball says must be finalized before it announces the Nationals' new owner.

"There's no real holdup," Mr. Green said. "It's just a very complicated document."

ZippyTheChimp
November 7th, 2005, 07:08 AM
GlobeSt.com UPDATE:

Eminent Domain Bill Sails Through PA House, Heads for Senate

Friday, November 4, 2005
By Marita Thomas
http://media.globest.com/images/clearpixel.gif

HARRISBURG, PA-House Bill 2054, which provides for limitations on the use of eminent domain throughout the state, won overwhelming approval of the state House of Representatives. It is expected to do the same when the state Senate convenes on Nov. 14.


Submitted in reaction to the now-famous Kelo case Supreme Court decision, this bill “is a little more tempered than some that have been submitted in other legislatures across the country,” David B. Snyder, a partner and eminent domain lawyer in the Philadelphia office of Fox Rothschild, tells GlobeSt.com. For information on eminent domain legislation on the federal level, click here (http://www.globest.com/news/407_407/washington/139906-1.html). For previous eminent domain coverage, click here (http://www.globest.com/news/312_312/newyork/135553-1.html). To read about eminent domain case in New York, click here (http://www.globest.com/news/407_407/newyork/139907-1.html).


While the bill states, “eminent domain for private business is prohibited,” it sets forth some exceptions which essentially limit the use of eminent domain to abandoned properties or ones that are “blighted” by conditions that make them “unsanitary, unsafe, vermin-infested or … unfit for human habitation.” In order to acquire multiple units of property for eminent domain, the condemnor can declare an area within or outside of a redevelopment area to be blighted “only if a majority of the units of the property” meet the above exceptions.

“Some municipalities have introduced legislation that has no such exceptions,” Snyder says. “This bill is very focused and still allows government to take property for private use if it’s blighted, and it gives a more limited definition of blight than some bills introduced elsewhere.” Under this bill, “you could not do a Kelo in Pennsylvania,” he says, “because the Kelo property was not blighted.” Under previous Pennsylvania law, he says, the answer might have been “maybe.”

Snyder says this bill would have not have an impact on the planned expansion of the Convention Center in Philadelphia because the Convention Center Authority is not a private entity. Yet he questions whether it might not have an effect on a sports stadium, such as those recently built in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. “They are technically owned by the teams, which are private, but they are also community projects,” he explains and anticipates that minor league baseball stadiums planned in some municipalities in Pennsylvania may be litigated on that basis.

Clifford B. Levine, a partner with Pittsburgh-based Thorp Reed & Armstrong tells GlobeSt.com that the bill “will have dire and drastic repercussions. It would eliminate the necessary powers granted for urban development throughout the state and throw out 60 years of allowing one of the most important redevelopment opportunities available. It offers a restrictive and narrow view of blight,” He adds that “absolutely, this is an overreaction (to Kelo). If people are unhappy with the transformation of Pittsburgh as a smoky town into the Golden Triangle complex, which was done under the redevelopment act of 1945, they will like this bill.”

http://media.globest.com/images/clearpixel.gif

Copyright © 2005 Real Estate Media. All rights reserved.

ZippyTheChimp
November 21st, 2005, 07:26 AM
November 21, 2005

After Eminent Domain Victory, Disputed Project Goes Nowhere

By WILLIAM YARDLEY (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=WILLIAM YARDLEY&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=WILLIAM YARDLEY&inline=nyt-per)

NEW LONDON, Conn. - They have still not moved out. Not Susette Kelo. Not the Derys. Not Byron Athenian or Bill Von Winkle or the others.
Five months after the United States Supreme Court set off a national debate by ruling that the City of New London could seize their property through eminent domain to make way for new private development, no one has been forced to leave.

No bulldozers have arrived to level the last houses still standing, and none are expected soon.

Even though the holdouts lost their case, and the development that would displace them finally seems free to go forward, construction has not begun, and some elements of the project have been effectively paralyzed since the court ruling prompted a political outcry.

"I felt relaxed enough to get my checkbook out and put the new roof on," said Mr. Von Winkle, who owns three buildings with a total of 12 occupied apartments in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood by the Thames River, where the city was sued for claiming 15 properties through eminent domain.

Ms. Kelo, also among the handful of holdouts, said, "We still have hope that we'll get to keep our homes."

It is not that Ms. Kelo and the others have chained themselves to their property in a final dramatic defiance of the law.

Instead, wary of public disapproval and challenges from groups like the Institute for Justice, the law firm that represented the holdouts in court, the state and the city have halted plans to evict the remaining residents. Investors are concerned about building on land that some people consider a symbol of property rights. At the same time, contract disputes and financial uncertainty have delayed construction even in areas that have been cleared.

With so many complications, some people are unsure whether the city's initial vision for the property - a mix of housing, hotel and office space intended to transform part of its riverfront and bolster a declining tax base - is even realistic anymore.

"Winning took so long," said Mayor Jane L. Glover, "that the plan may
not be as viable in 2005 or 2006 or 2007."

New London, founded in the 17th century as a port city in southeastern Connecticut (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/national/usstatesterritoriesandpossessions/connecticut/index.html?inline=nyt-geo), has a high unemployment rate and fewer residents today than it had in 1920. Its court battle over eminent domain started five years ago, when it claimed the property of six Fort Trumbull homeowners, a two-block area within 90 acres set for development. Homeowners challenged the move, and the matter eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, which ruled 5 to 4 in June that the city had the right to take the land to improve its financial health, even though doing so would eventually transfer the property to a private developer.

But in a dissent that echoed what property rights activists were saying, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/o/sandra_day_oconnor/index.html?inline=nyt-per) wrote: "The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the state from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall or any farm with a factory."

Congress and state legislatures across the country have reacted by revisiting eminent domain laws. Over the summer, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning the court decision. This month, the House voted overwhelmingly to deny federal economic development money for two years to local governments that seize private property for private development.

In September, Gov. M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut demanded that the New London Development Corporation, the city's development agency, rescind eviction orders delivered to tenants in rental units that belong to homeowners who have refused to give up their property.

The Connecticut General Assembly has asked cities to delay using eminent domain while it considers revising state law. Some city and state officials cite the difficulty in finding a balance between using eminent domain to rebuild blighted areas and preventing the potential for abuse that concerned Justice O'Connor.

"We're not writing a law to solve the New London problem," said State Representative Michael P. Lawlor, a Democrat who is co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee. "We're writing a law to fix the Sandra Day O'Connor problem."

Amid all the debate, the Fort Trumbull project has stalled.

"This lawsuit put a chill on the development of the whole 90 acres, no doubt in my mind," said Thomas J. Londregan, the city's director of law. "Any developer knew that whatever they did would most likely be appealed to the courts."

Contentiousness led to stalemate and stumbles. At one point the city severed ties with the New London Development Corporation, only to reverse itself days later under pressure from the state. A key corporation executive was forced out.

Pressure to go forward is considerable, even if momentum is not. The state has already invested $73 million on environmental cleanup and sewer and road improvements. Elegant street lamps, intended to illuminate a gentrified new riverfront, instead shine over empty lots
where buildings have been leveled but not replaced.

In recent weeks the city, the state and the developer, Boston-based Corcoran Jennison, have begun discussing ways to jump-start construction in empty areas. Details are not firm.

"We are currently working our way toward what I believe will be something fruitful," said Michael Joplin, president of the New London Development Corporation.

One point of contention: Corcoran Jennison is resisting pressure from the city to build a waterfront hotel first, as was initially planned, out of concern that there is no market for one.

Corcoran Jennison says that Pfizer, which built a major research center next to the site in the late 1990's and pushed for the Fort Trumbull development, backed away from a commitment to help pay for the hotel as the lawsuit dragged on. And the prospects for a Coast Guard museum, which under one plan could be built on the holdouts' land, are also unclear.

Still, Ron Angelo, deputy commissioner of the state's Department of Economic and Community Development, insists that the project, at least in some form, will get under way soon. "I think for the first time in a number of months, if not years, we have come close to beginning with the project," he said.

If any construction begins soon, it will happen away from the area where the holdouts remain, said Marty Jones, president of Corcoran Jennison, which has been under contract on the project since 1999.

"We need to have some positive things happening so that every lender and investor I go to doesn't say, 'I want to be 100 miles away from here,' " Ms. Jones said. "Eminent domain in Fort Trumbull has been on the front page of every newspaper in the country, and it has not put New London in the most positive light."

Despite losing in court, the holdouts have gained political leverage, largely through the public relations effort led by the Institute for Justice, Mr. Joplin said.

Scott G. Bullock, a lawyer for the Institute for Justice who argued for the resistant property owners before the Supreme Court, said, "We might have lost the battle, but the overall war is really going in our favor."

"What developer is going to want to build on land that was received through probably the most universally despised Supreme Court decision in decades?" Mr. Bullock asked.

Governor Rell has hired a mediator to meet with the holdouts. The goal is to see what, if any, financial terms, beyond the outdated appraised value they have been offered, might persuade them to leave.

"I'm on the road to search for the proverbial win-win," said the mediator, Robert R. Albright. "It's an extraordinarily complex situation. It's not a two-party situation by any means. I'm not sure I can honestly give you an option set or even fully describe the obstacles."

The property owners have their critics in New London. They have been accused of delaying the city's resurgence, and even of taking payoffs from property rights advocates in order to keep up the fight. But at least a few, after seeing most of their neighborhood leveled, say they will consider coming to terms with Mr. Albright if the money is right. Others, however, have not ruled out new lawsuits.

Meanwhile, some renters are moving in, not out. Michelle Cerrato arrived from Pennsylvania in September and found her two-bedroom apartment on Walbach Street through a newspaper ad. Unaware of the fuss over eminent domain, Ms. Cerrato, a 30-year-old casino hostess with three children, soon figured out why neighbors have signs in their windows that say, "Not for Sale."

Confused and concerned that she would be evicted, she called her landlord, Sue Dery, one of the holdouts.
"She said it's not going to happen," Ms. Cerrato said. "It's been going on for eight years."


Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

ZippyTheChimp
February 21st, 2006, 12:29 AM
February 21, 2006

States Curbing Right to Seize Private Homes

By JOHN M. BRODER

In a rare display of unanimity that cuts across partisan and geographic lines, lawmakers in virtually every statehouse across the country are advancing bills and constitutional amendments to limit use of the government's power of eminent domain to seize private property for economic development purposes.

The measures are in direct response to the United States Supreme Court's 5-to-4 decision last June in a landmark property rights case from Connecticut, upholding the authority of the City of New London to condemn homes in an aging neighborhood to make way for a private development of offices, condominiums and a hotel. It was a decision that one justice, who had written for the majority, later all but apologized for.

The reaction from the states was swift and heated. Within weeks of the court's decision, Texas, Alabama and Delaware passed bills by overwhelming bipartisan margins limiting the right of local governments to seize property and turn it over to private developers. Since then, lawmakers in three dozen other states have proposed similar restrictions and more are on the way, according to experts who track the issue.

The National League of Cities, which supports the use of eminent domain as what it calls a necessary tool of urban development, has identified the issue as the most critical facing local governments this year. The league has called upon mayors and other local officials to lobby Congress and state legislators to try to stop the avalanche of bills to limit the power of government to take private property for presumed public good.

The issue is not whether governments can condemn private property to build a public amenity like a road, a school or a sewage treatment plant. That power is explicit in the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment, provided that "just compensation" is paid. The conflict arises over government actions to seize private homes or businesses as part of a redevelopment project that at least partly benefits a private party like a retail store, an apartment complex or a football stadium.

"It's open season on eminent domain," said Larry Morandi, a land-use specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures. "Bills are being pushed by Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and they're passing by huge margins."

Seldom has a Supreme Court decision sparked such an immediate legislative reaction, and one that scrambles the usual partisan lines. Condemnation of the ruling came from black lawmakers representing distressed urban districts, from suburbanites and from Western property-rights absolutists who rarely see eye to eye on anything. Lawmakers from Maine to California have introduced dozens of bills in reaction to the ruling, most of them saying that government should never seize private homes or businesses solely to benefit a private developer, no matter what compensation is paid.

The Supreme Court seemed to invite such a response in its narrowly written ruling in the case, Kelo v. City of New London. Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, expressed sympathy for the displaced homeowners and said that the "necessity and wisdom" of the use of eminent domain were issues of legitimate debate. And, he added, "We emphasize that nothing in our opinion precludes any state from placing further restrictions on its exercise of the takings power."

Two months after the ruling, addressing a bar association meeting, Justice Stevens called it "unwise" and said he would have opposed it had he been a legislator and not a federal judge bound by precedent.

Plenty of legislators took the hint.

The issue was one of the first raised when Connecticut lawmakers returned to session early this month. There are bills pending in the Legislature to impose new restrictions on the use of eminent domain by local governments and to assure that displaced businesses and homeowners receive fair compensation.

(The New London project is essentially delayed, even after the Supreme Court go-ahead, because of contractual disputes and an unwillingness to forcibly remove the homeowners who sued to save their properties.)

In the New Jersey Legislature, Senator Nia H. Gill, a Democrat from Montclair who is chairwoman of the Commerce Committee, proposed a bill to outlaw the use of eminent domain to condemn residential property that is not completely run down to make room for a redevelopment project. The bill, which is pending, would require public hearings before any taking of private property to benefit a private development project.

State Senator John A. DeFrancisco of New York has proposed a measure similar to one in several other states that would remove the right to exercise condemnation power from unelected bodies like an urban redevelopment authority or an industrial development agency. Mr. DeFrancisco, a Republican from Syracuse, cited the case of a development agency in his hometown that has used its power to take valuable leases from existing mall tenants to allow a private developer to expand.

Texas was one of the first states to act after the Kelo ruling, taking up the issue in a special legislative session that was supposed to focus solely on education. Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, signed a bill on Sept. 1 that prohibits use of eminent domain to benefit a private party, with certain exceptions. Among those exceptions is the condemnation of homes to make way for a new stadium for the Dallas Cowboys.

The sponsor of the Texas measure, Senator Kyle Janek, Republican of Houston, said the state was weighing a constitutional amendment to cement the eminent domain restrictions, but that process can take years. He sponsored his bill, he said, because "We wanted something in place quickly that the governor could sign and would take immediate effect."

The bill could affect a huge highway project now in the planning stages known as the Trans-Texas Corridor, a public-private toll road and rail project that would require the taking of large swaths of privately owned land.

There are six proposed laws and five constitutional amendments before the California Legislature, as well as several proposed citizen initiatives to curb the eminent domain power. The bills are supported by, among others, the California Farm Bureau Federation, which fears that the Kelo ruling will empower cities to gobble up more farmland to build subdivisions and strip malls.

The lobbyist for California's local economic development agencies said the ruling and the resultant legislation had been a nightmare.

"My life hasn't been the same since June 23, 2005," said the lobbyist, John F. Shirey, executive director of the California Redevelopment Association, referring to the date the Supreme Court handed down the ruling. The group represents 350 local redevelopment authorities around California and believes such agencies need the eminent domain power to rebuild distressed cities.

"I've had to spend practically full time dealing with this issue and trying to get people to understand the Supreme Court decision didn't change anything in California law," Mr. Shirey said.

Ohio's legislature, acting swiftly and unanimously after the Kelo decision, declared a moratorium on all government takings until the end of 2006. The state has created a 25-member bipartisan panel to study the issue and make recommendations for changes, if necessary, in Ohio's eminent domain statutes. The sponsor of the moratorium measure, Senator Timothy J. Grendell, a Republican lawyer who specializes in property rights cases, noted that the Ohio Supreme Court was now weighing a potentially critical eminent domain case involving the city of Norwood, a suburb of Cincinnati.

In that case, city officials have approved a plan to condemn about 60 private homes to make way for an upscale office and retail complex. The homeowners are represented by lawyers from the Institute of Justice, a public interest law firm that litigates against what it calls eminent domain abuse and that represented the plaintiffs in the New London case.

Scott G. Bullock of the Institute for Justice described the Norwood case as an important test of property rights law in the post-Kelo era, but would not predict how the Ohio court would rule. He said he hoped to take another case before the Supreme Court in the next few years to determine whether the courts can curb eminent domain power further, even as state legislatures act on their own.

Mr. Bullock said he expected municipal officials and redevelopment authorities to try to fight the wave of eminent domain legislation by offering cosmetic changes to existing law, for example by requiring an extra hearing or an economic impact statement. But he said that major changes were coming in how the takings power of government is used.

"Our opposition to eminent domain is not across the board," he said. "It has an important but limited role in government planning and the building of roads, parks and public buildings. What we oppose is eminent domain abuse for private development, and we are encouraging legislators to curtail it."

More neutral observers expressed concern that state officials, in their zeal to protect homeowners and small businesses, would handcuff local governments that are trying to revitalize dying cities and fill in blighted areas with projects that produce tax revenues and jobs.

"It's fair to say that many states are on the verge of seriously overreacting to the Kelo decision," said John D. Echeverria, executive director of the Georgetown Environmental Law and Policy Institute and an authority on land-use policy. "The danger is that some legislators are going to attempt to destroy what is a significant and sometimes painful but essential government power. The extremist position is a prescription for economic decline for many metropolitan areas around the county."

* Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

cyppok
February 24th, 2006, 03:57 PM
The only way to stop eminent domain from being abused by the moneygrubing politicians is to have a new amendment in the constitution.
They will always misuse power to profit from this little line in the constitution and the courts have no choice but to nod and accept it because thats what is written in const. But if one or two states started a largescale movement to either 1 take away the power of govt to use eminent domain altogether forcing the gov't either to buy at market value or look elsewhere or 2 write extreme restrictions upon it in their constitutions. Either solution would need a large scale referendum of the local populous but could be done. Rhode Island and some other state would be good catalysts in my view to start it off.

ablarc
March 7th, 2006, 08:53 PM
forcing the gov't either to buy at market value or look elsewhere.
In theory, when the government takes your property doesn't it pay you market value? Could eminent domain be used to fix Camden? Wouldn't everybody benefit, including those who live there?

lofter1
July 1st, 2006, 07:58 AM
Holdout Ends, Letting a City Seize Property in Connecticut

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/01/nyregion/01eminent.html)
By AVI SALZMAN
July 1, 2006

NEW LONDON, Conn., June 30 — With eviction looming, the two remaining homeowners fighting the city's plans to replace their homes with offices, a hotel and new housing agreed to settle on Friday, ending a six-year battle that led to a historic Supreme Court ruling on governments' power of eminent domain.

"We're able to move on with our lives and look forward to remaining in the neighborhood," said Michael Cristofaro, whose family was one of the holdouts.

The settlements followed months of negotiations among the homeowners, the city and the New London Development Corporation that were overseen by state mediators.

The holdout homeowners were among seven in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood who sued the city, challenging its right to seize their property through eminent domain. The case eventually reached the United States Supreme Court, which issued a controversial 5-to-4 ruling last year that New London could take their homes for private development.

The five other homeowners have already settled. The dollar amounts of the settlements reached on Friday were not disclosed. Susette Kelo, a lead plaintiff in the case whose pink Victorian cottage became an icon in the battle to limit eminent domain, agreed to move her house to a new lot.

Ms. Kelo has not decided where she will move the house, but the state has agreed to pay the bill, said Scott Bullock, a lawyer from the nonprofit Institute for Justice who represented her. Mr. Bullock called the resolution "bittersweet," because Ms. Kelo had wanted to stay on her property.

No one answered the door at Ms. Kelo's house on Friday, and she did not return calls seeking comment.

Mr. Cristofaro said a few small concessions by the city made the difference.

His five-bedroom clapboard house on Goshen Street will be torn down, but the family has the option to buy property in the new development at a set price. The city also agreed to move the rhododendrons, yews and other plants his father, Pasquale, planted 30 years ago and to install a plaque in the development to honor Mr. Cristofaro's mother, Margherita, who fought the condemnation of her home until she died in 2003. "It restored a lot of respect and dignity to the family," Mr. Cristofaro said.

Ronald Angelo, a state official who helped negotiate the deals, said a key element to the settlements was getting the property owners more money.

After the Supreme Court ruling, several of the Fort Trumbull homeowners vowed to stay put, but they began to settle after the city increased legal and financial pressures. On June 5, the City Council voted to begin eviction proceedings.

William Von Winkle, who owned three rental properties in Fort Trumbull, held out until June 5. In an interview at his home on Friday, he said he settled because the state was willing to give him more money.

"When you look at my property, put these on," he said, adjusting a pair of sunglasses with dollar-sign holograms over the eyes.



Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

JoelS
August 25th, 2006, 11:26 AM
Hello All,

My Town of Brighton (NY) where I reside (I reserve
the word "live" for places like Anna Maria Island
at the mouth of Tampa Bay in Florida) is embroiled
in its own Eminent Domain case that by the day is
becoming more (in)famous in its own right with the
potential to rival Kelo vs. City of New London
(Connecticut) in the annals of famous Eminent Domain
cases.

Here are a couple of posts with respect to my
town's Eminent Domain case which segues into a
couple others of mine as well.
The Brighton (NY) case has the billing of
Government versus Religion; but in reality it is
a case of right and wrong.
I hope my efforts in my own little way of sowing
the seeds of thought and consideration which
indeed include a fair amount of sarcasm and
cynicism, ultimately will result in a country
whose rules and laws that are more fair and just.
Anyway, if I have miserably failed in this regard
at least I got some good typing practice in and
always welcome correspondence with new friends
sharing ideas and perspectives about different
things.
Regards,
Joel S.
jrs_14618@yahoo.com
================================================== =
http://www.democratandchronicle.com/blogs/brighton/
JoelS said...
The Brighton Eminent Domain issue
has evolved into a government vs.
religion issue but it is really a
right versus wrong issue!
The town offered original owner
Groos $1,340,000 and church bought
land (because town screwed up and
didn't formally condemn property)
at open market price of
$2,100,000.
Per New York State code
bargaining is supposed to be
conducted by government entity
whatever it may be; town city
etc. in good faith and justly
compensate owner for land.
Tell me? How can with a straight
face Town of Brighton can claim
bargaining in good faith only
offering original owner a little
more than half the value of the
property on the open market???
That is exactly what Supervisor
Frankel maintains and she claims
in Town Hall meeting last night
(08/23/06) and she can't discuss
it even though owner is now Faith
Temple Church and offer to
original owner has been released
See a pattern here of lack of
honesty and integrity?
The only more disproportionate
fair shake to original owner
is probably the first and
greatest of all U.S. Eminent
Domain cases: the Indians
selling Manhatten Island for
$24 worth of trinkets. There
has been some ridicle on them
for this but probably seeing
the the ships, guns and technology
of the European invaders, the
invaders easily convinced them
that was the best deal they were going to get.
Probably the initial offer was $20
and they let they raised it to
$24 just so history will show them
in a good light.
Brighton is just following a long
standing American tradition of
screwing the origninal landowner
out of their just compensation.
I explain in more detail in
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
Forum link:
http://cgi.democratandchronicle.com/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.cgi?board=Brighton
Joel S
24/8/06 10:01 A
================================================== ==
================================================== ==
http://cgi.democratandchronicle.com/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.cgi?board=Brighton
Brighton Eminent Domain Open Letter to Town Judg
Aug 23rd, 2006, 3:13am
Dear Hon. Mr. Dollinger,

Last November on the eve of elections you made
a political call to me that I should vote
Democratic for Brighton Town Board and yourself.

Although the American government/judicial system is
still the best in the world, in my humble opinion
it is still pretty perverse that the system allows a
judicial entity (i.e. of course; a person) such as
yourself should have a political party affiliation
because political parties have agendas and as far as
I know and understand judges aren't supposed to be
bias - y'know that blindfolded lady (liberty?)
holding the balance? A better representation with
this aspect would have her peeking under the
blindfold.

But, alas, that the way it is so we do the best
we can to work within this important blemish
on again, we can both agree the overall best
system in the world ...

If I remember correctly we got into a heated
"discussion" about the Brighton Eminent Domain
issue. You mentioned you really didn't know
that much about it and really couldn't comment
on it until you knew more.

"Here's more" I assure you Your Honor in very
short order.

One major aspect was I was contending now that at
the time since there were new owners the public
should be able to see the light of day of the offer
made to original land owner Mr. Groos.

Well, through hard fought Freedom of Information
Act (FOIA) requests I got my wish! I was not
privy to the information per Brighton Town
attorney William Moehle [sp?] the issue was still
being resolved/under litigation in the courts; but
inexplicably the town indeed released the
information.

For reasons I still cannot comprehend why, the
offer to Mr. Groos was not released when I asked
for it as the new owners/(Faith Temple) held title
to the land long before I ever made my request or
for that matter why the offer is still not
considered to be a "state secret" as the town is
still invvolved in the court cases with respect to
the property.

Whatever .. I got what I wanted. I assumed the
price the Church paid for the land would be a
secret as well as, again, the property is still
under litigation but in a Sunday August 13th, 2006
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (D&C) front page
news story they related the price the church paid.

I'm assuming even if you don't know the whole
story, nuances and intricacies for the case it has
turned into a religion versus government issue to
the citizens of Brighton and the rest of the country
as this case is becoming more famous/well known by
the day.

But, Your Honor it is not a religion vs. government
issue: No, It started simply a right and wrong issue;
that a land owner should be rightfully compensated
for his land.

Funny in the Madam Chairwoman's Frankel's self-
righteous declarations in Brighton Town meetings
that the acquisition of the land is a noble
undertaking and so in the public interest that it is
worth Eminent Domain proceedings initiated by the
town she sure doesn't seem to remark much about
this aspect.

Could it be because the Town only offered original
land owner Mr. Owner [should read Groos] slightly
more than half what Faith Temple Church the new
owners paid for his property? It is under these
auspices that Brighton was willing to "take" the
property under Eminent Domain (very appropriate
legal term as you should know)

The town offered $1,137,000 and the church paid
$2,100,000 on the open market.

I mention in another post in this Rochester
D&C Brighton town online forum, where I will be
posting this letter as well that this is a TRUE
open Brighton Town Forum free of restrictions and
censure versus the Open Forum section of Brighton
Town Hall meetings.

For your convenience here is the URL to the
Rochester D&C Forum:

http://cgi.democratandchronicle.com/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.cgi?board=Brighton

So, pray tell Your Honor (no pun intended) is/was
the offer to the original land owner made in the
spirit of bargaining in good faith and fairness
to set the negotiation standard at such a
ridiculous amount; a little more than half what the
property is worth on the open market with the teeth
of Eminent Domain ever presently snarled in the
background? Fangs salivating.

Whoa! Your Honor, I know. I understand. Your reply
to this letter/post if there is to be one at all is
going to be (paraphrasing) due to your position as a
judge and the potential for the public to perceive
your impartiality is compromised you can't respond
and you will have to recuse yourself on this one.

Of Course!

Oh, I understand but what I also know is you are
someone who makes judgmental "fairness calls" all
day long. You are/would be the best person to ask.
It's inherent in your title.

It is an interesting rhetorical question to what
extent your Democratic party affiliation would have
in a hypothetical response. How could you sugar
coat a blatant inequity to make it palatable? If
you see enough inequities being committed by others
in your political party would you change over and
become a Republican or go independent?

In closing, I would have never considered writing
this letter had you not initiated your call to me
last November. Next big election around let's be
honest; you are on short leash to discuss anything
substantial. You are very well versed in legal
profession of the nuances and intricacies of
ambiguity and how to "stay safe" deflecting
answering any questions outright.
Masters of such verbal parrying and deflection
which drives members of congress on both sides
of the aisle nuts go on to become Supreme Court
Chief Justices; case in point Chief Justice
John Roberts.

Tell you what; might as well take my name off
your call list so never again we mutually will
waste our time.

Sincerely and yes, Respectfully,

Joel S.

ZippyTheChimp
July 28th, 2007, 10:42 PM
July 29, 2007

Now You Own It, Soon You Don’t?

By RUSS BUETTNER

IT’S not so much the modest bungalow’s spacious second-floor addition or the expansive side yard that gets to Lori Ann Vendetti.

The thing that keeps her fighting is the misty ocean air that floats through her doorway when she lets her dog out in the morning. The salty aroma can transport her back to childhood weekends spent playing on the beach with her two brothers, long since dead and gone.

Neither Ms. Vendetti, 46, nor her parents across the street believe they can afford another place within a sniff of the ocean if the City of Long Branch, N.J., wins its 12-year effort to turn their homes over to a private developer who wants to build luxury condominiums.

“We always feel like things are stacked against us,” said Ms. Vendetti, who has lived in her home for 12 years. “But if they’re going to take it from me, they’re going to take it with a fight.”

During the last two years, homeowners and property-rights advocates across the country have echoed that sentiment, and state lawmakers have answered. A controversial United States Supreme Court decision in June 2005, which upheld the power of local governments to seize private property for the benefit of private businesses, inspired an uprising that led 40 states to pass laws that rein in, to varying degrees, that authority.

But legislatures in the three states in the New York metropolitan area, long seen by property-rights advocates as home to some of the worst abuses of eminent domain, have done little to change the status quo.

“New Jersey and New York are among the worst states in the country for eminent domain abuses — New Jersey is really awful,” said Dana Berliner, a senior lawyer at the Institute for Justice in Arlington, Va., which represents residential and business owners facing condemnation. “What’s interesting is that New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are some of the few states that have not managed to pass any decent legislation.”

In Connecticut, where the United States Supreme Court case originated, Gov. M. Jodi Rell late last month signed a law that includes a prohibition on taking property “primarily” to increase local tax revenues, leaving open that reasoning as a secondary cause.

New York, which already allowed the taking of property for private use, saw its lawmakers introduce 17 related bills in 2006. But the Legislature passed only those laws seeking to ban two specific projects.

Similarly, New Jersey legislators have been unable to pass any bill. The State Supreme Court recently stepped into the breach, arguing that cities and towns cannot condemn properties simply because another use could be more productive. That ruling, in Gallenthin Realty Development v. Borough of Paulsboro, has already had an impact on several projects, including a plan to build 2,000 condominiums in downtown Newark.

Other states have instituted more precise definitions of blight, set minimum compensation levels above market value for the owners of seized properties and restricted eminent domain to more traditional public projects like schools and roads. The legislative changes have been driven by an unusual alliance of conservative Republican property-rights advocates and liberals interested in the rights of lower-income people.

Not everyone believes such measures are needed. It remains to be seen if the new laws will protect property owners without chilling redevelopment projects. “You had this huge uproar,” said Larry Morandi, who has tracked the new laws at the National Conference of State Legislatures, “and an incredibly fast legislative response. The effect of that legislation will be seen in how it is implemented, and that takes time.”

While supporters of the current laws say a reasoned analysis would show that eminent domain is most often employed as a last resort and without major conflict, what has driven the push for change and has led to so many lawsuits is anger at the potential loss of control over such a fundamental aspect of life.

The lead plaintiff in the United States Supreme Court case, Susette Kelo, a nurse who lived in a pink Victorian cottage in New London, Conn., opposed the town’s condemnation of her neighborhood to make way for a private development of offices, condominiums and a hotel. The 5-to-4 majority opinion held that promoting economic development met the “public use” clause of the Fifth Amendment that allows condemnations. In a dissenting opinion in the case, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor gave voice to the fear that started a revolt: “Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded.”

IN Norwalk, Conn., Nancy Esposito doesn’t want to be uprooted or upgraded. Her family has owned and run Casey’s Sheet Metal Service for 15 years. Five years ago, a developer showed up offering to buy their building as part of a plan to remake several blocks. Ms. Esposito has resisted, and watched as the developer bought most of the buildings and land around her.

“They keep saying they want to make this area a destination,” Ms. Esposito said. “I say that it is a destination. It’s my destination.”

The developer, Stanley M. Seligson, a Norwalk native, envisions a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood spanning several blocks, with more than 500,000 square feet of stores, restaurants and theaters, 350 apartments and a large medical center. Mr. Seligson said he has so far acquired 75 percent of the property and was determined to acquire the remaining properties without the town invoking eminent domain. Town officials see the neighborhood as part of an old urban core that has not responded to less sweeping redevelopment incentives. Four contiguous redevelopment projects are in the works, all of which have involved or could involve taking property through eminent domain if negotiations between the developer and property owners fail, said Susan Sweitzer, a senior project manager for the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency.

“The impetus is on the private developer to make this a nonissue,” she said.

Ms. Esposito said she believed the cards were already stacked against her.

“They keep saying they will use eminent domain as a last resort,” she said. “But when they have the ultimate power to take your property, it’s a done deal. There is no such thing as private property anymore.”

Governor Rell responded to the United States Supreme Court ruling involving the Kelo case by asking local governments to observe a voluntary moratorium on condemnations for private development until the state legislature could act. This year, she introduced legislation.

“It is time to clarify our eminent domain laws and make it absolutely clear when and why governments can — and cannot — take private property for public purposes,” Mrs. Rell said in a statement in March.

The law that Mrs. Rell signed requires that municipal legislative bodies approve eminent domain seizures by a two-thirds majority and that property owners be reimbursed at 125 percent of fair market value. It also built in other protective measures for property owners. A spokesman for the governor said Mrs. Rell viewed the bill as “a considerable step forward.”

“She has always felt that it was the Legislature’s responsibility to define the proper scope of eminent domain, when and whether it should he used for any kind of economic development activity,” said the spokesman, Rich Harris.

But property-rights advocates say the law’s ban on citing increased tax revenues as a primary reason for condemnation will do little to clarify concerns about when property can be taken.

James S. Alesi, a state senator from the Rochester area, held a series of hearings across the state on eminent domain after the Kelo decision. He said he was repeatedly told that New York didn’t need a handful of hastily drafted bills, but rather a commission to study the issue.

“I thought it was beneficial to learn one key thing: We don’t really have to do a lot in New York State,” he said. “As compared to other areas around the country, New York’s laws are pretty strong.”

The New York State Bar Association has been the most prominent supporter of that position. Patricia E. Salkin, chairwoman of the association’s eminent domain task force, said state laws might need tweaking, including a passage to increase public involvement in redevelopment plans and to extend the 30-day period allowed for owners of condemned property to file appeals. But she said states that passed more sweeping laws risked losing vital projects.

“We shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” said Ms. Salkin, director of the Government Law Center of Albany Law School. “We should make sure that it’s a fair playing field for everybody.”

State Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Democrat from Greenburgh in Westchester, said the choice was not black and white. “The bottom line is we can fix the law so it protects average people and still maintain it as a tool,” Mr. Brodsky said. “The bar is entrenched on this one, and they’re wrong.”

In 2004, Mr. Brodsky pushed through a bill that required that towns notify by mail property owners facing condemnation.

It followed a controversy in Port Chester, in which a local business owner hadn’t seen the Westchester village’s notice in a local newspaper that his property was facing condemnation to make way for a Stop & Shop supermarket.

The 30 days that the state law allows for appeals passed before the businessman, Bill Brody, had even heard about the plan. A federal judge this month ruled that Mr. Brody’s due process rights had been violated.

“I think it’s obvious that people are upset by what eminent domain is being used for,” Mr. Brody said, “and I think things are going to change.”

Not all redevelopment projects engender large controversy. On Long Island, the Village of Hempstead is moving forward with a $2 billion plan to replace 26 acres in the village’s downtrodden center with a mix of 2,500 housing units, 600,000 square feet of retail space and a performing arts center. The city has agreed to sell 21 properties it owns to the developer and seize up to 58 privately owned properties if the developer cannot come to terms with the owners. Most of the concerns voiced so far, including at a packed meeting last week, have involved ensuring that the plan includes a significant amount of affordable housing and that current residents receive enough compensation to find new homes.

Mr. Brodsky introduced a bill last year calling for the appointment of an eminent domain ombudsman, compensating displaced homeowners at 150 percent of fair market value, and requiring that all condemnations for economic development be part of a comprehensive plan.

THE bill gained no traction in the State Assembly. “This is an area where there’s a lot of comfort with a bad law, and that’s unfortunate,” Mr. Brodsky said.

Mr. Alesi, the state senator from Rochester, maintains that state laws need only to be “buffed up” and that the laws may not offer enough protections. Courts are relied on to catch abuses, but average people don’t have the resources for a legal fight with the government, he said. “No one should have the American dream turned into their own personal nightmare because of the government,” he said.

Last month, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the Town of Paulsboro had overreached in relying on a consultant’s determination that an undeveloped 63-acre parcel could be condemned because it was “not fully productive.”

“Under that approach, any property that is operated in less than optimal manner is arguably ‘blighted,’ ” wrote Chief Justice James R. Zazzali in the court’s unanimous opinion. “If such an all-encompassing definition were adopted, most property in the state would be eligible for redevelopment.”

Citing the Supreme Court ruling, an Essex County Superior Court judge ruled this month that Newark could not designate as blighted a 14-acre area on and around Mulberry Street so the land could be used to build condominiums. Several property owners had fought the city’s efforts to take the land by eminent domain, arguing to the court that the area was still productive. A spokeswoman for Mayor Cory A. Booker said the city had not yet decided whether to appeal the ruling.

And an appellate panel last week rejected Lodi officials’ efforts to replace two trailer parks with housing and shops. A newly elected Borough Council had dropped the plan earlier this month.

A bill that would more narrowly define blight passed the New Jersey State Assembly last year but has been tied up in a State Senate committee since.

The New Jersey League of Municipalities opposes limiting the power of municipalities in using eminent domain. Its opinion carries weight in a state with 566 municipalities, a strong tradition of home rule, and one in which many legislators are also mayors of their hometowns.

William G. Dressel, executive director of the league, said that with little undeveloped land left in the state, and with towns increasingly relying on property taxes to provide services, responsible town leaders must look for ways to redevelop unproductive land. “We were quite frankly relieved that the court did not unravel the eminent domain statutes as it relates to the use of that tool for economic development purposes,” he said. “We feel very strongly that eminent domain is a viable economic development tool in New Jersey that is used sparingly.”

The state’s public advocate, Ronald K. Chen, said a 1992 revision of the state statute created the “not fully productive” justification that “opened up the floodgates” for the improper use of eminent domain.

Mr. Chen’s office recently issued a report that listed the plan in Long Branch, where Ms. Vendetti lives near the beach, under the heading “Bogus Blight.” It said the town based its conclusion on “superficial” exterior inspections that noted deteriorating paint or chipped masonry.

Nothing appears to be decrepit about the Vendettis’ homes.

Carmen Vendetti, 80, had saved his money driving a truck to buy his family, in 1960, a modest respite from the harsher environs of their home in Newark. He and his wife, Josephine, moved there full time after he retired. Ms. Vendetti saved her money from a job with Amtrak and bought a house across the street from her parents in 1995. Two months later, she attended a meeting where a developer’s model of the neighborhood showed luxury buildings all along the oceanfront.

“They had a house on my lot,” she said. “I just laughed and thought, ‘How are they going to do that?’ No one ever used the words ‘eminent domain.’ “

But Adam Schneider, the mayor of Long Branch for 17 years, said some in the area ignored the redevelopment plan, thinking it would fail, as had many before. Some homeowners have accepted offers of units made affordable to them in the new development, he said. He said that with just 20 percent of the construction completed, the beachfront has been transformed from a dangerous area of boarded-up storefronts to an upscale, year-round destination that includes packed restaurants and a popular park.

He said he thought the recent emotional backlash may dissuade officials in other areas from even trying such a sweeping turnaround using eminent domain.

“Politically it won’t work anymore,” he said. “I think the time has come and gone.”


Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Ninjahedge
July 30th, 2007, 09:20 AM
It would be handy to see pics of some of these places that they are trying to get domain on....

I feel very strongly for teh owners/residents but if these buildings are only being held together by the will of god (or some other amicable diety) and literally are a blight that should be condemned, then the issue becomes hazy.

One thing that is NOT hazy is the cost for these people. They should not only be paid what their current property IS worth, but a portion of what the projected value of the land would be after development.

They should be made unwilling partners, non-culpable for any shortcomings, and privy/eligible to any profits made by the redevelopment.

If you are forcing someone out and still making (lots of) money off of that, something just is not right....

ZippyTheChimp
July 30th, 2007, 04:20 PM
I feel very strongly for teh owners/residents but if these buildings are only being held together by the will of god (or some other amicable diety) and literally are a blight that should be condemned, then the issue becomes hazy.Blight as it applies to Eminent Domain does not necessarily describe the condition of a piece of property. When an area is considered blighted, the environment hinders normal socio-economic activity.

What you're describing as blighted can be addressed by enforcing building codes and other local ordinances.

Ninjahedge
July 30th, 2007, 04:59 PM
I was just qualifying my statement and its boundaries Zip.

You would be surprised how difficult it is to get rid of people wven in a house that does not meet code!

Merry
September 14th, 2013, 08:53 AM
Not New York City...but scary?



Eminent Scam

A plan to rescue some Californians from possible foreclosure sets a dangerous precedent.

by Steven Greenhut

When the housing bubble began deflating in 2007, California’s high-flying real-estate market crashed especially hard. Six years on, some cities still struggle with how to handle vacant houses and residents who owe far more than their properties are worth. Today’s “underwater-mortgage” problem was largely the creation of government policies that promoted easy lending practices on the one hand, while imposing strict land-use rules—thus reducing the affordable-housing supply—on the other. Now a new plan would only compound the folly, at least in the Bay Area city of Richmond, where officials seeking to boost the local housing market propose to take mortgages from private lenders through eminent domain.

Richmond’s scheme, affirmed by a city council vote this week, is the brainchild (http://www.city-journal.org/2012/eon0712ng.html) of Mortgage Resolution Partners, a group of private investors with close ties to the state Democratic Party. The San Francisco-based firm sold the plan to city officials as an act of altruism to help hard-pressed homeowners get back on their feet. “America is experiencing an historic national mortgage crisis,” MRP explains on its website. “Due to a collapse of home values, one in five mortgaged homeowners owe more than their homes are worth; more than 11 million families are now underwater. Nearly 3 million of these families are in default and on their way to foreclosures that will depress home prices further, causing still more foreclosures. MRP seeks to stem this tide.” Well, that’s not quite all MRP seeks.

The city has already sent letters to various banks concerning 624 houses, offering to pay the lenders about 20 percent below the homes’ estimated market value. MRP would then refinance each of the mortgages at the market rate for a $4,500 fee. Homeowners would get to stay in their homes with a new monthly payment set at the lower principal, the city wouldn’t have to worry about losing more tax revenue, MRP would make a tidy profit—and the original lenders would get stiffed. (The plan excludes mortgages held by the Federal Housing Authority, as well as the taxpayer-financed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.)

In traditional eminent-domain proceedings, the government says that it needs a piece of private property for some public purpose—usually to build a school or a road. In recent decades, “public purpose” has come to mean giving private property to a private developer to build a shopping mall or a hotel. Government officials justify these “takings” as ways to enhance tax revenue, and the courts have gone along. Richmond officials argue that their plan would reduce urban blight. But as the San Francisco Chronicle recently reported, Richmond’s plan would include seizing the mortgages of at least two homes purchased for over $1 million, “a revelation that appears to undermine the city’s argument that the plan would combat blight.” The Chronicle ran a photo of a home that sold for $1.2 million, has a loan balance of nearly $900,000, and is valued at $666,000. The city would pay just $510,000 for the loan.

What kind of bondholder or lender would willingly sell his property at 20 percent below market? None in his right mind, without the threat of eminent domain. Predictably, bondholders and lenders—including Wells Fargo Bank—have taken Richmond to court. Last month, lawyers for the city asked a federal court to throw out the lenders’ lawsuits, which allege that the city’s plan violates the constitutional requirement that governments pay just compensation for taken property. Two weeks earlier, Richmond’s mayor and other elected city officials showed up unannounced at Wells Fargo’s headquarters in San Francisco demanding that the bank drop its complaint. A security guard turned them away. Meantime, lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat and former mayor of San Francisco, has threatened to investigate mortgage firms that want to pull out of communities adopting MRP’s eminent-domain plan. Newsom, the Chronicle reported, has close ties to an MRP partner and received a $25,000 campaign donation from an MRP officer.

What Newsom and Richmond officials won’t, or can’t, acknowledge is that the problem of underwater mortgages appears to be working itself out without additional government meddling. Richmond may not be the toniest city in the Bay Area, but its home prices grew by about 11 percent last year. Prices around the region remain among the highest in the country, and they’re even rebounding in the Central Valley and San Bernardino and Riverside counties, which were among the worst affected by the crash.

Why would it not be in Richmond’s interest to acknowledge this good news? Typically, when cities employ eminent domain for the purpose of economic development, they use a strategy called “growth capture.” Though officials claim that eminent domain is reserved for downtrodden neighborhoods, they tend to focus on areas where property values are just starting to rise. That way, the city can capture the coming growth in sales and property-tax revenues while developers make a nice profit. Richmond officials and MRP appear to be looking for a windfall at the precise moment the housing crisis has passed.

The banks rightly fear that if Richmond succeeds, the practice could spread. Last year, San Bernardino County and two cities, Fontana and Ontario, rebuffed MRP’s overtures. But other cities in California and Nevada are weighing essentially the same proposal, meaning that whatever happens in Richmond has statewide and even national implications. In short, MRP is using government to execute a business transaction that could otherwise never happen in a free market. Richmond and MRP will set a terrible precedent if they succeed.

http://www.city-journal.org/2013/cjc0912sg.html

eddhead
September 16th, 2013, 06:14 PM
That is really despicable.

lofter1
September 18th, 2013, 01:35 AM
Do I smell Slick Willie (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_Brown_(politician)) somewhere in this?

Seems so (http://redeemedworld.org/?p=4223) (beware the audio!!):

"M.R.P. is a San Francisco start up in which Chronicle columnist and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown was an initial investor."

If it's true, then that's just wrong.

BBMW
September 18th, 2013, 12:11 PM
The problem with eminent domain is that it's entirely undefined. It can really be anything any level of government wants it to be. As long as there same vague level of public interest involved, and the property owner is paid something, the government can take anything it wants.

eddhead
September 18th, 2013, 12:28 PM
Shockingly, I agree with you.